Traditional thinking usually has placed the marketing department in charge of leads, the sales department in charge of purchases and the customer service department in charge of customers. Once marketing hands a list of leads off to sales, their job is done. But for technology and software companies, the traditional delineation no longer makes sense.
The SaaS business model depends on the company maintaining an exceptional relationship with its customers at all times. That initial choice to make a purchase isn’t the end all be all for these companies; you need customers to keep choosing you over and over again. That puts a new twist on the way marketing should see their role in the company. You can’t be all about leads alone; your current customers need to be a primary marketing audience.
Don’t take your current customers for granted. Yes, you’ve gotten them past the most difficult initial hurdle: that all-important decision to buy. But no business can afford to start neglecting their customers after that point. Increasing customer retention has been shown to boost profits by anywhere from 25 to 95 percent.
And more importantly for marketers, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent, versus 5 to 20 percent for a new lead. If you’re handing all responsibility for an account over to customer service once they buy, then you’re neglecting your most valuable leads.
Tech marketing therefore should always continue past the point of sale. If you don’t already have a technology marketing plan that prioritizes maintaining a connection with your current customers, then it’s time to rethink your approach.
Just as all leads aren’t created equal, neither are all customers. The lead scoring you do now to separate irrelevant leads from high-quality leads also should extend past the point of sale. Obviously, none of your current customers are irrelevant, so your goal here isn’t to weed out anyone, it’s to identify your absolute best customers. You’re looking for customers who use your product the most, really see its value, and are the most likely to become advocates for your brand.
You’ve got a few sources that can help you with this step:
Your first job is to tap into each of them.
While marketing spends a lot of time trying to get inside the heads of your company’s target audience, most marketing professionals don’t have as much direct contact with customers as do sales and customer service representatives.
Your sales team has a good idea about the particular concerns from your individual customers and might know exactly what about your product made them choose you over competitors.
Your customer service team will have insights into how your customers use the product and any feedback or complaints they have. They’ll know which customers most frequently get in touch and which of those are the most enthusiastic users of the product (and which might be on the verge of cancellation).
According to Salesforce research, top-performing marketing teams are nearly eight times more likely than their peers to be integrating their work with sales and customer service, and more than 17 times more likely to say they’re good at collaborating with other teams. There’s every reason to work more directly with the other customer-facing teams in your company, and the increased knowledge you can get of your specific customers is high on the list.
Setting up meetings with representatives in other departments is a good first step toward better understanding your current customers and starting to develop a list of high-value customers.
Once you’ve established communication, you can use technology to help you keep those lines of communication open. Your CRM can be a powerful tool to make sure everything a company representative learns about a lead or customer becomes shared knowledge others in the company can use. Take advantage of that and supplement it with occasional meetings and check-ins to keep everyone on the same page.
With so much of marketing and customer interaction now happening digitally, you likely have a significant amount of information on your customers and their relationship with the company in the data you’ve already collected. If you track product use data, then you have even more useful information on how your customers use your product.
Most companies today find it isn’t hard to have data. What’s more challenging is figuring out how to best analyze and use that data.
There are a few key metrics and sources you should consider to help you identify your most valuable customers.
Lifetime value is an important metric to measure how valuable each customer is to your business in the long-term. Comparing a customer’s lifetime value to their customer acquisition cost is a good indicator of ROI that helps ensure you’re not overspending to acquire new customers.
But beyond that, calculating lifetime value shows you how the financial value of your different customers compares. This is only one form of value (we’ll touch on others in a bit), but it’s an important one. Customers who invest in the most expensive version of your product or go for upgrades or additional products will make your company more in the long run than those who stick with the lowest-cost version of your product or cancel after a year.
This metric is crucial to help you see clearly which of your customers are worth the most to your company in terms of pure profit.
Frequency of Product Use
Your customer use data should show you how often your customers are turning to your product. The amount of frequency that’s normal for a committed customer will vary based on the type of product you offer, but the customers who are logging in and using your product most often will be the ones who have come to depend on it and therefore plan to stick around.
How Frequently They Use Specific Features
Another gem from your product use data, time per feature helps you understand the specific parts of your product that are most useful to your customers. This metric can help you shape marketing campaigns for current customers based specifically on how they use the product, what they like best about it or underutilized features.
Also Consider Churn
Churn, the measure of how many customers cancel on you, won’t tell you much about your most valuable customers, but it does tell you something about the types of customers least likely to fall into that category. Look for trends in the types of customers who most frequently cancel within a short period of time. Do they mostly fall within one customer persona? Do they fail to use a particular feature that your most valuable customers use every day?
Analyzing the customers you’ve lost may help you figure out a good marketing approach to save current customers who are at risk, or it may help you identify an audience or persona that isn’t worth the resources you’ve been using to reach them.
Reviews and Social Media Mentions
Use social listening to track data on how customers are talking about your brand out on the web. Most of the metrics in this section tell you something about your customers’ actions, but in some cases customers will go ahead and tell people what they think with their words. You want to be around to see what they’re saying when they do.
Customers who are singing your praises online clearly belong on the most valuable customer list you’re compiling. And even those voicing complaints may be an opportunity to turn things around with the right response. Sometimes the customers who complain are those who most want to love the product, but just aren’t 100 percent satisfied. If you listen closely and respond quickly, they may end up on your list eventually.
Once you’ve identified your most valuable customers, it’s time to create marketing materials to reach them specifically. Think account-based marketing, but with the head start of already knowing a lot about the accounts you’re reaching.
Most of the information you collected to identify your top customers can be used to craft targeted campaigns at them.
For example, if you’ve identified that they use the invoicing portion of your accounting software each month, but aren’t taking advantage of the template feature that makes the process easier, you can send marketing materials that highlight the particular part of the product you know would be useful to them.
If your data shows you that a customer uses your social media product to schedule tweets regularly, you can send them a gentle nudge letting them know when they’re out of scheduled updates. Buffer has earned points from customers like Wishpond for doing just that.
Personalization is valuable at all stages of the marketing process, but with customers you have the information you need to do it well, evidence that your audience is already interested in your product, and a strong incentive to make sure you get it right.
In addition to being useful leads for renewals and additional purchases over time, your most valuable customers are an invaluable resource for providing social proof to your leads. When you’ve pinpointed the customers who truly love your product, reach out to them with opportunities and requests to help you in your marketing.
Your enthusiastic customers (like the ones bambooHR features) are your best choice for case studies and website testimonials, the most common forms of social proof.
You can also invite them to become co-presenters at a webinar or conference, which doubles as a way to provide your audience value and demonstrate social proof. Kissmetrics frequently co-hosts webinars with current customers who are happy to talk about how the analytics software helps them in their marketing efforts.
You can recruit them to write blog posts for you or star in videos that provide valuable information to your audience. Hearing from a customer how your product helped them specifically is especially valuable to similar leads considering your product.
In short, they can become the subjects and co-creators of some of the most powerful marketing you can create.
Few things are as valuable to a company as your top customers. Once the marketing team acknowledges this and expands their efforts to identify and start working more directly with and for those customers, you can begin to take advantage of the many opportunities these relationships provide for improved marketing and results.