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Is Your Retention Marketing Plan Inbound-y Enough?

Written by Julie Dietz on November 14, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Retention marketing should use inbound to build stronger customer relationships.

Which is easier for you to pinpoint, the number of new customers you won last quarter or the number of current customers who left your company?

For most businesses, it's easier to rattle off new customer numbers. That's because the majority of marketing and sales efforts (and executive focus) go toward attracting and winning new customers. Every day, marketers are becoming more and more efficient at winning new business through digital relationship-building approaches like inbound.

Inbound marketing and sales strategies focus on using helpful, relevant, and empathetic content to educate prospects and draw them in to your business. Over the last five or 10 years, these new inbound strategies have proven to be both pervasive and successful. A whopping 73% of businesses reported using inbound marketing in this year's The State of Inbound study. 81% of those marketers rated their strategy as successful.

But with the focus still on bringing in new customers, an inbound approach doesn't always reach every type of marketing. These include areas critical to your company's success, like retention marketing.

Inbound Marketing Meets Retention Marketing

As its name suggests, retention marketing focuses on keeping your existing customers so they continue making purchases from your business instead of switching to a competitor.

Retention marketing keeps your existing customer base stable, making it easier for you to build your total number of customers by adding new business. It also helps you increase customer lifetime value through additional purchases, both of which make retention marketing just as essential to your business as new customer acquisition.

The key to successful retention marketing is positive experiences with your products and the people in your organization that build stronger relationships between customers and your company "“ exactly what inbound provides.

Your customers are brought into your business with valuable content that helps them connect with your brand in a positive way. Unfortunately, that positive inbound-y experience often breaks down after the first sale. Since companies already have an established relationship with their current customers they tend to put inbound marketing approaches on a backburner when it comes to retention marketing. They revert back to product- and company-centric communication that ends up spamming customers.

If your retention marketing has fallen into this trap, then you're not serving your business or customers in the most effective way. Find out if your plan is effective or not by evaluating these five areas.

5 Areas to Assess in Your Retention Marketing Strategy and How to Fix Them

These five areas are all key components to taking an inbound approach to attracting new business and retaining existing customers. Evaluate how well your retention marketing efforts do in each area, so you can take steps to improve your customer communication.

Area #1) Personalization and Relevance

Do your customers receive one-size-fits-all messages from you or do they get information that is specific to their situation?

If you're consistently hitting send on mass emails that deliver the same messages to all your customers, then your communication isn't effective. Due to the amount of information people receive, generic messages tend to get opened less and eventually ignored. Your customers are more likely to open and consume information that's hyper-relevant and specifically tailored to their needs and interests.

Incorporate personalization into your retention marketing by using all the tools at your disposal to customize your customers' experiences.

Start by collecting behavioral data, such as what actions people are performing in your customer portal, to determine topics your customers find value in. Then send messages around the most popular topics and structure your engagement efforts around what customers are interested in.

The best customer portal software can also provide automatic, tailored newsletters and show different messages to different types of customers. Take advantage of these and other built-in personalization tools to provide a positive experience throughout the customer lifecycle.

Area #2) Behavioral Triggers

If your customers view your product support page, do you reach out personally to ask if they need any help? Inbound customer marketing uses behavioral triggers (like viewing support pages) to prompt smart content and personal outreach.

Smart content shows your customers different materials, such as unique calls-to-action (CTAs), based on the actions they've performed on your website or in your online customer community. Personal outreach might include sending notifications to your marketing, sales, or support team to follow up with struggling customers or those who may be interested in making additional purchases.

Your retention marketing plan should incorporate behavioral triggers to help you reach the right customers with the right message at the right time. They could help you reach out save customers who are at risk of leaving you or pitch a sales opportunity just when your customer is most interested.

Area #3) Two-Way Conversations

When you push only product- and company-centric messages to your customers, you're having a one-way conversation. That is how the internet and customers' expectation worked 10 years ago. Today, people would rather be talked to instead of talked at, so you should avoid using these tactics in your retention marketing. Instead, adopt inbound techniques to encourage two-way conversations.

Start by showing your customers that they have a voice and you're listening to them. That means actively reaching out to solicit feedback using surveys, polls, or discussion forums in your customer portal. Find out what problems customers have with your company, then solve them. Discover what they love about your product, then offer an add-on that will make their experience even better.

Be consistent. Encourage customers to share their thoughts about your product and their stories about using it on an ongoing basis. Your efforts will help get customers more engaged in the conversation and with your brand as a whole. You may even reap some extra, unexpected benefits like product feedback or suggestions that fuel future innovation.

Area #4) Community

Where do your customers go after they make a purchase? If your current retention marketing plan doesn't already have an answer to this question, then it may be time to up your strategy game. Your customers need a clear action to take after making their purchase, along with a place to go to stay informed on and engaged with your company.

Use a private customer community as a clear destination for customers. Customer communities make company-to-customer and customer-to-customer engagement possible. Customer can use discussion forums to share best practices and make recommendations on future purchases, or they can also contact your company for support. In turn, your company can use the community to distribute content, respond to questions, and gather information on what products or topics customers are most interested in.

At its heart, this type of community gives your customers the chance to be part of something greater than themselves "“ which is one of the most pervasive desires in our society. Some of the most wildly successful companies have been using this tactic to win lifelong customers for years. Think about brands like Harley Davidson. There's an instant connection between anyone on a Harley motorcycle because they've built such a strong community of users.

Area #5) Educational Content

Traditionally, inbound draws prospects in with educational content. As you transition into retention marketing, you need to use this same type of educational content to help your company stay connected with customers and provide value in every interaction. If you switch to primarily product- or company-centric communication, you risk alienating your customers.

Build educational content around your customers' interests, priorities, and concerns. Since your customers have already made a purchase, you can start by providing helpful information on how they can use your product more easily or effectively to solve their problems. Then, expand your reach to educate your customers on other common problems, product or industry changes, and any other topics that would are relevant and helpful to them.

Remember that educational content should extend to personal communication including emails and phone calls. Always provide value to your customers so they have a reason to maintain their connection with your business.

Bonus Tip: Adopt a Human Tone

Even the most educational content won't help your customers if its littered with jargon. Your customers want to hear the story of your company and how your product will help them in terms they understand, so avoid jargon whenever possible. Take a human approach in every message and piece of content you publish. This will help show your customers that they're talking to someone, not something, and be more effective at building loyalty and encouraging repeat business.

Retention Marketing Takeaway

Inbound has been incredibly effective at bringing in new business to organizations in nearly every industry. Just remember that inbound shouldn't stop at the sale. All of inbound's core principles can be applied to retention marketing to build stronger relationships and encourage repeat business.

Be human, helpful, and relevant in all your retention marketing efforts. And, if possible, direct your customers to helpful content in your customer portal or private customer community. The more you engage with your customers in an exclusive space with a sense of belonging, the more likely your retention strategy is to be successful.

Tips for developing a great online customer community strategy.

Topics: Communications, Customer Experience, Customer Retention, Customer Success, Marketing Automation, Online Community

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