Play to Your Strengths: Make Customer Retention and Evangelism a Cornerstone of Your 2015 Content Strategy

The numbers show that keeping existing customers coming back is a better investment than chasing new leads, and a strategy that bolsters the nontraditional (read that as “anything but brand awareness,” for the most part) will set you and your brand apart.

As Jonathan Blank states in a post for Marketing Land, separating yourself from the herd could mean “flipping the funnel” of your content marketing strategy. In other words, make customer retention and customer evangelism cornerstones of your strategy instead of afterthoughts.

Retention is obviously all about catering to consumers you’ve already converted, so efforts here can feel a little against the grain of more traditional “cast a wide net” content strategies. We’ll get into some specific strategies later on in this post. But first, check out the impressive impact a solid customer retention strategy and rate can have on your conversions and, ultimately, your bottom line:

A study by the Harvard Business School found that increasing customer retention rate by 5 percent can result in a 25 to 95 percent increase in profits.

According to a Manta study, 61 percent of small and medium businesses owe over half of their revenue to repeat customers, and a returning customer spends an average of 67 percent more than a new customer.

Research conducted by marketing startup Flowtown showed that new customer acquisition is 6 to 7 times more expensive than convincing existing customers to buy again, and Market Metrics showed that converting existing customers is 60 to 70 percent easier than getting a new lead to convert.

The benefits of customer evangelism, on the other hand, straddle the line between traditional content marketing goals such as brand awareness and more progressive aims like customer retention. Again, we’ll discuss some specific customer evangelism strategies later on. Here are some justifications you can make or consider before you beef up your customer evangelism efforts:

By soliciting customer testimonials and thought leadership and publishing it on your site, you not only are most likely securing a return customer (the person contributing), you are also gaining access to a coveted advertising avenue: the contributor’s social media groups, their close circle of professional peers and larger, admiring network when the contributor shares the work online.

You’re leveraging the wealth of experience between your valued customers’ ears for free when you execute on a focused customer evangelism program. Prospects will trust the customer contributor because, well, they’re both in the same trench—to them, the customer contributor isn’t just “some marketer.”

You prove the effectiveness of your customer service to new prospects. If one of your existing customers is spreading the word about your services or products and possibly even contributing to your marketing content, the relationship you share with them must be positive.

So if you’re on board to try something a little different with at least a piece of your 2015 content marketing budget, read on. We’re going to dive into some simple initiatives that can help you reap the aforementioned benefits.

Customer retention strategies

Tailor content distribution to two types of readers: customers and prospects. Focusing certain types of content on existing customers and curating a meaningful newsletter based on their use of your products and services is not as simple as it sounds.

The first thing you’ll need to do is develop two content production pipelines, one for new customer prospects and one for existing customers, if you haven’t already. Examples of types of content you might schedule for existing customers are:

Curate your content with a customer’s preferences in mind

Really nailing an effective content strategy will entail curating and presenting your content in a custom way for each customer’s preferences. To do that, you need to organize and understand your data. Which products has a customer actually purchased and registered? Which product pages have they returned to again and again without converting? How often do they visit your website or web service, and what do they do while they’re there?

If you can understand and organize your data, and then follow that by categorizing your customers according to the products they own and their behaviors, you’ll be able to deliver newsletters that offer them the most relevant information to their needs and wants. You’ll also be able to present them with the most likely upsell opportunities.

Leverage the experience of your best customers and ask them to write for you. Reach out to your most avid users and ask them write a short blog post or two that you can publish. You can find these folks either by paying attention to how they interact with your account managers or by discovering them on review sites, as they might have already given your products and services positive ratings.

They’ll benefit from writing for you because it will help them build their personal authority and grow a readership, and you’ll benefit by having a third-party expert contributing to your site. They don’t necessarily need to write about your products or services. Instead, simply ask them to write about problems they face in the industry you serve.

Even if the content has little or nothing to do with what you offer, someone writing about industry problems and solutions on your blog may draw prospects to your site for the first time, especially if your contributing customer publishes a link to their post on their social media properties or republishes it on their personal blog.

Understand your social media properties and how your customers use them. Many marketing teams at companies large and small simply publish the same content across Facebook, G+ and LinkedIn, and then abbreviate the content for Twitter. This catchall strategy not only disregards the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, it can create a lot of white noise in your brand’s web presence.

Rather than using each platform redundantly, figure out which one is preferred by your existing customers. You can obtain this information through sending out a simple survey to your mailing list or by paying attention to where your published content is getting the most shares. Focus your efforts on the platform that already gets good play for you, and consider ditching any that don’t. There’s probably a reason why that last blog post garnered two Facebook shares and 42 LinkedIn shares. In that scenario, either Facebook is being used incorrectly or it’s not fertile soil for your brand.

Although the findings won’t necessarily hold true for every brand, Salesforce recently published a report on the most effective social media platforms for business. LinkedIn and Twitter were rated the top two platforms, with LinkedIn taking the blue ribbon, according to 63 percent of polled marketers. YouTube came in third. (Facebook is conspicuously absent.)

If you do decide you want to use all available social media platforms regardless of the impact you’re making, only publish the right content on each platform. Reserve Facebook for more lighthearted, “fun” content. This can include company culture updates, interesting news more or less relevant to your products and services, promotion announcements, etc. Your customers are often surrounded by their friends’ content while in Facebook, and they’re likely not looking to read and share heavier thought leadership pieces.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is perfect for the headier stuff. While your customers are there, they’re aiming to make themselves look good in front of their professional superiors and peers, so they’re more likely to share and comment on suit-and-tie-style content.

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