Client Retention - The Marketing Department's Role
While every department has an essential role to play in client retention, the Marketing Department has a paramount responsibility.
CLIENT RETENTIONCHURNCLIENT RETENTION STRATEGIESMARKETING
Welcome to part 3 of our How to Improve Customer Retention series. Today’s discussion is where the rubber meets the road. We will discuss the actual strategies that each department should undertake to ensure that clients feel valued and want to continue doing business with you. In our last blog, we introduced the growth management philosophy where client retention is given equal footing as client acquisition. We discussed how each person in every department has a role to play in identifying and addressing any issues or ideas that might promote client retention.
Today, we will examine the specific strategies that the Marketing Department needs to adopt. In a future blog, we will do the same for the Sales, Operations, and Customer Support Department as well as the C-Suite.
Client Retention -Marketing Department's Role
The Marketing Department’s role in client retention begins long before a company becomes a client. Once your organization comes to the realization that a customer must be nurtured to remain a happy and content client, the question arises, how?
Buyer Persona Development - As part of your buyer persona development process, you must add a new stage in that analysis to cover the customer phase.
It is Marketing’s job to understand the messaging, the type of content, or experiences that customer needs to feel valued. Marketing needs to create content and experiences that will not only ensure client retention, but facilitate upsells, and cause the customer to make referrals and become evangelists.
While some of this information is obtainable from newly acquired customers, much may not be apparent to them until after they had time to work with you. That is why each quarter, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support should each nominate two customers for further inquiries. Marketing will contact the company representatives, from those selected organizations, to ascertain what their pain points and concerns are now that they are customers. Marketing will inquire what is the best format for communicating training and other product information.
This information will enable Marketing to create both the content and the experiences that will truly resonate with customers. The mere act of reaching out and seeking this information will be appreciated by the customer who will see their concerns and voice matter.
Content Creation – The Marketing Department needs to create content that is specifically designed for the customer. At this stage, information should be product-specific and address the pain points and concerns you found in the buyer persona interviews. While much of the topics you will create content for will be unique to each company and discoverable in the interviews, some themes are universal and should always be created. These are:
Product Updates – Hold a webinar, in advance of any product update, to show what those features are and how the UX/UI might have changed. Allow ample time for attendees to ask questions, but have those questions vetted by a moderator. There may be some that are confidential or not appropriate for the general audience. When that occurs, acknowledge them and commit to addressing them immediately after the webinar ends.
Record these sessions, and put the recording on your website. Send a link to the recording for all those who attended and for all those customers who did not.
Product Roadmap – Have a quarterly webinar where you will discuss the product roadmap. While you will want to address major changes that are on the map for the next year, give details of ALL the changes that will be made in the next quarter.
Tips and Tricks – Conduct a monthly webinar where you showcase how your product can be used in a manner that may not be obvious. Share the tips and tricks that can result in time or cost savings. If the idea came from a customer, invite them to introduce that trick to their peers. This will make them feel more connected and the idea better received by the other customers.
Events – Marketing needs to help foster a sense of community among users of their software solution. While there are many ways to do this, holding national, regional, and local events is a great way to connect with your users and build that sense of community.
We all are aware of how HubSpot has created a national experience with their Inbound events held every fall. Over 20,000 people flock to Boston every year to learn new tricks, and strategies, and to bond with their fellow HubSpot users. The sense of community this event holds cannot be undervalued. We have been told by attendees that they would never switch to another CRM/Marketing Automation platform, because they love the HubSpot community.
While your SaaS company may not yet be able to hold a national event and garner attendance that HubSpot achieves, you simply need to start with local meetups.
HubSpot began by holding local and regional events with the support of their resellers. The quality of these experiences, and the camaraderie that was built for those attending, started the HubSpot community that now is a driving force in client retention.
Gamification – A gamification program can be a highly effective retention strategy for both resellers and end users of your software solution. It provides both the incentive to engage beyond the initial transaction and builds a sense of community with the participants. For more information on how to utilize a gamification program to improve client retention, we direct you to our 23-page e-book, “Level Up Your Marketing – The Power of Gamification.” This e-book provides deep insights and actionable strategies that will dramatically foster repeat sales and improve client retention.
Metric Tracking – The Marketing Department needs to own the metrics that track the performance of the client retention efforts. There are a number of metrics that the Marketing Department needs to track on a monthly basis. These include:
Churn Rate - The churn rate measures the percentage of customers who cancel or stop using a product or service within a given time period. By monitoring churn rates, marketers and sales professionals can identify potential issues and take proactive measures to improve customer satisfaction and retention.
Customer Retention Rate - This is the opposite of the churn rate or the percentage of customers who continue to be a customer.
Pending Diminution Percentage - This represents the percentage of clients who, by contract, are able to leave at the end of the month. This could be as high as 100% in your subscription program and is calculated on a month-to-month basis. Ideally, you will have multiple-year agreements, which will lower the number and the risk.
Customer Engagement Score - The customer engagement score measures the interactions between your product and your customers. This is an early warning metric identifying clients who may no longer be actively using your product and are likely to leave.
Customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS) - Customer satisfaction and net promoter score (NPS) are essential metrics for measuring customer loyalty and advocacy. By conducting customer satisfaction surveys, and calculating NPS, marketers and sales professionals can gauge customer sentiment, identify areas for improvement, and measure the likelihood of customers recommending their product or service to others. Tracking customer satisfaction and NPS helps in building long-term customer relationships and driving positive word-of-mouth referrals.
Customer Health Score - Customer health scoring assigns different values to different signals of customer loyalty or customer churn, allowing them to reach out to customers at risk of churning with educational resources and additional support. This requires research. Look at the customers who churned in the last 12 months, and see if there were any common denominators that were tell-tale signs they were planning on leaving.
Contextualized Digital Interface – For those customers that are considered high-value, due to the revenue they provide, give them a contextualized experience. From a marketing standpoint, this can mean using the client’s logo on materials that are normally provided to the customer in a generic format. If you provide training literature, or product update information, have the material sent over to the customer with their brand prominently displayed. If the client often goes to your website for information or to log in to a portal, make that experience unique. Give them a personalized URL that takes them to a website that is completely contextualized for their company and information. This will make their interface with your company seamless and highly personalized.
Webinars – Marketing should be the owner of producing a number of regularly produced webinars designed for the customer. Much of the same material you created content about needs to be communicated in the form of a webinar.
Product Tips and Tricks - Often, the internal product team or high-utilization users will discover new ways to utilize your product or service. These are timesaving or cost-saving strategies that every user could benefit from. Document and share this content with all your users. Where a high-utilization user discovered the technique, have them be a part of the content. This will make the information more credible, and the high-utilization user will feel more connected to your brand.
Note – If there are timesaving, or cost-saving strategies, also consider creating a case study from this content that can be used by Sales.
Product Updates – Most companies will regularly make product improvements. For B2B SaaS companies, there is often a four-to-six-week cycle where new features are released and bugs fixed. A customer should NEVER be surprised or learn about these changes after they have occurred. Marketing needs to work closely with Product Development to document these changes and describe the impact they might have on the client and the reasons that they were made. This notification needs to happen well before it will impact the client. It might require a change in the process the client is using, and they will need to educate their workforce to avoid any disruptions in their business.
Newsletters - Providing a quarterly newsletter is an excellent method for reminding the customer of all the beneficial information that they should have read about each month but may have missed. Pick out the best customer success stories, tips, and tricks, and remind them of product updates that will be happening in the next quarter. Keep the information concise, but have links to where they can go to get an in-depth understanding of any topic of interest.
Internet Properties - Any product updates that will impact customers due to new features or a different UX/UI, must be communicated to both customers and prospects. This means new content must be made to the company's website, landing pages, and third-party referral platforms (e.g. Software Advice). The Marketing Department must also create a blog that describes these changes and update any marketing/sales/support collateral that has outdated content.
Nurturing Campaigns – Customers often need to be reminded about the value your product or service provides for them. In their day-to-day use of your product, they will only see the issues or problems that might arise. They forget what their life was like, before they found your product as a solution. Marketing needs to send a steady flow of nurturing content that is appropriate for the customer stage. This may include case studies, and articles from third-party experts expounding on the benefits or virtues of using your service.
Create Experiences – Not every customer is enthralled to receive content from a vendor. Often, giving them an experience will be more meaningful to them. The purpose of creating an experience is the same as the content, to engage the customer, re-enforce your value proposition, and make them feel valued. Some examples that ALL Marketing Departments should provide are:
The Marketing Department is one of the most critical, but underused, groups that can help stem customer churn. Adopting a true Growth Enablement program will allow Marketing to take its rightful spot and provide the type of proactive support that will reduce churn to 5%-7%.
In our next blog, we will examine the enhanced role that the Sales Department needs to take to improve customer retention.