Turn Leads into Customer Advocates

Posted by Patrick Kilgore on 9/27/16 5:09 PM

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It’s marketer’s job is to attract new leads. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but for many marketing departments, bringing in new leads is treated as the core focus. But what then?

Oftentimes, that’s it. Marketing passes qualified leads over to sales, where they become someone else’s responsibility. If they become customers, they get passed over to the customer service team and responsibility is transferred yet again. All the while, marketing is going back to the well to focus on creating new leads.

That’s certainly one way to do things, but the best marketing organizations are staying involved beyond the point of sale. 

Current Customers are Valuable Leads

New leads are great. They offer a lot of potential for value, but the businesses you already have a relationship with don’t just have potential – they already offer real, tangible value to your company.

The work of attracting new leads is difficult and capital intensive, and many of those leads won’t become MQLs, much less close. Maintaining a relationship with customers you’ve already won over is much easier. 70% of businesses say that it’s cheaper to keep a customer rather than gain a new one, yet in the very same survey only 30% said they were committed to relationship marketing.  And current customers aren’t only good for renewals, 86% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for an upgraded experience.

Your customer service team has an important part to play in keeping your current customers satisfied, but those customers are valuable enough for marketing to get involved too. Don’t underestimate the importance of continuing to nurture your current customers with great content. But don’t stop there.

Marketing’s Most Powerful Resource: Customer Advocates

Customers that renew year-over-year are great, but customers that like you enough to recommend you to other prospects are even better. Not only can customer advocates help produce new leads by talking about your company to their peers, but the leads they send your way will be high-quality ones.

Referral leads typically convert more often than leads brought in through other marketing channels and take less time to close. If marketing cares about bringing in leads, then customer advocacy should be a top priority.

No matter how impressive your marketing programs feel, the word of happy current customers will almost always be more persuasive to your audience than anything you say about yourself.

The difficult part of creating customer advocates is that they have to come to love you themselves. You can’t pay for customer advocacy. You have to earn it. 

Tips to Effectively Market to Current Customers

Marketing is only one part of the puzzle to creating customer advocates. They also have to love the product and have consistently stellar experiences with the customer service team. But your contribution can play a key role as well.

Follow the whole customer’s journey.

The first step is to stop viewing marketing’s role as ending after you hand leads off. You should already be paying attention and tracking data on every interaction a prospect has leading up to the point where they become a qualified lead, now you need to keep that up for as long as their relationship continues with the organization.

Following the buyer’s journey for the long term accomplishes several things:

  • You will consistently gain new data on each customer that enables you to better understand their needs, wants, and what types of marketing they respond well to. That information makes it possible to continue delivering the best message at the right moment long after they become a customer, hopefully helping to build the kind of connection that leads to customer advocacy.
  • You’ll gain valuable data over time on which types of customers most consistently become the customer advocates your company values most. That information allows you to refine your marketing efforts to focus on attracting new leads with profiles that closely resemble your most valuable customers.
  • You’ll gain insights into the signs that suggest a current customer isn’t happy, so the sales and customer service teams know when to jump in to ensure product satisfaction.

Once marketing acknowledges that they have a stake in continuing to pay attention to and target current customers in their efforts, a lot of opportunities to seal and nurture those relationships will become clearer.

Work closely with customer service.

High-performing marketing departments are consistently making the move toward integrating with other departments in the company.  While collaboration with sales gets most of the attention in discussions about working toward greater integration, for the goal of creating customer advocates, customer service is the most important team for marketing to turn their sights to.

The customer service team should already have amassed data on what questions customers typically have, what kind of issues they regularly face, and who they are. If you can, you should make sure all your marketing technology is integrated with all the customer service technology so both departments will have easy access to the other’s data.

Make sure the lines of communication are open between both departments. Customer service should have the chance to weigh in on customer-facing marketing campaigns you create and marketing should be able to easily brief customer service on insights they have into new customers based on the data from when they were leads. Set up semi-regular meetings and make sure both teams know how to get in touch with each other over email and chat for more frequent check ins.

Create customer-focused marketing campaigns.

Finally, use all that information to create great marketing that’s aimed specifically at current customers.

That can include training materials and content focused on getting the most out of your product that come in a variety of formats – videos, webinars, blog posts, or interactive content – so that customers can choose how to learn in the way that works best for them. It can include marketing techniques focused on fostering a community to bring current customers together, like live events, social media communities, or teleconferences. And it can include email marketing that continues the connection and lets them know you’re thinking of them and always working to better provide what they need.

You already know what great marketing looks like; all you really need to do in this step is shift your focus to a different part of the buyer’s journey. As long as you’ve already shifted your thinking to see the buyer’s journey as extending beyond the point of sale, the rest should simply feel like doing the job you already know.

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Topics: Hive9

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