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Notebook with Toolls and Notes about Customer Relationship,concept

Are you thinking about your customers in your marketing plan?  Because if you’re not, you can bet your competitors are!  Because so much of a marketer’s focus is on new customer acquisition, sometimes we forget that nurturing your existing customer base is just as important and, in most instances, even more profitable. It’s not just about a new buyer’s journey. We also have to keep on top of their experience once they become a customer, and enter what we call the customer lifecycle.

Here, I’ll cover the need-to-know details of customer marketing and also talk about some of the top trends to watch that are paying off for many B2B companies today.

Why should we care about customer marketing?

  • Attracting new customers costs a company 5 times more than keeping existing ones.
  • A 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%.
  • A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor for service-related problems than for ones related to product.
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, vs 5-20% for new prospects.

The Customer Lifecycle

While new prospects go through what we call the “buyer’s lifecycle”, existing customers have their own “customer lifecycle”.  Within this framework the focus should be on delivering a great customer experience, developing relationships for insight gathering, retaining customers to become advocates and growing customer opportunities.  The goal of this framework is all centered around the goal of developing happy customers that become advocates for your company as well as repeat purchasers.

To maximize benefits from the customer lifecycle, it’s useful to divide your customers into segments based on their needs and what and how much they generally buy of your products/services. I suggest dividing into four segments.

First up: Know what and when to say, and to whom

Marketers need to plan for what levels of customer touch will best suit each of their customer segments.  The highest touches will be reserved for the most valuable customers, while the lowest touch is for the masses of smaller customers who may need (or even prefer) less communication to remain happy.

Low touch: The low touch marketing strategy is for your accounts or small customers who return again and again for the same purchases. Most of them don’t need or want constant reminders, but they may want to hear about your periodic product or service updates. Here’s where it can be helpful to have lead nurture programs in place that allow individual opt-in for future communications.

Medium touch: Where you see accounts that are growing their order sizes or expanding into other products, you should be a little more proactive by assigning those to a medium touch marketing strategy. You might put them on a list for preferred customer communications that allow them early access to deals, updates or opportunities for add-ons.

High touch: Stay more closely tuned in to those customers with strategic value (high visibility, referral potential, or customers that represent a new industry).  These customers should be nurtured by both sales and marketing with offerings like their own set of exclusive specials, event invitations, etc.

Ultra high touch: For those extra high value accounts whose loss would cause a hit to your revenues, take a more consultative, personal approach. This is where deploying an Account Based Marketing strategy can be most impactful. (See my previous post on ABM here.)

The Customer Lifecycle Framework

As you can see from the framework below, customer marketing should never be a siloed approach within any organization.  It involves the collective group of people or departments that touch the customer at every step of the customer journey.  Working together you should focus on delivering an integrated experience that starts with customer delivery and development to customer retention and growth.

Phase 1: Delivery

  • Your Company delivers the product or service with a welcome & instructions.
  • Your Customer initiates use of the product or service.

Phase 2: Development

  • Your Company offers customer support.
  • Your Customer uses the product and begins transacting with services.

Phase 3: Retention

  • Your Company makes the value clear to the customer; creates case for continuing.
  • Your Customer assesses impact of the product/service, discusses with peers.

Phase 4: Growth

  • Your Company develops more selling opportunities (cross selling and upselling).
  • Your Customer who loves the product begins evangelizing with their peers.

Emerging Trends in Customer Marketing

In the past, the customer’s post-sale experience was often left to chance. With increasing competition resulting from digital marketing’s ability to reach into any and every target market, companies have had to up their game to hold on to an increasingly fickle customer base.

Reinvesting in face-to-face customer feedback: While some B2B companies have always used user groups, advisory boards or industry strategy councils for cues to the customer experience, many are taking a closer look at more impactful feedback venues. In particular, Customer Advisory Boards are becoming popular as a way to engage key buyers and advocates as co-investors in quality monitoring and improvement.

Making it a formal assignment: Smart B2B companies today are creating separate functions within their marketing teams to address the customer experience, customer success, and current customer marketing.

There are a lot of people that touch the customer and these groups must be included in the planning.  For example, professional services, customer support, sales and marketing  all need to be on the same page when developing your customer marketing plan.

Don’t forget to measure.

As with any marketing strategy you deploy, consistently measuring the progress and success of these efforts is essential to ensure that planning and execution are on target. This assures the best use of what are usually limited staff resources.

Ideally, you’ll start with an integrated and coordinated marketing plan to address each stage of the customer journey. If you don’t know where to start or need help putting an effective customer marketing plan in place, strategic marketing agencies can advise you or help put together the best plan for your needs.


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Shannon Prager is recognized B2B marketing strategist and the President of Leadit Marketing. She is responsible for the daily operations and management of Leadit Marketing as well as the long term vision for the company.

A marketing leader with over 19 years of B2B demand generation and marketing experience, she understands the importance of a fully developed integrated marketing strategy. Shannon’s background includes demand generation, marketing automation, social media, digital marketing, customer marketing, account based marketing and marketing operations. You can follow her on LinkedIn via or Twitter @

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