By Dan Steinman, Chief Customer Officer at Gainsight
Content has become one of the most critical aspects of marketing over the past 3-4 years. No reasonably sized company is lacking a “content strategy”. There are even “Chief Content Officer” and “VP of Content” titles springing up in numerous places. To a large degree, this is part of the Marketing Automation movement, which requires a lot of content to nurture, intrigue, entice, warm-up, and attract new leads. In fact, not surprisingly, the Marketing Automation vendors – Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Act-On, Pardot – are some of the very best content marketing companies around.
But a vast majority of that content is aimed at prospects, not customers. And that which is aimed at customers is often for the purpose of upsell, not retention. Many companies can’t divert their attention from acquisition long enough to pay the appropriate attention to existing customers.
In a past life, I worked at a company where, as the VP of Customer Success, I had a very hard time finding a slot in Marketing’s email calendar to send an email to customers that didn’t ask them to buy something new. There was no time for a “we love you” email, or a note on “tips for using our product more efficiently.”
This needs to change with the times.
With the recurring revenue portion of many SaaS- or subscription-based companies becoming a larger part of their overall business models, even exceeding 50% in the maturing companies, marketing to existing customers for the sole purpose of ensuring or increasing retention is an increasingly critical part of the marketing strategy.
So let’s talk about why you need to provide real content to your existing customers and how to do that effectively.
There’s an old Steve Martin comedy bit titled “How to be a millionaire and not pay taxes.” The first line after introducing the bit is this – “First, get a million bucks”.
In many ways content marketing is similar. “First, get a lot of highly valuable content. Then…” Of course, the real challenge is accomplishing that first major task. But, presumably, your company is full of experts on your product and your market space. Before you tap industry experts for guest blog posts or pay someone to provide you with content, take advantage of all the expertise you already have like your Product Managers, Customer Success Managers, Support Reps, and Consultants. And they don’t have to be writers to provide great content. Writing can be Marketing’s role. Just get smart people to share their intelligence and wisdom about your products.
One great thing about marketing to current customers is that they already know your company. No subtle marketing messages necessary. Simple and straightforward articles like “Raise your ROI with Acme by using the XYZ widget” are perfectly fine. In fact, it’s better than fine. It’s what your customers want, and probably expect, from you. Why? Because the vast majority of them really, truly want to maximize the value they are getting out of your product(s). With that truth in hand, you can provide them with valuable tips, tricks, and best practices and they will welcome it. And by automating this information exchange from Customer Success to customers, you can reach those customers, with real value, that you just can’t afford to touch one-on-one, at least not very often.
Making your customers more successful with your product(s) is reason #1 for content marketing to your existing customers. Reason #2 is to increase brand recognition.
Few companies have brands like IBM, Google, or Apple. Your customers need to be reminded of your value to them and how cool it is to be your customer. It reinforces their brilliant decision to purchase your product(s) in the first place and affirms your place in their business, and psyche, when it comes time to renew or re-evaluate your solution.
Don’t take this lightly.
Those of us who deal with customers every day don’t often think about branding exercises with them. After all, they are already customers. Your direct users are acutely aware of your presence in their lives, but that may not be as true for the ancillary users and, most importantly, the executives. Providing interesting and relevant content to all parties will help you maintain “stickiness,” assuming your products really are bringing true value to your customers.
This is especially valuable for those companies that use the “land and expand” model, as many SaaS companies do. That model assumes that your first set of users at any given company, are not where your product ends. That means you have additional prospects within each of the companies to whom you have sold your solution, and those prospects may or may not have heard of you. So, branding exercises that include your existing customers may have tremendous value, especially if they display thought leadership.
Not only is this an important practice to implement, but it’s easy. The bottom line is simply this – marketing to your existing customers is actually easier than marketing to prospects for a couple of reasons:
- They are thirsty for your expertise.
- Your message can be much more direct and there are many more people at your company who can help provide content.
- You already have permission to email them.
- You probably know something about how they are, or aren’t, using your products.
Thought leadership has been proven to be one of the most valuable forms of marketing during the growth of the digital marketing age, whether that is email, blogging, or twittering. And no one knows your products and your customers like you do. So, don’t be shy about this and don’t wait any longer.
Let the writing begin!
Dan Steinman is Gainsight‘s Chief Customer Officer and, in that role, has ultimate responsibility for Gainsight’s customer’s satisfaction and success. Customers are his passion going all the way back to his days as an SE at IBM. Dan’s career includes being a very early employee at Epiphany, Co-Founder at NearbyNow, and VP of Customer Success at both Mozes and Marketo before joining Gainsight. Dan is a recognized expert and thought leader in the Customer Success field and brings that thought leadership into execution at Gainsight both with the Customer Success organization and with Gainsight’s products.