Business leaders love chatting about the customer’s journey through the funnel. But what happens after the prospect exits the funnel and becomes a customer? Does the customer suddenly drop into a free fall, like that scene with Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi? I sure hope not!

On the sales side of the house, when a prospect becomes a customer there is a carefully planned handoff of the customer from the sales team to the customer success team. The reason for this is to avoid disrupting the customer’s experience through the funnel.

The same goes for your marketing efforts. Marketing communication doesn’t stop at the sale; it goes beyond it. The handoff of a customer from sales to your customer success team is just as important as the handoff of messaging from product and field marketing to the customer marketing team.

Customer marketing helps the customer’s experience with your company feel less like a drop into a black hole, and more like a high five while riding the world’s most rewarding waterslide.

For B2B companies, 2016 is the year of customer experience, and customer marketers will drive this campaign. If you are a B2B marketer, here’s what you can expect to see in 2016:

1. Brands Will Get Serious about Customer Experience

The phrase “customer marketing” will be spoken in executive boardrooms and will gain recognition in marketing divisions across all businesses. As I asked above, where does the journey lead your customer after they’ve exited the funnel?

While product marketers show prospects what your product can do and field marketers strive to get prospects to use it, customer success marketers show customers that the cost of entry was well worth it.

Executives will reassess their customer’s experience and how it affects retention, advocacy, and upsell.

2. The B2B Customer Journey Will Be Mapped

Marketing is an ever-evolving practice, and customer marketing is the only approach that solely focuses on your customer’s experiences with your company.

Customer marketing is the only approach that solely focuses on your customer’s experiences with your company

Search “post-sale customer journey” in Google Images and you’ll get plenty of variations of a journey, but many still address the prospective customer journey, not the post-sale customer journey. And those that speak about the post-sale customer journey differentiate from each other. There isn’t one consistent model.

Customer marketing is still in its infancy, and the model will shape as it matures. In 2016, the true customer journey will be identified.

3. Retention Metrics Will Reign

There are two reasons why customers will drop your product or service: they didn’t find value and/or they had a poor experience with your company.

Beyond vanity metrics, measuring the direct impact that marketing has on company success has been a pain for quite some time. For customer success marketers, one success metric will stand above all else: retention. What percentage of customers remain customers?

4. Customer Communities Will Find New Purpose

Customers often learn how to best use a product from other users. Community forums bring customers together to share ideas, tips, strategies, and stories. Not only will community forums ignite discussion among customers, it will also be a primary area for marketing to speak with customers about product enhancements and features to come.

It will be the place where marketers and product engineers hear from the customers about what enhancement they’d like to see in the product or service. Giving customers the opportunity to share their feedback will not only show them that you’re listening, but their feedback will make your product or service that much better.

Retention metrics will reign in 2016.

In 2016, marketers will also share results and insights directly with customers, to help them understand that they’re not alone. For example, 63% of Kapost users say that collaboration and managing workflow are their most important business goals. Sharing insights will unify customers.

5. Customer Account Management Teams Will Find Their New Best Friend

What are friends for? To help you get out of a pickle, provide advice, and maybe even split their lunch with you when you forget yours. In 2016, customer account management teams will reap the benefits of a newly designated customer success marketer that will map out the customer experience, brand customer-facing collateral, and help you become a superstar to your customer.

That’s right: brands will get serious about customer success marketing, and will invest in a marketer who is only focused on the customer experience.

So there you go—it’s time for your marketing team to assess how you will improve your customer experience in 2016.

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Savino Longo

About Savino Longo

Customer marketing and post-funnel content expert. I help marketers kick-butt at creating content and managing campaigns. When I'm not working, I'm watching Mad Men.