Recently, we hosted a webinar with Peg Miller, a renowned B2B Marketing practitioner, speaker and author. Peg currently leads the full-funnel content strategy at Xactly Corporation, a market leader in sales performance management and employee engagement. Peg has led marketing teams in the fintech space, at Kapost, Penton and Gannett. She’s a respected author and speaks at the Intelligent Content Conference, Content Marketing World, and various industry events. She is a Top 50 Female Influencer in Content Marketing according to TopRank, and is on Onalytica’s Top 100 Global MarTech Influencers & Brands. Read more from Peg at B2B Marketing Academy. If you missed our webinar, you can catch the on-demand here. The following blog post was written by Peg as a follow up to our webinar. Hope you enjoy it!
Using Content to Drive a Successful Post-Sale Customer Experience- by Peg Miller
Most organizations tend to focus their content efforts higher in the funnel for inbound, brand awareness, or demand generation efforts. In this article, we’re focusing on creating a customer experience at the bottom of the funnel, during the post-sale phase of the buying cycle after a lead has become a customer. According to the Content Marketing Institute, just 56% of marketers focus their efforts on of companies have a content marketing focus to drive upsell/cross-sell while 42% use content to create brand advocates.
I recommend that you increase your content focus at the bottom of the funnel. By improving your efforts in post-sale customer experience, not only will you drive retention which directly impacts the bottom line, but you will be driving revenue from current and future customers. According to Harvard Business Review, an astounding 90% of business decision makers depend on peer recommendations as part of their buying process, and 84% of B2B buying decisions start with a referral. If you’re not guiding this process and creating a phenomenal post-sale customer experience, you’re missing out on an opportunity to drive revenue and profit, and create defined business value for your organization.
This is one of my favorite areas of discussion — the intersection of pre-sales, marketing and post-sale content activities — and how they can work together to create a seamless customer experience. You may have heard me refer to the BOFU (bottom of the funnel), or post-sale funnel as the forgotten funnel. That’s because I see so many organizations and marketers who work so hard to gain customers throughout acquisition funnel, but then forget to nurture and upsell them after we win them as customers. Or we have a disjointed brand and process once we get to post-sale. We use different databases, different automation platforms, and separate communications schedules, which means we end up sending mixed signals to our customers.
To start, let’s discuss some basic fundamentals which can help boost your post-sale content strategy. Here are some of the cornerstone activities which I recommend you implement throughout your entire funnel:
Build customer experience maps. This is a cross-departmental, customer view of buying and usage stages, including what is the customer thinking and doing at each stage in the process. This is less about you as a company, and very much focused on your customer’s mindset.
Build content journey maps, and use them in your planning cycles. After you’ve completed an initial content audit to determine gaps and areas of opportunity, it’s important to use content journey maps to help plan campaigns and initiatives. Content journey maps are a great planning tool to identify content you already have, along with areas of need. Again, this should be done cross-functionally across product marketing, content marketing and the Marcom team to make sure you are covering all areas of the content journey for prospects and customers.
Scale your team through the success, sales, SMEs, and other functions. As content marketers, we never seem to have enough resources or time to focus on all of the topics we’d like to tackle. That’s why it’s so important to engage with content creators and amplifiers beyond the marketing team. Not only can sales, success and other subject matter experts be great sources of content ideas, they can also be one of your most prolific content creators, and the best channels for amplifying content messages throughout the entire funnel. Often the success and support team members know better than anyone in the organization what are the biggest pain points for customers. They have deep relationships with customers and are hopefully considered a valued partner by the customers they serve.
Look for hidden content throughout the organization. You likely have 80% of this content already built, and it just may need to be tweaked to apply to your users and customers instead of prospects.
Reuse existing content. Do a content audit and content journey map to determine what content you already have which can be amplified and shared with customers.
Create content checklists to ensure consistent voice and tone, establish quality requirements, document the creation, publication and distribution process, and make sure you set standards for key ingredients in all content such as tracking links, CTAs (calls to action), backlinks. Apply the same quality and distribution standards to your post-sale content as you would for any content throughout your funnel.
Use audits and calendars to manage your content strategy into execution.
People ask me for specific ideas on how and where to integrate content into the post-sale customer experience. Here are 19 ideas to get you started:
- Surveys – how are you using stats and verbatim comments from surveys to help drive your post-sale customer experience?
- Referrals, References – are you actively asking current customers to become a referral or reference for your product? Think about ways to incent your success team to ask customers to become reference customers.
- Second sale – how are you encouraging customers who change jobs or switch companies to “take you with them” as a second sale at their new organization?
- Customer newsletters – is marketing managing the newsletters on behalf of the product team, or at least providing content to be included on a regular basis, and tracking results?
- Customer webinars – treat customer webinars just like you would on the prospect side, complete with schedules, demand generation activities, tracking, and a solid on demand process.
- Feature releases – how are you communicating feature releases in a way that makes customers look forward to your communication and check out the new releases?
- Feedback loop – have you set up a feedback loop between customers, product, product marketing, and the content marketing team? Do customers feel someone is listening and responding to their feedback?
- Case studies – how are you working with the customer success team to ensure that the best stories are told in an interesting and compelling way? How is that information integrated into regular customer communication, and how is your organization fostering communication between users and customers?
- Upsell/cross-sell demand – have you taught the customer success team how to listen for natural upsell opportunities, and equipped them with the proper enablement to pass the opportunities to the account management team? How is marketing helping communicate and create demand for upsell/cross-sell?
- In app notifications – if you have a customer application or portal, how are you using in-application messaging to help advance your customer experience?
- Videos – consider using video to deliver and explain product releases
- Tip of the Day/Week – get your product or product marketing team involved in developing customer tips on a regular a basis.
- Community site – have you developed an area on your website, where customers can log in to a private area with insider knowledge and information.
- Help pages, knowledge base – have you integrated your knowledge base and help pages into your community site, so you are generating community content along with the company-provided assistance?
- FAQ, Q&A content – compile a list of common questions seen by support and success teams, then turn it into an FAQ page, easily accessible by your customers.
- Customer interviews – is the marketing team listening in on and conducting customer interviews on a regular basis?
- Nurtures – have you set up customer nurture programs based on a knowledge path, product adoption and areas of growth?
- Thank you gifts – how do you thank your customers? Consider sending a notecard or gift at relevant milestones or achievements.
- Have a review strategy for software review sites – how are you enabling, driving and encouraging your customer base to review your products?
Getting Buy-In For a Post-Sale Content Strategy
One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to get buy-in throughout the organization. Marketers commonly feel like they are not only having to do their job, but also be change agents for modern business practices. They’re right. We as marketers, are often change agents first, and marketers second. My top advice for getting buy-in within an organization is to bring cross-functional teams together early in the process. This serves two key purposes: 1) you will get great ideas and input from your peers within other teams throughout the organization, and more importantly, 2) you will be quietly building buy-in before you even get to market with the project. By including a cross-functional team early in the process, you will create allies and advocates within the organization who will be a part of your process from day one. Not only will they help you accomplish better work, but they will indirectly help advocate for your ideas simply by their participation and awareness. Another key step in getting buy-in is to treat everything as a launch, even if it’s a mini launch. By this I mean, go through the typical launch process, which includes doing research, collecting data, gathering consensus, developing a plan, documenting the plan, communicating about the plan and executing the plan. If you follow these steps, even for smaller projects, you will nail the mechanics of getting buy-in for ideas throughout the organization. It is no longer enough to do your job, you have to communicate about what that is, and let others throughout the organization know what you’re working on and why, and what does it mean for them.
How to Measure Results for Post-Sale Content Strategy
I’m frequently asked how to measure post-sale content strategy effectiveness and results. My recommendation is to expand on the common metrics you may already be using such as user sessions by content type or form fills by content type. You can apply the same logic to the post-sale content journey. Create a demand gen funnel for upsell/cross-sell similar to how you would for the lead funnel. You can create opportunities within your CRM system, they will simply be created within current customer accounts. You should set up tracking through to sale, just as you would for a net-new lead. Other metrics to consider: content shares, social engagement, content engagement. Your customer database is just as valuable, if not more, than your prospect database. Begin to track customer communications through your marketing automation platform. If you’re in software, consider APIs so that any customer notifications generated from your application are coordinated and synced with any promotional messages.
Things to remember about customer communications — they have made the decision to do business with you, so the hardest work is done. They’ve given you permission to communicate with them, especially if you are providing valuable information that will help them do their job. Now, more than ever, if you let “helpfulness” be the guiding principle with your content, you may be pleasantly surprised when your customers ask for more, not less, communication from you.
Buying decisions start with a referral. Create customer advocates to help strengthen and shorten your sales cycles.
For a deeper dive in using the post-sale team to help drive revenue, you may want to read this blog, where I cover it in more detail.
When you follow these tips and processes to improve your post-sale content strategy and improve your full funnel customer experience, amazing things start to happen. Other departments such as success and account management, and the entire organization, tend to take notice of what marketing is doing to help drive retention, revenue and profit. You may find yourself spending less time defending or explaining what is marketing doing, and you will likely find yourself trying to keep up with the increasing requests coming in to marketing when the organization realizes that content marketing is a key business driver.
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– Peg Miller
In case you missed our webinar in April with Peg, you can now watch it on-demand here.