Create a Customer Retention Strategy with Strategic PR and Marketing
By Peggy Tierney Galvin, Director of Account Services, Nadel Phelan, Inc.
Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Engagement Index found that brands spend 11X more on onboarding new customers than on retaining existing ones. Another study discovered that 44% of companies solely focus on getting new customers, which means those companies are in for an expensive ride. Add in a 12-to-18-month lead cycle for new accounts – even longer if you work with the federal government – and it’s clear that a strong customer retention strategy is necessary for business success.
That’s particularly the case for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, which rely on a subscription-based model and typically have an even shorter sales cycle than the 12-18 months mentions above. infolinks found that while 47% of respondents will recommend a business if it provided good customer service and response, 42% reported leaving a SaaS subscription due to poor customer service.
Customer churn is expensive
Reeling in new customers and then ignoring them isn’t a good retention strategy, to put it mildly. Customers have high expectations for their relationship with your company, and if they feel their needs aren’t being met, they can easily jump ship for your competitor. With software, cloud platforms and the “-aaS” revolution replacing expensive, proprietary and on-premises solutions that customers traditionally had used, there are fewer obstacles to migrating services to a new vendor. Today, it’s as easy as cancelling a subscription. Technology vendors need to bend over backwards with creative, proactive ways to ensure their customers are getting the absolute maximum value out of their offering.
The U.S Small Business Administration found that 68% of customers stop buying from companies if they believe the company is indifferent to them. So, the ideal is to “land and expand” with existing customers by making sure they are happy and are getting the promised value out of your solution. This ensures good relationships and avoids the dreaded “churn and burn” approach that sacrifices ongoing revenue stability for quick “number” wins for your sales metrics.
Retention of existing customers with marketing and PR
Marketing and PR play a key role in ensuring your customers know about all the great ROI your service provides. PR and marketing helps customer retention in three primary ways:
- Joint opportunities: You provide your customers added value by offering them joint PR and marketing opportunities through customer reference programs. Find out what coverage your customer would like to get and then make them the focus of the story, showing how they implemented novel ways to help their business and their own users.
- Customer confidence: Industry coverage about your company, your solution and your executives’ thought leadership provides third-party validation that can help customers feel more secure about their decision.
- Building a customer advisory board: A great way to give customers a voice within your own organization is to create a customer advisory board where they can offer feedback and suggestions on the solution and get together with their fellow customers to trade best practices. The more a customer identifies with your solution and feels heard and validated about how to make it better, the more likely they are to stick with it. As a side note, customer advisory boards are a great way to identify customer champions who would be willing to be references for prospects or candidates for media outreach campaigns.
Elevate your customers
Your customer retention strategy must ensure that customers feel they’re being heard. The sales and/or customer success teams needs to constantly check in to hear customers’ feedback, concerns and suggestions. This feedback should be delivered to the marketing team so they can flow those messages and care-abouts into their overall external communications program as part of a closed-loop approach to messaging. By seeing company coverage and messaging that speaks to their concerns, customers know they are being listened to and taken seriously.
In addition, make sure customers know about all the options they have, including white papers and success stories. Illustrate the ways they can improve or grow their business with your company through features, methods or solutions they might not yet have considered. This is where it’s important to ensure that the sales team is sharing coverage and assets with customers.
Understand your customers
Every customer is different, but too many sales and marketing teams see customers only through the lens of their product and ignore the broader contours of the customer’s business goals beyond the IT stack. Understanding customers’ business needs is an opportunity to make everyone happy.
First, learn what your customers are actually using your solution for – and the business pains of attempting alternatives. Then communicate through PR and marketing with success stories and use cases illustrating customers in similar industries and situations solving similar problems with your solution, demonstrating that you understand their market and their needs.
Use PR and marketing to increase customer retention
Your PR and marketing teams will help you understand how to increase customer retention. Because so many technology providers sell more software and services than hardware these days, nurturing relationships is key to customer satisfaction and retention. A happy customer is a repeat customer who may even recommend you to others. To retain as many customers as possible, make sure to ask for customer feedback, then share it with the appropriate teams, responding to customers and creating the solutions that will best serve them. These are all elements your PR and marketing teams can help you plan and execute, making customers feel heard and valuable – because they are.