How to turn satisfied customers into advocates using B2B customer marketing?

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Customer marketing was named one of the fastest-growing fields on LinkedIn in 2022.

And for good reason. Current customers are one of the leading drivers of revenue—through retained revenue as well as expansion revenue. Social proof also plays a key role in marketing and sales, bringing the voice of the customer to the forefront to promote your products for you.

To learn more about customer marketing, our founder Rishabh Bhandari interviewed Shannon Howard, Customer Marketing Manager at PeopleGrove, to learn more about the ins and outs of customer marketing.

Catch the full interview here.

Table of Contents

What is customer marketing?

At its simplest, customer marketing is marketing activities aimed at your current customer base. We often see this broken down into three areas:

  1. Lifecycle: Onboarding, adoption, and nurturing customers at scale throughout their journey with your product.
  2. Advocacy: Highlighting the voices of happy customers to talk about their experience with your product.
  3. Community: Establishing and facilitating a community of practice that helps your customers grow in their role and use of your product.

How can you turn satisfied customers into advocates using customer marketing?

It’s often very easy to spot happy customers—they’re already proactively talking about your business. But to have a truly effective customer marketing practice, we need to be thinking about our whole customer base, not just the people already advocating.

Customer lifecycle marketing can nurture and engage customers to the point where they’re getting results with your product and want to become brand champions.

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Customer advocacy marketing identifies those advocates and starts to engage them in acts of advocacy. Important to note here is that there’ a lot of ways people can advocate for your business, and your customers won’t want to (or be good at) advocating in all those ways.

Examples of advocacy activities include:

  • Leaving a review on a review site
  • Participating in a case study or customer story
  • Providing a reference to a prospective customer
  • Joining a customer advisory board or product advisory council
  • Offering a quote for a press release
  • Speaking at a conference, on a webinar, or on a panel

We need to help our customers not only raise their hand to be an advocate, but find the right opportunity that fits their personality and interests.

How do you segment and target customers for campaigns?

There are a lot of ways you can segment and target customers for campaigns, including:

  • Segment by market size (SMB, MM, ENT or Self-Serve vs. Enterprise)
  • Segment by persona (team/department, role, use case, etc.)
  • Segment by features/products (What do they have access to?)
  • Segment by adoption/usage (Are they power users, at-risk, etc.?)

How you segment is going to depend on what you’re trying to achieve.

For example, for a newsletter with content, I might want to segment by what the customer has access to (not providing them an update on a product they don’t have) and by persona (providing relevant content to their role/function).

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For an expansion campaign, I would want to look at which products/features/modules they have access to, which they don’t have access to, and any product usage metrics that might indicate they’re a good candidate for expansion. (For example, if you had a customer with low use of their current product features, they’re probably not a good candidate for expansion.)

How do you measure the success of a customer marketing campaign?

To quote every marketer ever, it depends. What we measure and how we measure it is going to depend on what our goals are, what programs we’re running, and what data we have access to.

(And I want to plug Leslie Barrett’s course on customer marketing metrics.)

We can look at metrics in three different ways: Output, lagging metrics, and leading/engagement metrics.

Output metrics are activity-based. It’s what we did. We published X case studies, hosted X webinars, facilitated X references.

Lagging metrics are what we ultimately want to move the needle on. This is probably related to expansion revenue, net dollar retention (NDR), or account retention. These metrics can be harder to measure, are often shared with other teams (like Customer Success, Product, or Sales), and take a while to measure (especially if contracts renew every 1-3 years).

Leading or engagement metrics tell us if we’re on track to reach those lagging metrics. For example, we know that onboarding plays a key role in account retention. Tracking the number of customers who complete onboarding can help us make sure we’re moving toward that goal of account retention. Product usage is usually an indicator of not only account retention, but also likelihood to expand. If we can help people successfully adopt and use our product, we’re on track to reach those bigger goals.

As customer marketers, we have to make sure we’re telling that story, and helping people see how those engagement metrics are indicators that we’re headed down the path of retention and revenue.

How do you work with cross-functional teams (such as sales, product, and customer success) to execute customer marketing initiatives?

Customer marketing is impossible without the support and buy-in from these other teams. One of your biggest jobs as a customer marketer is to build these cross-functional relationships. You depend on their input and partnership to do your job well.

This starts with taking the time to get to know the folks on these teams and understanding their team strategy, goals, and problems. Customer marketing is often positioned to help them scale, reach those goals, and solve those problems.

I meet with team leads bi-weekly to get their input, and that gets factored into my quarterly, half-year, and annual plans. I also meet with individual members on the team on a regular basis to hear what they’re hearing and seeing on the ground level.

Doing this means that, when it’s time to execute on my plans, I already know what matters and have buy-in to make it happen. If my plan is a surprise to Sales or Customer Success, I have likely done my job poorly. They should hear what I’m working on and say, “That totally makes sense.”

Beyond getting their input, there’s also the partnership in making things happen. Sales needs to follow the processes put in place for things like references. Customer Success helps to identify customers for speaking opportunities or case studies. Product will often help get access to product usage data. One time, I leaned on a relationship I built at a company book club to get spike work done for a project. Investing the time to build these relationships makes the rollout and execution of plans much more doable, instead of becoming an uphill battle.

How do you leverage customer marketing to drive customer retention and loyalty?

There’s usually no one thing that’s going to drive customer retention and loyalty. Rather, it’s a holistic effort. Think of it like a symphony: You don’t go for any one instrument. You go for the whole orchestra.

The key here is to understand what drives retention and loyalty for your audience. You want to think about the whole lifecycle and customer experience—not any one program.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s currently working well?
  • What are points of friction?
  • What questions do customers ask over and over?
  • Where can customer marketing help?

If you’re at a loss, talk to your customers! What do they want? What are they asking for? Right now, my customers are asking for community. They want to talk with each other. They want to see examples of what other people are doing. They want benchmarks. Those are all things customer marketing can help with. But community may not be the right approach (or now may not be the right timing) for your business.

If you haven’t already, look at onboarding. Great onboarding sets a customer up for success, helps them see value faster. So you might work on an onboarding nurture or materials to support onboarding in and out of the product.

Interested in learning more about customer marketing?

Follow Shannon on LinkedIn here, and join the CMA Weekly Slack Community or Customer Marketing Slack Community.

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