Do you often find yourself wondering what you can really do to keep customers around for a long time? Churn is a real challenge in the SaaS world as businesses take advantage of the technology's inherent flexibility to hop between vendors and solutions with ease, making customer loyalty a hard-fought gain. Effective customer retention programs are critical in engaging with existing clients and expanding your relationship with them. To find success with customer retention, it's vital to consider unconventional B2B marketing strategies that can help you stand out from the competitors and build loyalty with clients.
What we mean when we talk about unconventional B2B marketing
When somebody says unconventional marketing, there's a lot they could be talking about. Your mind may jump to niche, gimmicky strategies meant to stand out due to their sheer weirdness. You may think of trying to zig while other marketers zag. But what we're referring to when we talk about unconventional B2B marketing is a paradigm shift away from traditional methods of thinking about the B2B audience. Your strategies may not change too much as you work to embrace non-traditional marketing ideas to drive customer retention programs.
Our approach to unconventional B2B marketing comes down to a simple question: Why do we as B2B marketers typically treat our audiences as office drones? The consumer marketing world is filled with memorable advertisements, catchy taglines that stick in a person's head and design sensibilities that not only grab a person's attention, but also serve to make a lasting impression. Do people somehow transform between the home and the office to such a degree that what works in reaching them as consumers doesn't work when they are making a business purchase? The short answer is not really. Yes, the business purchaser or decision-maker may need more data or more concrete information before making a choice, but your ability to build a lasting impression with a B2B buyer often requires a consumer-like approach to marketing.
This represents the foundation of a customer retention program: Appeal to the decision-maker as a person, not simply a cog in a business unit, and you'll be better able to build trust and loyalty. We're not saying you need to go all-in on a consumer-like approach to reaching business users, but when we work with companies in our portfolio we challenge them to look more closely at the personal, emotional side of the sales and marketing process to better reach the individual they are marketing to. Doing this within your customer retention programs can be invaluable in gaining an edge.
What's the norm for customer retention
At its core, a customer retention program is a marketing and promotions strategy aimed at keeping existing customers happy and giving them an incentive to either extend their subscription or expand their purchase. Common strategies include:
- Incentive programs rewarding loyalty or offering discounts for clients that renew or expand their relationship before the end of the current contract.
- Conferences for existing users to help them connect with other businesses using a solution and get excited about the opportunities available.
- Referral initiatives that allow customers to benefit from spreading word-of-mouth about your business, turning them into brand advocates.
These conventional strategies can be incredibly effective in reaching B2B customers, but they're also common across the industry. It's tough to stand out on these methods alone. Applying unconventional marketing strategies that build strong, personal and memorable connections with decision-makers can be vital in customer retention. It's essential to grow beyond common B2B tropes of heavily formalized messaging and work to drive loyalty through personal connections that are memorable and create a positive emotional response with customers.
Content is essential in unconventional customer retention programs
When you're working to reconsider how you engage with customers to fuel better retention, it's critical to think about how the content you create will resonate with the specific audiences you have in mind. While you may think of your customers in neatly bucketed personas based on an account-based marketing scheme, they all think of themselves as individuals with specific needs and desires when it comes to making a technology purchase. As such, you need content strategies that feel personal and accessible, reaching decision-makers where they are.
In practice, customer retention isn't all that different from customer acquisition. You need to:
- Create trust so customers see you as somebody seeking a mutually beneficial situation, not just a person working blindly toward sales revenue.
- Generate interest in features and capabilities that the customer doesn't currently have. For existing clients, this could mean adding new modules to a SaaS software system or scaling usage so more employees can leverage the technology.
- Ensure clients understand your full product portfolio and how each solution can apply to their specific context.
- Reach users across a wide range of channels, including social media, web ads, traditional marketing content and personal engagement. It's also worth considering using channel partners depending on your typical buyer experience.
- Foster a sense of comfort and reliability so clients know what they're getting when they work with you.
- Maintain responsiveness and support to enhance trust and demonstrate accessibility.
These are core strategies to help you drive customer loyalty and build long-term relationships, and your content plays a vital role in helping you enact these plans.
Content creates an opportunity to give customers valuable insights that they care about, strengthening your bond with them and helping them to trust you. Whether you're using social media posts to share a brand achievement or writing an in-depth blog on a new feature you're offering, taking a customer-centric approach to how you craft that content is essential. Typical B2B marketing is often about communicating who you are and what you do, leaving the customer to make a choice. Unconventional, consumer-like marketing focuses first on what the audience is looking for and builds the tone and messaging around that.
Maybe your product is heavily favored by typically quirky technology leaders who fell in love with tech reading sarcastic industry magazines and thinking of IT systems as a sort of creative outline. Dull spec sheets and content that basically replicates their data are useful to this kind of audience, but it won't capture their imagination and resonate with them. Instead, getting a bit snarky and lighter with your tone can strengthen the immediate bond and create a positive, memorable experience. This simple consumer marketing tactic increasingly has a place in B2B marketing, including customer retention strategies, and can give you a great opportunity to build customer satisfaction through a strong relationship.
Sustaining customer retention momentum
Of course, simply taking a more unconventional approach to your customer retention efforts is just a starting point. You'll ultimately need to blend retention strategies with loyalty and rewards programs, bringing together new ideas with traditional tactics to reach customers in the most effective way possible. Sustaining any initial success depends on being able to measure your campaigns and draw accurate conclusions from your metrics and KPIs.
Whether you want to focus on a stat like net retention rate to position your business for a sale or deepen your use of metrics and KPIs throughout the customer lifecycle to better understand how your retention efforts compare to your customer acquisition strategies, gathering and using data effectively is critical in driving success.
You don't just need data about your own programs either. You'll also want to gather as much customer data as you can to better understand how, why and when they interact with you. Understanding your audience is critical in figuring out the best way to align content with their needs.
Gathering all of this information is only part of the challenge. You also need to develop clear strategies and best practices for using that information to advise your operations. This often comes down to asking the right questions.
Self-analysis underpins customer retention
If you don't deeply understand how your business is functioning and where it's going, then how are you going to ensure customers are on board for the long haul? High-growth businesses often expand so quickly that they lose deep visibility into operations, particularly those that involve work across departmental lines, such as customer retention programs. At Insight Partners, we take a deeply diagnostic, consultative approach to working with our portfolio companies. We can help you deepen your self-analysis so you can build the kind of strong identity need to enact unconventional marketing campaigns as part of your customer retention plans.