When every brand out there is bending over backwards to be “helpful” to customers, how will yours stand out?
This question has vexed every marketer I’ve talked to in the last three years. And it’s only gotten more challenging.
There was a time not so long ago when a growth strategy that involved answering customer questions was new to the world.
Today, most industries have embraced some version of inbound marketing. Even if many companies are struggling to do it right, they all have blogs, videos, and social channels pumping out content to attract leads into their sales funnels.
Regardless of how successful they are with their strategies, the one thing we are all good at is creating lots of noise.
Creating helpful content is essential for business growth today, but it’s not enough to lift your brand above your competitors. Not unless are lucky enough to work in an industry that’s not completely saturated with blog content on Google, and yes, there are some of you out there.
As Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, founders of HubSpot, said at INBOUND18, “The ground is shifting under our feet.”
The great differentiator among brands will not depend on what you sell, but how you sell it.
When Halligan started his keynote speech with this claim, I had to roll my eyes.
Oh good, I thought. I came all this way to hear a “funnel is dead” speech. Just like “SEO is dead” and all the other hackneyed platitudes influencers invent to make themselves sound brilliant.
But as he went on to explain what he meant, I started leaning in. He said the marketing and sales funnel is all about customer acquisition, not retention.
We pour resources into attracting and nurturing leads through the buyer’s journey, but let’s face it, we consider the hard work done the instant a new customer joins our little family. Like a fairy tale that ends with happily ever after, the customer signs on the dotted line and embarks on a new path to success with our skilled teams by their side. At least, that’s what we think will happen.
This is a bad approach on many levels.
First, it ignores one simple fact: the experience customers have with our brand does have an impact on future business. Even if your internal team does great work for your clients, should you assume they love your brand and would happily send referrals your way? You might think so, but let me ask again. Are you sure?
Delivering what the customer has paid for is the bare minimum of what you need to do to make advocates out of your clients.
They can get deliverables from your competitors too – that does not make you special. If you truly want to differentiate your company you have to manage the customer experience on a higher level, putting processes in place to remove friction, personalize communication, and surprise and delight people.
Business leaders often complain about how expensive marketing is.
There is some truth to this. Think about all the moving parts of inbound marketing – buyer persona research, strategy and content creation, social media, conversion optimization and ad campaigns. The list goes on and on. Depending on your company size and internal resources, the numbers add up quickly.
Now consider for a moment about how much more profitable your business would be if it never lost a customer.
According to Frederick Reichheld, improving customer retention by as little as five percent can result in a 25 to 100 percent boost in profits. That’s a significant increase by any standard.
Everyone knows it’s much more expensive to find new customers than it is to keep our current ones happy, so why do companies do so little to improve customer experience?
It’s not because they don’t care. They do! We all want to keep our buyers happy and growing. The problem is related to culture more than anything else.
We need to rebalance our mission, incentives, organizational structures, and other forces away from customer acquisition only, and find ways to integrate a smart CX strategy into the day-to-day.
These steps do not have to be expensive or time consuming, and they can pay big dividends. For instance, when the marketing team produces a video on how to solve a particular challenge and uses it to attract leads to your website, how hard would it be to produce a second slightly different version for customer onboarding?
One video will show buyers how to accomplish a task themselves (a common lead generation tactic), and the other will show new customers how you will manage it for them (a CX tactic).
This simple gesture increases transparency about your process and will help soothe any anxiety new customers have as they get acclimated to your way of doing things.
I wish I knew who first said this first, because I owe him or her a huge debt of gratitude.
Companies spend millions of dollars on “branding” every year, which usually amounts to marketing assets that feature clever copywriting and snazzy graphic design.
But this is not branding.
We can advertise our own flavor all day long, but in the end it’s our own customers that decide what it tastes like. Companies that know how to truly ignite their customer base by surprising and delighting them will always stand apart from the rest of the pack, and this does not happen by accident.
They have an acute sense not only of the basic needs and desires among their customer base, but their emotional needs as well. They put in the time and effort to make the customer journey as smooth and exciting as possible. They are taking steps to earn a special place in the hearts of their buyers, and reaping the rewards.
Customer loyalty is a funny thing. We all want it. We all like to talk about it. But what are we really doing to earn it? That’s a key question we will all have to answer sooner or later, because there will come a point when a strong lead generation strategy is not enough to thrive.
This post has been updated in 2019.
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