Customer Experience Marketing.

Increase profitability and reduce spending on marketing. 

customerExperienceFinal

Are you a marketer that’s doing everything right to grow your B2B company, but still struggling to break through the noise and keep the sales pipeline full?

The problem isn’t you -- it’s all the other marketers around you.

Try to think of any tactic or method of reaching buyers that hasn’t been ruined by the overzealous marketing community. Google is saturated with amazing content. Our inboxes are full of spam. Social media is a sea of automated broadcasts, where everyone talks and no one listens. 

This is a huge problem for you and me, and I believe the key to standing apart from the competition is changing the way we think about growth itself.

When senior leaders talk about growth, they refer to new business. How many leads did Marketing bring in? How many of those leads did Sales close? What is the closing rate, and how do our numbers compare to last year? These metrics are the foundation of nearly every company’s assessment of their position in the marketplace.

But here is a fact that might surprise them: According to best-selling author and business strategist Frederick Reicheld, a five percent boost in customer retention results in a 25 to 100 percent leap in profits.

If your company never lost a client, what would that mean to your bottom line? When you add up the numbers, it completely changes the conversation about growth.

Most companies take their customers for granted. They say they don’t, and yet when you ask about their customer experience strategy, they rarely have a good answer. Instead, they talk about how great their service is, which is not the same thing.

Customer service is reactive. Service reps exist to solve problems as they arise, and get your clients back on track. Customer experience (CX), on the other hand, is proactive. It anticipates customer challenges before they come up, and puts systems in place to replace them with a pleasant, memorable experience.

In this guide, we will explain:

  • How customer experience marketing can reduce costs and boost profitability
  • How to integrate a proactive CX strategy into your marketing without spending a lot of extra time, money, and effort
  • Practical, actionable steps to reduce doubt and anxiety in your clients, and strengthen your partnership

Before starting this guide, you will benefit from having a good understanding of inbound marketing. If you need a little refresher on the subject, please read our B2B Lead Generation guide before introducing customer experience into the marketing mix.

Scroll down to read the guide without having to fill out the form.

You can also fill out the form for a downloadable PDF version of the guide you can reference later.

No time to read now?

Complete the form to download a PDF version you can read later.

Creative Side Marketing needs the information you provide to share information and offer a you a productive experience. For information on how to update your subscription preferences, as well as our privacy practices, check out our Privacy Policy.

Table of contents

Click on any chapter to scroll directly

What is Customer Experience Marketing?

Chapter one

What Is Customer Experience Marketing?

Content is not king anymore. The customer is.

Look around and you will see the signs. Small artisanal companies are gaining market share over mega-brands. Nike and Gillette have discovered a social conscience, using their messaging to speak about values instead of products. User-generated content is exploding on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Trust in brands has been trending downward for years, even though marketers are dumping vast resources into creating content that builds trust and transparency.

No matter how good our branded content is, people will find a way to avoid us if they sense any attempt at manipulating them. They don’t want to see ads, so they install ad blockers on their devices. They don’t want more email in their inboxes, so they’ll use a fake address on your forms. The list goes on.

The goal of traditional marketing is to influence and manipulate people. Customer experience marketing enables people -- employees and customers -- to become the brand.

Doesn’t that sound inspiring?

Instead of trying to change consumer behavior, we should approach them from a place of respect and an earnest desire to make a positive impact on their lives. If you are already following best practices with inbound marketing (or are making that transition now) you can start to implement a successful CX marketing strategy without a ton of extra work.

You will need help from other teams in the organization though, and that means everyone – especially the senior leadership – needs to buy-in to the importance of changing the customer experience. 

If they want to slow or stop the revolving door of exiting clients, maximizing profitability while reducing costs, they need to make it a priority from the top down.  

customer lifecycle stages

Chapter two

Customer Lifecycle Stages

Marketing automation platforms have emphasized the importance of lifecycle stages for years, helping us identify the needs of people as they evaluate and make a purchase.

The problem with these labels is most businesses prioritize sales above all else, and the lifecycle stages they use are heavily skewed toward the buying experience, leaving the post-buying experience as an after-thought.

Existing customers are usually left to fend for themselves, and as long as they are not complaining or submitting service tickets, companies assume everything is fine.

But they are not fine.

Customers go through many challenges as they navigate a business relationship. Acclimating to your team’s way of doing things and evaluating results leaves a lot of room for doubt and uncertainty. This is why many customers leave within the first 90 days of a new partnership.

Creating a great customer experience means we need to treat every lifecycle stage with equal importance, especially the post-sale phase of the relationship. We use the following stages to define the customer journey:

CSM-Customer-Journey

Attract & Assess

The Attract and Assess phase is where a potential customer has recognized they have a problem and are searching for a solution. Perhaps they found one of your blogs or videos and are now considering whether your company can fulfill their needs.

Engage & Affirm

Engage & Affirm is when a new client has decided to give your brand a shot. They are apprehensive about working with you, and as soon as they sign the contract, the clock is ticking. You have 90 days to set the tone for the new partnership and prove they made the right decision.

Deliver & Earn

Now your team has to deliver what the client has ordered, earning their trust, their business, and hopefully, their advocacy down the road.

What’s interesting is many B2B businesses don’t have a clear understanding of when the customer actually gets what they’ve paid for. If your team doesn’t know when the job is done, they will work twice as hard to hit a target that never stops moving.  

This is why work should never begin on a new engagement until objectives are set in stone.

We recommend setting an overall goal along with milestones that will get you to there. It gives customers “bite-size wins” to look forward to, showing them your progress toward the solution they’ve invested in. This process is easier than you think.

Create an inbound marketing plan based on data, not guesswork. Get started  with our template. 

It also gives you a ready format for the most important part of the Deliver & Earn stage: Performance reviews.

Low-Touch & High-Touch Activities

Every customer interaction is a brush stroke on the overall experience they have with your brand. 

Pieces of content they look at, sales emails, website visits, phone calls to support – it all contributes to their emotional journey with your company.

Most marketers focus their energy on the Attract & Assess stage, publishing content and running ads in hopes of influencing the buyer. But great content will not set your brand apart. There is a geyser of amazing content pouring out of Google every day.

High quality content is a must for every brand, but it’s not enough to give buyers a great experience. What happens in-between those passive interactions is what sets your brand apart. 

If your team can anticipate what the customer or prospect is feeling at each stage of the journey, and make that experience a positive one using creative, personalized “touches,” you will be on track for real success. 

We categorize these two equally important interactions as low-touch and high-touch:

  1. Low-Touch – all marketing activities that passively contribute to the customer experience. This includes content creation, search engine optimization, email marketing, and your self-serve knowledge base. It also includes the internal processes, incentives, and goals that dictate how your teams handle clients.
  1. High-Touch – direct contact with the prospect or customer by actual people, usually on your marketing, sales and service teams. These might include social media conversations, chats, phone calls, email, in-person meetings, and gifts.

These two types of activities are essential to customer experience marketing, and they feed each other. 

The insights you collect from low-touch activities will help your team become more effective at high-touch interactions. And vice-versa, one-on-one interactions with customers can help you create a better experience for them in your marketing approach.

Improving the Customer Experience

Chapter three

Improving The Customer Experience 

There are many ways your company can reduce friction with customers, and the suitability of each will depend on the lifecycle stage of the client, as well as the organizational structure and workflows you have in place.

HubSpot names these important areas where you can make changes for the better:

  1. Content – creating helpful content plays an important role in every customer’s journey.
  1. Automation – Automating certain processes can streamline and simplify tasks for customers.
  1. Goals – Departmental goals have a big impact on customer experience. For instance, what would happen if sales people are rewarded for client retention, rather than just acquisition?
  1. Reorganization – Sometimes it makes sense to restructure service delivery teams to better serve customers.
  1. Communication – All of the “high-touch” interactions your sales and service teams have with clients, including emails, phone calls, events, meetings, and gifts.

By applying a few creative solutions to each stage of the buyer's journey, you can improve customer retention dramatically. 

Low-Touch Improvements For "Attract & Assess"

Using our marketing goal setting template, there are two KPIs we measure at this stage -- website traffic and visit-to-contact (or lead conversion) rate. These metrics provide baseline data about how well we are delivering value to people who might become customers, and making it easy for them to buy.

Understand The Buying Experience

First and foremost, you cannot create a great experience for interested buyers without understanding what’s important to them. 

Most companies make the mistake of relying on salespeople or surveys to get insights about their buyers. What they get instead is a perspective that’s heavily biased, which leads to marketing that’s misaligned with buyer expectations.   

Instead, I recommend using unscripted interviews with people who have recently evaluated a solution you provide. This helps you get the story from buyers in their own words. We learned this methodology from Buyer Persona Institute, and it has made a huge impact on the results we deliver to our clients and our own agency.

Find a Purpose For Your Business

As Mark Schaefer points out in his book, The Marketing Rebellion, people expect more from brands than great products and service. People are putting their money where their values are. 

Many companies would rather do almost anything than take a stand on any controversial issue and risk alienating a segment of their customer base, but here are some reasons why it’s a good idea:

  • Marketing today is about meeting customers where they are. Not asking them to follow you.
  • When people see companies take a stand and make an authentic impact in their communities, it inspires loyalty and advocacy.
  • By aligning your brand values with those of your core customer base, you strengthen the bond with people who matter the most. Trying to make everyone love your company makes no sense. Instead, focus on loving the people who mean everything to you.

Other Improvements 

  1. Website Navigation – Can you help buyers find information they are looking for faster?
  1. Communication – How easy it is for people to reach a human to ask questions?
  1. Off-site Marketing – Are you creating and/or repurposing content on other platforms, like LinkedIn, Medium, and Quora? Forcing people to come to your website to learn about you is not always a good idea. Try creating native content on other sites without using links.
  1. Ungated Access to Premium Content – Is your best content “ungated,” meaning can people get to it without filling out a form? Pillar pages are a great example of how you can open access to your best content, get SEO benefits, and engage people. 

gears

High-Touch Improvements for Attract & Assess 

  1. CRM & Marketing Automation – Documenting insights from all interactions with a prospect about their challenges, aspirations, interests, passions, and milestones can open huge opportunities for personalized touches. 
  1. Personalization Tools – LinkedIn Sales Navigator is one app that can help you not only qualify prospects, but also get insights about the person’s experience and work history.
  1. Creative “Gifts” – Sending a customized gift to a prospect can be a great way to get their attention and prove you are not like all the others out there.

Dale Dupree, aka “The Copier Warrier” is a friend of mine who has mastered personalization in sales. 

Dale earned his chops selling office copiers – possibly the most hated machine in the world – and he is wildly successful because he makes sure every interaction with a prospect or customer is memorable. From delivering people a box of Band-Aids for when their copier breaks, to sending Christmas carolers to their door with “Copier Warrior” mixed into the lyrics – Dale is the master of creative sales and service tactics. Listen to our podcast interview with him here.

Celebrate the Milestone of Becoming a Customer  

When your organization closes a sale, how do you mark the occasion and make it memorable for your new client?

In his book “Never Lose A Customer Again,” Joey Coleman offers great examples of brands finding creative ways to kick off a business relationship right: 

Phone Calls – Having your company CEO reach out right away with a message of thanks is an easy way to make a new customer feel appreciated.

In-Person Meetings – Some organizations go so far as to throw a party or put on an initiation ritual welcoming a new customer into the family.

Email & Snail Mail – Sending a sincere thank you note along with materials that will help your new client with the on-boarding process sends a clear message: You appreciate their business, and intend to waste no time delivering what they paid for. 

Gifts – Sending a package to help clients celebrate the end of their search for a solution can amplify the feelings of relief and euphoria they experience.

Regardless of the approach you take at the Attract & Assess phase, the key is not only to give people a compelling reason to buy, but also give them a hint of what the experience of being your customer is like.

If your company prides itself on listening to people and delivering incredible value before expecting anything in return, you will be successful.

trees

Low-Touch Improvements for "Engage & Affirm"

The KPIs we measure at the Engage & Affirm include closing rates and customer churn (in the first 90 days). You can also measure net promoter scores (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, although I would exercise caution with them. Asking people for a satisfaction score after every interaction can be annoying and intrusive.

Engage & Affirm is the stage when a new client has signed on for your solution. How can you manage the process so they have zero doubts or regrets about this decision? 

New clients often have good reasons to be skeptical, especially if they’ve been burned in the past. If we want to make a real impact on their experience, we have to change things we would care about if we were them. 

Money-Back Guarantees – This is tough for most companies, but if you can offer a money-back guarantee, you will strip away the biggest source of anxiety for the buyer.

Contract Terms – Do customers have to commit to an annual or multi-year contract to work with you? If you changed the terms to month-to-month would it really hurt your business, or would it help your clients feel more relaxed about engaging with you?

Cancellation Policy – Just as flexible contract terms are attractive, so are easy cancellation policies. By making people aware of a hassle-free cancellation policy, you can remove a lot of doubt and uncertainty.

Freemium & Trial Offers – Giving people a chance to take your products and services for a test drive can ease the transition into becoming a paying customer.

The most important thing your company can do at this stage is anticipate how customers feel in the early phase of your working relationship. Whether you realize it or not, the newest member of your happy little family is likely questioning their decision to work with you.

Reorganization

  • Slow the handoff – If you are transitioning the client from your sales person to an account manager, do it in a customer-centric way. Demonstrate the account manager has a keen understanding of all concerns, goals, and priorities the customer has shared, and do this over the course of several interactions. 

Automation

  • Email reminders – If you are using a marketing automation platform, you can automate reminders and tasks to both the client and your service team. This helps everyone stay on track when they get crazy busy. 

Goals 

  • Align goals with an awesome onboarding experience – Can you make incentives for all internal teams dependent on a great onboarding experience for customers? From billing to service to HR – everyone has a role in making this phase remarkable for clients. 

Content 

  • Repurpose Content For Customer Transitions - If you are already producing content to help people solve problems, you can reuse it by creating a duplicate version that explains your process to a new client.

In other words, if you record a video about how to write more engaging blog posts, do another version where the spokesperson walks a customer through the process!

“Hi Jane. We’re excited to put your new content strategy to work! Here is what you can expect.

First, we schedule an interview with your best subject matter expert. We prepare a few good questions gathered from research we’ve done on your buyers, and record a 20-30 minute conversation on the topic.

Then, we transcribe it and assign one of our bloggers to produce the article. After it goes through some editing, we will send it to you for approval! The entire process should take no more than a week and a half beginning to end.”

Instead of just showing people how to accomplish the task, this second video outlines the process you follow for delivering a paid service. This approach is great for communicating with new clients that haven’t yet acclimated to your way of doing things.

High-Touch Improvements For "Engage & Affirm"

  • Schedule the onboarding meeting – Do this before the ink is dry on your new contract. Book a one hour meeting where you and the client review goals, discuss the strategy, define the teams, and delineate responsibilities.
  • Use phone calls or email to address doubts – If your new customer grows distant unexpectedly, you might be dealing with a case of buyer’s remorse. There’s no harm in reaching out and just asking how they are feeling, and remind them of your flexible cancellation policies. Just hearing those words is sometimes enough to make people feel comfortable again.
  • Make sure clients know what comes next – Use all communication tools at your disposal to make certain clients know what’s next in the process. If possible, send them something tangible they can use to track your progress, like a calendar.

    relaxing-by-computer

Low-Touch Improvements For "Deliver & Earn"

Our main priority at this stage is to deliver amazing results to the client while staying attentive to their experience with us.  

It could take months or even years before the customer sees the end result they want – and this is often the case with B2B service companies – so, the most important steps we can take are:

Performance reviews – Regular performance reviews are vital for sharing your progress on benchmarks both parties agreed to in the beginning. Make sure the format is consistent, so you are discussing the same KPIs every month. Attendance should be mandatory for all key team members.

Optimizing delivery – Putting agile processes in place that help internal teams measure KPIs and implement ongoing improvements is important. It helps everyone keep their efforts focused on the right things, and eliminate barriers between your team and the goal.

Helping clients acclimate to your process – It’s going to take time for clients to adapt to and embrace your way of doing things. Finding creative ways of keeping them up to speed is very helpful.

Reorganization 

  • Service and Operations – Can the delivery team and service personnel work as one unit, removing any friction between operations and support? 

Automation

  • Referral Incentive Emails – One of the greatest “growth hacks” of our time was accomplished by Dropbox. They waited until the moment a user was about to exceed their free allotment of cloud storage space, and then shot them an email offering 500 MB of additional free space for every new referral that signs up for an account. Within a year, the company’s user base exploded to nearly 10 million users.
  • Chatbots – Programming your chatbot to help customers communicate with the service team, and guide them to self-help tutorials has become an expectation among companies.
  • Business Intelligence Platforms – Powerful BI platforms out there can give you amazing insights into CX during service delivery. Cloudera and Databox are just two great examples that will help you. 

Goals

  • Incentives – What incentives exist for getting a customer who loves doing business with you to refer another client to you?

Content Creation

  • Self-help Resource Library – By creating content that helps established customers, you can reduce the time spent on emails and calls with clients covering the same issues over and over again.

High-Touch Improvements for Deliver & Earn

  • Meetings – Hold in-person or video conference meetings where KPIs are reviewed, progress is measured, and next steps are put in place.
  • Phone or email – Keep the customer up to snuff on industry news and new developments within their account. 
  • Video – If you are delivering a digital solution to your client, taking screen-shot videos gives them a better view into the work in-progress. 
  • Celebrate milestones – Don’t let important benchmarks in the journey go unnoticed! If an important goal has been reached, mark the occasion by sending a personalized gift, organizing a celebratory event, or producing a group video where all of your team members congratulate your client on their success. 
Customer Experience Marketing

Chapter four

Conclusion 

There are many ways your company can reduce friction with customers, and the suitability of each will depend on the lifecycle stage of the client, as well as the organizational structure and workflows you have in place.

If you are giving it serious attention, congratulations -- you are at the front of the class! Now, it’s time to put your ideas into action. 

Start small and streamline these initiatives with your current marketing and sales efforts. The sooner you put the right systems in place and start measuring their effectiveness, the sooner you can create real differentiation between your business and your competitors.

True branding is what customers feel when they think of us. Let’s help them feel better, so we can grow better together.  

Need Help With Your Growth Strategy?

Schedule an exploratory call with one of our experts.

Creative Side Marketing needs the information you provide to share information and offer a you a productive experience. For information on how to update your subscription preferences, as well as our privacy practices, check out our Privacy Policy.