The Secrets of Customer Retention

Article
The Secrets of Customer Retention

Churn is a natural part of business, but in difficult financial times, investing in customer retention can prove decisive. After all, it’s a well-known truism that retaining a customer is (usually) significantly cheaper than acquiring a new one.

But what proactive steps can you take to anticipate churn, and what does a successful retention strategy look like? In this article, we’ll examine the tactics successful businesses use to prevent churn, and see how sales and marketing professionals can take advantage of modern tools to stay one step ahead.

Marketing Shouldn’t Stop at Acquisition

The first step to retaining a customer is keeping them engaged. Sometimes your product or service will achieve this by its nature, but even if you have that luxury (and particularly if you don’t), going one step further, and investing in both product marketing and customer lifecycle marketing are essential for retention. But why?

First, product marketing. Whether you’re selling an action camera to consumers or software to businesses, helping existing customers take full advantage of your product(s) is one of the best ways to ensure satisfaction and build loyalty. This might include anything from onboarding programmes and sharing customer success stories, to new feature announcements or periodic newsletters. Product marketers should create high-value content, push it out to customers, and work with colleagues to ensure that everyone can talk confidently about products and services.

As the name infers, product marketing focuses on the product - but what about the customer? That’s where customer lifecycle marketing comes in. Building a profile of your customers, carefully considering (and researching where necessary) how they use your products, ascertaining what their needs are, and communicating with them regularly are all part of an effective CLM strategy. Recognising where a customer is in their lifecycle is key, as it allows you to deliver relevant content, and make interventions at the right time.

A few examples of product marketing and lifecycle marketing working hand-in-hand include;

  • For membership organisations, delivering induction content for new members.
  • For self-service software providers, reaching out when user session time reduces significantly or when recurring errors are spotted.
  • For durable goods manufacturers, ensuring customers are aware of new product launches
  • For finance brands, engaging customers at key times of the financial year, such as year-end
  • For high-value customers, thank you messages and rewards for loyalty

Know Your Customer

For volume sales, high-value items, and particularly in B2B, taking retention to the next level means having a personal relationship with your customers. Account management makes specific individuals responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction and growing accounts, giving customers a point of human contact within an organisation, and giving organisations the opportunity to nurture meaningful relationships.

Nobody enjoys being constantly sold to, so account managers should be careful to act consultatively, keep the frequency of their contact reasonable, and really seek to add value for their customers. As a general rule, account managers are professional, respectful, and importantly, knowledgeable - a good account manager will be up-to-date on their industry, their products and services, and their customers. They will seek to understand customer pain points, anticipate problems, and identify opportunities to grow accounts.

As many of the most successful organisations in the world will attest - for significant relationships, you simply can’t beat the human touch.

Accurate and Timely Data is Pivotal

For both marketing and account management, when it comes to customer retention - good data underpins it all. As business leaders know, customers expect a certain standard of service and personalisation - let’s face it, if a busy account manager can’t remember their contact’s name, or a marketer sends introductory deals to existing customers, the damage can be significant.

As such, accurate and well-maintained profile and categorisation information (everything from name and job title to industry sector) is the bare minimum, and data such as call notes, contract status, and purchase history are a close second.

With good underlying data, organisations can build highly personalised lifecycle management plans, ensuring that customers get an appropriate level of contact, and that resources are used to their best effect. When high priority events occur, such as a purchase, a service issue, a contract renewal, or when a contact leaves their company, retention workflows can be triggered, deploying specialised retention campaigns, offering special discounts, or simply alerting account managers, so they can make contact at the right time.

But some events are harder to detect than others. It might be simple enough to generate a reminder to contact a customer before their contract expires, or automatically update systems after an ecommerce purchase, but when an individual moves on or an organisation grows, the signals can be more subtle - or even non-existent. Monitoring customer organisations, and identifying these key events can mean the difference between keeping or losing a customer, so investment is warranted.

As a poignant example, any seasoned account manager will recognise the shudder of someone who finds that their contact left 6 months ago, and they don’t know who to speak to now that it’s renewal time.

It goes without saying then, that marketers and account managers should make data quality and timeliness a top priority. Where organisations don’t have the resources to monitor accounts as closely or regularly as they might like, leaders should seriously consider 3rd party solutions to help them identify critical events quickly, so they can take proactive retention measures.

Key Event Examples in B2B

It’s important to think creatively about how to use event-driven data points and how they apply to your organisation - recruitment consultants are likely to take a keen interest in staff changes, where manufacturers might be more interested in customers’ quarterly sales information. Some widely applicable examples include;

Insolvency

If a client is facing financial difficulties, knowing about it in good time might allow you to stay in touch with your contacts as they move to new employers, preserving relationships and presenting new opportunities. Not to mention the chance to avoid real-life tangible losses.

Financial Performance

Financial performance (positive or negative) can provide an excellent reason to make contact with customers. A simple congratulatory message can really help build relationships, demonstrating that account handlers are taking a keen interest in their client. Even if results aren’t encouraging, reaching out to clients, or even offering special discounts can go a long way towards earning that coveted trusted partner status.

Rebranding or Product Launches

When a product or company is rebranding or launching a new product, this can mean changes to marketing budgets, or operational changes within the business. Even if there’s likely to be no significant upheaval, rebrands and launches can be a great opportunity to make contact with your client, securing relationships, and identify emerging opportunities.

Content Output Changes

If organisations change the cadence or volume of their content outputs - perhaps they start (or stop) blogging, or publish new research - what might this be indicative of? As a minor example, if they’ve stopped producing as much content, this may indicate they have staffing issues, or require content support. 

Acquisitions

If a customer acquires another company (or indeed is acquired themselves), there are often growth opportunities, but also risks to mitigate, such as competitive suppliers or staff changes. As with many events, there is usually a first mover advantage.

In all of these examples, the common factor is the need to act as quickly as possible. Failure to detect important events can present a real risk, whereas conversely, successful detection can create more opportunities for client contact, and significant revenue opportunities.

Tools & Partners

If some of the above sounds like it’s out of reach, you’re not alone. For many organisations, particularly SME’s, the scale of the challenge can seem overwhelming - but fear not, there are a myriad of specialist vendors and agencies who can help you meet your retention needs without increasing your own headcount.

Working with third parties might sound daunting, but if you don’t have the time, resources, or skills to achieve your retention goals, don’t let that hold you back - investment with carefully selected partners will usually deliver exceptional ROI when compared with customer acquisition costs, not to mention that many can offer specific expertise, experience, and bespoke tools. 

In fact, the vast majority of the world’s largest corporations make unashamed use of external partners for everything from strategy consulting to technology - this is particularly true in marketing, where specialist skills and proprietary assets, such as data sets, are especially beneficial.

For customer retention programmes, some of the most commonly engaged partners include:

  • Marketing Agencies
    There are a wide and varied range of marketing agencies, but specifically thinking about retention, agencies can offer services ranging from complete ownership of customer lifecycle marketing to more ad-hoc email template design, retention related content creation, and more.
  • Data Services Providers
    Manually building the data you need, or augmenting the data you already have can be challenging and time consuming. Data companies can help you leapfrog these challenges, and offer complimentary services, such as data cleansing, monitoring, and research.
  • Telemarketing Agencies
    Where customer numbers are high, telemarketing can offer a valuable way to stay in touch with individuals and provide elevated service levels. Many telemarketing agencies offer white-label services, allowing companies to appear to personally engage with customers without committing to in-house account managers. This can be particularly cost-effective for less complex customer relationships. 

A Worker is Only as Good as Their Tools

As the saying goes, “a worker is only as good as their tools” - and customer retention is no exception. Account management and marketing are both highly specialised roles, which in the modern business environment require specialised technology. 

When it comes to retention, some of the key components of a good customer management and marketing technology stack include;

  • CRM
    Customer relationship management software is used to manage and record interactions with customers (and prospects). It’s a key tool for data accuracy, completeness, and more. Many systems have enhanced capabilities for scheduling, customer monitoring, and more.
  • CDP
    A customer data platform is technology that collects information from disparate sources to create a unified view of customers. This might include transactional data from your eCommerce properties, behavioural data from customers moving around your apps or websites, conversational data from customer interactions with service reps - and much more. Importantly, CDPs play a critical role in identifying bad data.
  • Channel Marketing Tools
    Everything from email marketing, to live chat, sms, social media management, advertising management, and much more, this group of technologies helps you reach out to customers in the many channels where they are, to drive activation or awareness.
  • Analytics & BI Tools
    In all their various forms, analytics and business intelligence tools help marketers and account managers gain valuable insight into their data - to understand what content works, identify which customers haven’t been contacted for some time, and more. Modern tools with AI capabilities are able to assist with predicting future behaviour, such as identifying patterns that often lead to customer churn. Not just from a retention standpoint - when implementing technology, it’s important to focus on fully automated interconnectivity, ensuring that all departments have access to a complete view of the customer - Nothing annoys customers more than organisations who supposedly value their business not knowing who they are, or failing to act in a joined up way!

Proactive Customer Retention Pays

In this piece, we’ve revealed some of the secrets of customer retention, and shared some of the information you need to make it an enduring competitive advantage. 

By focusing the tools and resources you already have on preventing churn, you can improve customer experiences, and protect your valuable clients.

The reward for getting all this right is happy customers, lower retention costs, and higher profit margins.

You probably know that Corpdata provides market leading business-to-business marketing data to drive marketing programs in the UK - after all it’s been doing this for over 30 years, and has become a trusted partner for compliant, affordable, accurate, and productive data. 

Recently, Corpdata has launched a new Artificial Intelligence service, designed to monitor your clients using over 2,500 data points - to trigger contact with the most important clients right now. 

So whether you need some trustworthy data and advice to grow your client base with a B2B campaign - or you want to explore the benefits of working with a trusted partner, constantly keeping your clients in view to serve as your early warning system, call Corpdata on +44 (0)1626 777 400.

Want more like this?

Want more like this?

Insight delivered to your inbox

Keep up to date with our free email. Hand picked whitepapers and posts from our blog, as well as exclusive videos and webinar invitations keep our Users one step ahead.

By clicking 'SIGN UP', you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

side image splash

By clicking 'SIGN UP', you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy