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Customer marketing: you shouldn’t just market to prospects


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Businesses today are fighting tooth and nail for people’s attention.

Not only are you battling against direct competitors, you also have to contend with crowded inboxes and a general public that’s being outright bombarded by thousands of “brand messages” every day.

Which leads to the question: should you be constantly chasing new customers, waving your hands around hoping that someone stops to pay attention? Sounds ineffective and exhausting, doesn’t it?

Picture it. Your sales team is working overtime to hit numbers that seem out-of-reach. Your marketing team is running out of ideas for fresh campaigns.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to reach out to people who are ready for you to sell to and already know your brand?

Short answer: yes. And you might save money and energy doing it too.

Enter the world of customer marketing.

In this guide, we’ll break down the benefits of marketing to existing customers and more importantly, how you can start doing it right now and give your business a much-needed boost. You’ll learn:

What is customer marketing, anyway?

Let’s kick things off with a definition of customer marketing we can work with.

Customer marketing is marketing that’s focused on selling to your current customers—rather than new prospects or leads.

You’re probably already familiar with these customer marketing tactics:

  • Upselling and cross-selling
  • Community-building
  • Customer advocacy
  • Asking for referrals
  • Educating customers

The concept of customer-based marketing is simple: engage customers that already know and trust you.

Why you should put together a customer marketing strategy

Don’t get it twisted: customer acquisition still matters.

But don’t underestimate the untapped value of your current customers. To keep your business growing, you need to first track how much your customers are spending and how long they stick around. This is your baseline and gives you a more tangible starting point.

Below, we’ve broken down the three biggest benefits of business-to-customer marketing.

1. Customer marketing creates loyal, long-term buyers that spend more

No surprises here. You’ve probably heard the oft-parroted statistic that says acquiring a new customer will cost you more than upselling or cross-selling the ones you have. (If you can market to existing customers and do it well, it should also translate into a better customer retention rate over time.)

If nothing else, customer marketing can make your employees’ (and your) jobs easier.

Fact: the probability of selling to a current customer is between 60% and 70%1 (compared to 5–20% for new prospects). From Marketing and Sales to your Customer Support team and beyond, your employees will probably have an easier time sealing the deal with existing customers compared to new ones.

2. Customer marketing empowers you to improve your service

The beauty of marketing to existing customers is that you’ve already done the hard part: gaining someone’s trust. Now you just need to keep it. Don’t squander all that hard work you did to earn that customer—you should always be looking for ways to improve your customer experience.

And today, when trust can matter as much as your service’s quality or value,2 customer marketing is a useful channel that you can use to get ideas for how to improve your business after you’ve earned that trust from customers.

Maybe that means expanding your services. Perhaps you have to introduce a new price point.

Think about it. You’re going to learn a lot more about where your company is winning (and losing) from a decade-long customer compared to someone who cancels their contracts after six months. This again speaks to why long-term customers are so valuable. They’re treasure troves of insight.

3. Customer marketing encourages positive relationships and referrals

Customer marketing means more customer interactions.

Calls. Emails. Social shout-outs. The list goes on and on.

These interactions go hand in hand with building tighter customer relationships, improved customer experience analytics, and a better customer experience. Which then results in more referrals and positive word-of-mouth from your customers that translates into more business.

And given that customers who come from referrals tend to have higher lifetime values and produce more referrals themselves,3 we’ve come full circle as to why customer marketing matters so much.

The basics of building an effective customer marketing strategy

Chances are you already do some form of customer marketing. For example, do you produce a company newsletter? Do you do check-in calls with new customers? What about exclusive offers and discounts for existing customers?

That said, these sorts of strategies aren’t always effective by default. Here are a few customer marketing tactics that will really bolster your strategy.

Pay close attention to customer concerns across all channels

One of the biggest challenges of customer marketing is that interactions are happening in so many different places.

Timely communication with your customers is key to keeping them engaged for marketing purposes. This is where it’s useful to have a tool that consolidates all of your customer communications in a single platform.

If you have a robust digital customer engagement platform (like RingCentral!), the main benefit is that it keeps you from having to bounce between the phone (since you can make calls right in the app) and your email inbox or social channels. Inbound or outbound, your customer conversations are just a click away.

For example, here’s how this looks in RingCentral’s Contact Center dashboard:

💡 Pro-tip:

Get a lot of phone calls from customers? Learn about first call resolution standards and average handling times.

Be proactive and increase your speed to lead

When it comes to customer engagement, timing is critical. This is true whether we’re talking about running outbound campaigns or responding to questions about your company’s marketing.

Both need to happen in a way that’s both timely and consistent. Timely, meaning you’re striking while the iron’s hot. (Did your customer just make a purchase or email you with a glowing review? Might be the time to thank them with a discount and/or show them other products they might be interested in!)

But you need some kind of system or calendar to do this. If you have hundreds or even thousands of customers, they probably all bought from you at different times. Meaning you can’t just say, “Okay, on next Monday, let’s do a sweeping customer follow-up campaign for every single customer who’s bought from us!”

Do you have a timeline for your marketing meetings and follow-ups?

The simple way is to get started with this is just to have an organized communication calendar. For example, here’s what it looks like when you’ve integrated Google Calendar with a communication tool like RingCentral. With this integration, you can quickly dial out to customers directly from your inbox or calendar. (See that link in the invite?) Meanwhile, you have a birds-eye view of all your upcoming customer marketing tasks.
Here’s what it looks like when you’ve integrated Google Calendar with RingCentral.
But, if you want to really level up your customer marketing, you might want to invest in a specific piece of customer service software called a CRM (aka a customer relationship management platform).

Tools like Pipedrive not only log all of your customer interactions in one platform, they also let you set up automated marketing follow-ups and reminders (hooray for task automation) to reach out to customers you haven’t engaged with in a certain period of time (30 days, 90 days, etc…).

As an added bonus, most CRMs integrate directly with business phone services or team communication platforms like RingCentral to make those follow-ups near-instant:
Most CRMs integrate directly with business phone services or team communication platforms like RingCentral to make follow-ups near-instant
How often should you reach out to your customers, though? The answer varies from business to business.

We’d recommend adopting a proactive approach that keeps you in touch with people before they start drifting away from your brand. Logging your interactions in a CRM helps make sure that your customer marketing is aligned with your customer service KPIs and specific to your customers’ most up-to-date wants and needs.

And hey, that actually leads us to our next point.

Anticipate your customers’ needs and personalize your marketing

Customer marketing shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all.

For example, offers and deals made to five-year customers shouldn’t be identical to someone who just started using your product or service.

Factors like how much money someone has spent, how long they’ve been a customer, or which specific products they’re using all impact (or should influence) how you personalize your marketing. Again, this is why it’s so important to consolidate and understand all of your customers’ information. Here’s what that information looks like in Salesforce, breaking down specific customer data to help businesses customize their offers:
Consolidate and understand customers’ information. This is how it looks like in Salesforce, breaking down specific customer data to help businesses customize their offers.
Rather than send an identical email blast or calling campaign to all of your customers, this sort of data allows you to customize your campaigns. For example, consider the following types of customer marketing campaigns and how they’re influenced by your buyers’ behaviors:

  • “We miss you” winback email campaigns (criteria: customer hasn’t engaged in 90 days)
  • Exclusive, customer loyalty offers (criteria: customer has been a customer for 2+ years)
  • High-ticket product offers (criteria: customer has spent over $1,000+ with your business)

Here’s an example of the sorts of “rules” you can create in your CRM to automate your customer marketing campaigns. Can you spot the customer behaviors that this company thinks indicate a good customer marketing opportunity?
Example of the “rules” you can create in your CRM to automate your customer marketing campaigns.
You don’t necessarily need to automate this workflow or process, though. The takeaway here is that having a snapshot of your customers’ history and behaviors makes it easier to tailor your offers to them. Logging your history and interactions in one place (hint: a CRM) means that none of those key details get lost.

Encourage your support and marketing teams to work together

Customer marketing isn’t a solo act.

For example, support agents and sales teams work directly with customers to understand their wants and needs. Meanwhile, marketing teams are responsible for taking those desires and turning them into campaigns that resonate with your customers.

None of this valuable information should be siloed or hard for your team to find. If you have a collaboration hub, it’ll make it easier for teammates to go back-and-forth to share resources, ask questions, and resolve customer issues quickly.

For example, RingCentral’s desktop and mobile apps let you message each other, share files, and even call someone to clarify something for a project:
RingCentral’s desktop and mobile apps let you message people, share files, and even call someone to clarify something for a project.
The key takeaway from all of the customer marketing tactics above? Your business needs to be both timely and proactive when addressing your customers’ needs. This means tools ready to streamline and organize your customers’ communication across your entire business.

9 customer marketing examples (and why they’re effective)

Now, let’s look at some real-world examples of what customer marketing looks like.

Here are nine examples of customer-centric marketing from major brands. We’ll also look at what these companies do well and how you can integrate similar tactics into your own customer marketing strategy.

1. MeUndies: asking (kindly) for community feedback

MeUndies customer marketing
Conducting a customer survey is a simple example of customer marketing in action. Doing this gives you a reason to reach out to customers and shows that you’re trying to find ways to improve. MeUndies’ message here is straightforward, but positive and proactive.

In terms of your surveys themselves, focus on asking questions that go beyond “are we doing a good job?” Your end-game should be figuring out specific pain points (think: price, laggy shipping) versus asking just “yes” or “no” questions that don’t offer much in terms of action items.

As a side note, a common tactic for increasing survey responses is by providing some sort of incentive for completing your survey (like a future discount, free shipping, a freebie, or entry into a contest).

2. Canva: giving customers a digital “thumbs up”

Canva customer marketing
Social media is a prime place to bridge good customer service with your marketing.

One of the benefits of social media is that you can engage your customers in only a few seconds—but it can leave a lasting impression. Canva’s social replies feel authentic (note how they’re signed with an employee’s initials) and are clearly personalized beyond a basic “Nice!” or “Good job!”

It’s important that you treat your social mentions and interactions as you would any other sort of customer inquiry. Note that 42% of people expect a response within an hour,4 which means you’ll need a tool that gives you real-time listening features and notifications.
Canva customer marketing

3. Hers: sharing customer feedback with your community at large

Hers customer marketing
Keep in mind that customer feedback isn’t a one-way street. Beyond gathering insights from your customers, it’s important to share those responses and reactions with your audience. This not only holds you accountable, but also creates a sense of community for your customers who do respond.

Hers’ survey response email is simple yet effective in highlighting how their community at large feels about their products. Given that community-building increases customer retention by a staggering 61%,5 taking the time to bring your customers together is totally worth it.

4. Shopify: giving satisfied customers a shout-out on social media

Shopify customer marketing
Fact: over half of consumers6 want and expect brands to engage with them on social media. Even something as simple and low-effort as a retweet lets your customers know that they’ve been seen and you acknowledge them as part of your community. (You don’t need to go all out and plan a social media campaign.) Frequent responses and shout-outs are the building blocks for a positive relationship and, likewise, more word-of-mouth from other satisfied customers.

5. Grammarly: upselling to customers who love your service

Grammarly customer marketing
Upselling is at the core of customer marketing, and this discount email from Grammarly shows how to go about it without being spammy. Presenting their offer as a “level-up” doesn’t feel salesy, while the breakdown of premium features lets customers on the free plan know what they’re missing. For customers who trust the brand and have had a positive experience with Grammarly, the upsell is a no-brainer.

6. Blue Apron: showing off photos of satisfied customers

Blue Apron customer marketing
One of the easiest ways to do customer marketing involves letting your customers quite literally do some marketing on your behalf. Hey, you put in all that work to increase customer satisfaction—why not show off the results?

This means curating photos, feedback, and positive experiences in the form of user-generated content. Using their #LetsBlueApron hashtag on Instagram, Blue Apron shares customer creations on Instagram and encourages others to do the same. This serves as social proof—and future marketing firepower to show prospective customers that folks are satisfied with their service.

7. Casper: allowing customers to be your best billboards

Piggybacking on the example above, Casper uses customer-generated and interactive content to market their products on-site.

For starters, they show off customer photos from their Instagram feed on their homepage as a way to highlight their community:
Casper customer marketing
They also put their customer reviews front and center on product pages to show how happy their community is with their products:
Casper customer marketing
Given that 70% of consumers7 will leave a review for a business when they’re prompted, companies shouldn’t be afraid to ask for feedback about their experiences. Even if you get some negative comments in the process, you can still use those insights to ultimately improve your product or service in the future.

8. Odoo: sharing customer case studies through social media

Odoo customer marketing
Customer success stories are some of your most persuasive tools when it comes to marketing. Want to point future customers to how they can succeed? What better way than to highlight how your current customers overcame those very problems by using your product?

These great customer service stories are perfect for sharing on Twitter, much like Odoo does above.

9. RingCentral: showing off real-life customer success stories

The cornerstone of customer marketing is talking to people.

And at RingCentral, we know a thing or two about that.

That’s why we’ve curated a ton of industry-specific case studies that we can point prospects to. By interviewing our happy customers, we can have a better understanding of their specific needs and what they need from our products.

This makes it easier to highlight our best features to new customers.Keep in mind that 78% of B2B buyers8 use case studies to make purchasing decisions (more than any other type of online content). So, if you have customer success stories, don’t be shy about showing them off or pointing people to them!
RingCentral customer marketing

What does your customer marketing plan look like?

With so many upsides and different opportunities for businesses to get on board, customer marketing empowers companies to make the most of their existing buyers.

But it requires a conscious strategy that emphasizes speedy, tactful, and above all, consistent, customer communication.

And that’s exactly what we offer with RingCentral! With the help of our tools and the steps above, you can take steps toward happier, longer-term customers.


Originally published Jun 01, 2020, updated Nov 02, 2020

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