Interview: Ardath Albee Shares 5 Tips for Customer Nurturing

You’ve worked hard to turn prospects into customers. Do not make the mistake of treating them like they're less important once they sign on the dotted line. The same emphasis should be placed on customer nurturing as on lead nurturing. In the Lead Nurturing Cookbook, we offer a recipe for building customer nurturing programs marketers can implement using their marketing automation platform. Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions and author of eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, participated as a “Guest Chef” on this recipe offering marketers advice on how to successfully execute a customer nurturing programs. I caught up with Ardath and asked her to expand on the insight she offers in the Cookbook and discuss what factors are important when building an effective customer nurturing program. Here’s what she had to say:

EM: In the Cookbook, you offer tips on nurturing customers. Why is nurturing customers important and how should you track the success of your program?

AA: The data shows that it costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Add that the number one reason for customer attrition is indifference and you’ve got some very solid reasons for nurturing your customers.

Tracking the success of customer nurturing programs can include a number of factors such as increasing the length of customer lifetime, increasing renewal rates, measuring cross-sell and upsell and increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. The last thing you want your customers thinking when it comes time to renew or expand the capabilities that you provide is, “What have you done for me lately?”

EM: How should developing content for customers differ from developing content for buyers?

AA: Your customers’ status quo is much different than your prospects’ current state. Nurturing content for customers must start by addressing where they are now and how they can gain more value than they expected from your solution when they purchased it. What features are they not using that could be incorporated easily to add value?

Aside from information that deals directly with your products, this nurturing content must also be forward looking thought leadership content that continues to present them with ideas that help to use your offerings to position them for future demands. With this content, you can gain economies of scale by re-inventing thought leadership content developed for prospects to address your customers’ perspectives. The goal is to ensure that your company is the partner they turn to as their company evolves to meet market demands.

EM: Many organizations nurture their customers in the form of a monthly newsletter. Can you suggest any other more creative/outside the box avenues to reach your customers?

AA: Well, I don’t think it’s the newsletter concept that’s lacking in creativity as much as it’s the creativity and orientation of the content included in them. Most newsletters offer company-focused content that’s about selling more products, offering promotions, company news, etc.

Boring! Why is it that once we acquire customers, we think it’s once again all about us? It’s not.

If you want an alternative to a once a month or quarterly newsletter, why not a customer-specific blog? This way you can spread out the production across the month rather than working toward one big push. What about a special webinar series exclusively for customers – not about your products, but perhaps showcasing industry experts discussing future trends and issues on their radar?

Why not ask your customers what types of information they’d like to receive from you?

EM: How does social media play a role in nurturing customers? In your experience, what are some of the more effective social media outlets for communicating with current customers?

AA: The best example is social media in use for real-time customer support, although this has best been demonstrated by B2C companies. But I think the key point is that customers, just like your prospects, can now choose to consume content in the ways they prefer. Their subscription options have multiplied. They can subscribe to your RSS feed, follow or friend you on social platforms and join in on group discussions.

The trick to serving customers through social media is to first find out where they spend time and then listen to learn what topics they’re interested in. Of course you need to monitor for brand mentions, but ultimately social media is not a marketing megaphone, but a conversation. We need to get better at the social repartee required to hold meaningful digital conversations.

Ask a few questions to start thinking about the differences in nurturing customers via social media vs. attracting prospects through social media.

  1. How do interests differ between prospects and customers on X platform?
  2. What about tags, keywords and hashtags? What will your customers search for given that their original problem is now solved? How does that affect the content and communications you post for them?
  3. Define what a conversation with customers on social media means for your company. Then figure out what you have to do to get involved in more of those. Set some goals and measure response to see if anyone is listening.
  4. How can you tie social media to the other elements of your marketing mix to improve the overall results you’re achieving today?

EM: In the Cookbook, we discuss building customer nurturing programs like you’re telling a story. How do you write content to tell a story?

What I mean when I talk about telling a story is creating a content flow that makes sense and builds engagement because it builds on information your prospects have previously been exposed to.

Your online communication should be a two-way conversation that flows back-and-forth, and notice that a lot of conversation is generally in a question and answer format. If you can role play like that with your prospects and really understand what kind of things they want to know, and as you answer each question it opens up room for the next thing to surface that they want to know, then you can create your content as answers to those questions in a flow that makes sense.

Customers may access it in different ways because not everybody learns linearly, or they may access it towards the middle and jump around in the process. But if you create your nurture in a way that makes logical sense like a conversation, adding information based on what you’ve just talked about, and evolving that, then you have a story with your content.

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales increase their marketing effectiveness by implementing eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content that produce more sales opportunities. Ardath is a frequent industry speaker and the author of the popular Marketing Interactions blog. Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale was recently released by McGraw-Hill. Please visit her Website and follow her on Twitter.