Every once in a while we hear about the “love at first sight” love story. You know, the guy and gal who caught each other’s eye, instantly fell in love, had a storybook romance, and were married just a few short weeks after that first chance encounter. These hopelessly romantic stories are what make Hollywood’s heart beat. However, for most of us, it takes a lot more to fall in love ... and stay in love.
Most of the love stories with which I’m familiar start with the meeting of two people, followed by a significant amount of time working on building a relationship. The progression may have started with simply getting a phone number. This leads to a few phone calls or texts, and eventually the all-important first date. Then, the second date. Over time, more dates, which morph into just plain ol' spending time together. Eventually, the relationship became full-blown love, followed by a period of engagement and then marriage. All through this time, the couple is communicating, getting to know each other, working toward building a deeper, more solid relationship.
In the B2B marketing world, there is much to learn from these healthy marriage stories. In many B2B vendor/buyer relationships, the communication that occurs during the “dating” phase (via lead nurturing) is pretty impressive. Through the use of technology, we now have the ability to deliver dynamic content, enabling one-on-one buyer engagement. Companies are becoming more adept at building relationships with their prospects and gaining buying commitments. Unfortunately, many companies bring the process of engagement to an abrupt halt once the prospect becomes a customer. Just like in a marriage, this can have disastrous effects. To keep the relationship healthy, it’s imperative that companies have a process in place for nurturing their customers so they can continue to develop that relationship.
Two Kinds of Customer Nurturing
When looking to nurture customers there are two key nurture approaches that should be taken:
- Helping the customer deal with the buyer’s remorse phenomenon (a.k.a. “after the honeymoon”)
- Ongoing customer loyalty and relationship building (a.k.a. “anniversaries”)
After the Honeymoon
Most of us have experienced some kind of buyer’s remorse, whether personally or in the business world. No matter how much we justify the expense or rationalize the purchase, we worry, hoping that the solution or service fulfills the promises and expectations we bought into. During this post-purchase phase, your customer needs to hear from you more than at any other time. They need to be reassured that they’ve made the right decision, that you really do “love them,” that they will receive the best level of service and that they will receive value on their investment. Your communication to them is more than just sending an email with links directing them to where they can find “support” on your website. Instead, you should implement an integrated, multichannel communications campaign that includes email and human interaction. Your goal is to assure your customer that they made the right decision.
The second approach to customer nurturing is more long term. There is no better sales person for your company than a satisfied customer, so driving customer loyalty should be part of the mix.
At the 2010 SiriusDecisions Conference, in the results of its B2B Buyers Survey, the research indicated that 29% of those surveyed listed peers as the most trusted source in their buying decisions. As a matter of fact the research showed that peers are influential in all stages (early, middle and late) of the buying process. With the understanding that your prospects are looking to their peers (i.e. your customers) to help make future buying decisions, doesn’t it make sense to nurture and build relationships with your customers to keep them loyal?
Building relationships with your customers also provides opportunities to create more revenue for your organization. As you continue to develop a relationship with your customers, you will discover opportunities to cross sell and up-sell additional services and solutions to them. Who easier to sell to than a loyal, satisfied customer, right?
Earlier in my career, I was with a global software company. We took a customer nurture approach by segmenting our customer database by various demographic identifiers, and then developing content specific to those segments. We also changed the job description of our inside sales team. They became “customer representatives.” In just one year, we saw the following results:
- $11M in additional revenue generated from our customer base (this did not include renewals)
- a 10% increase in retention rates
- a double-digit increase in customer support satisfaction
Though you may be using nurturing as a way to date your potential buyers, make sure you continue to build the relationship beyond “I do.”