Why It’s Time to Reverse Your Funnel to Turn Customers into Advocates

April 21, 2014

Now more than ever, it’s time to stop spending all your time chasing new customers and start marketing to the ones you have. Marketing strategist Sue Duris explains why.

Retention marketing efforts don’t receive nearly the attention that customer acquisition efforts do. For many companies (especially SaaS companies reliant on renewals), that’s a big mistake that results in a lot of missed opportunities.
Why? For starters, here are a few stats:

  • According to Bain & Company, it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.
  • Not only are current customers cheaper to retain, they are also more likely to buy again. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 10-30%. The probability of selling to an existing customer? A whopping 60-70% (Marketing Metrics).
  • In fact, as Gartner notes, 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your existing customers.
  • To top it off, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25-95% (Bain & Company). Yet, according to McKinsey’s analysis, 55% of marketing spent is focused solely on acquisition efforts.

Isn’t it time we marketers took a serious look at developing and prioritizing a more focused retention strategy? After all, isn’t our goal not just to convert new customers, but to win them for life (and as the stats show, isn’t that more profitable)?
If that’s the case, companies need to direct more of their content strategy activities toward nurturing past the point of sale.
How can they do it?

Reverse the Funnel: 3 Keys to Post-Sale Nurturing

Just as marketers have utilized the funnel to move visitors from lead to customer status, we now need to reverse the funnel by moving customers to lifetime customer and brand advocate status.
Why reverse the funnel? Because not only is that a progression that creates value, it’s also one that is perpetuating — more retained customers lead to more brand advocates which lead back to, you guessed it, new customers.

1) Map Activities to Post-Purchase Stages of the Customer Lifetime Cycle

Just as you mapped your content and other marketing activities to the pre-purchase stages of the funnel (for more information, see my previous post about content marketing), you now need to do the same with the post-purchase stages. Your new and complete customer lifetime cycle will probably look something like this:
Awareness > Familiarity > Consider > Purchase > Post-Purchase Experience > Loyalty > Brand Advocate
Knowing what activities and content to map to each post-purchase stage will require a lot of active observing, listening, and asking questions of your customers. In other words, the same work that went into mapping content to the pre-purchase stages.
It’s also important to note that while the pre-purchase journey may have been a combined Sales and Marketing effort, responsibility for nurturing during the post-purchase journey should be a company-wide initiative that is championed by the C-suite down.

2) Focus on Your Customers’ Experience

Everything comes down to the experience your customer has with your product and your company, especially early on during implementation. This is a very important stage, and too often it’s where many customers struggle to see value and churn. By laser-focusing in on your customers’ behaviors and closely observing how they are engaging not only with you, your product and also your content — from emails to online content to social media — you can also put yourself in an excellent position to respond to issues and ensure you are adding value.
That kind of proactive approach combined with a strong retention program that allows you to track events and customize the experience for each of your customers can be the difference between a lost customer and a customer who is loyal for life.

3) Recruit Your Best Customers to Join the Cause

Make current customers part of the story by asking them to contribute content, take a leadership role in your community, be part of a case study, or other means.
You can also consider implementing a loyalty program with incentives that customers want, such as access to exclusive content, discounts, etc.  Recognize your most successful and passionate customers on a regular basis. Try featuring them in your blog and highlighting them in community discussions.
Identify the influencers among your customer base by observing their online behaviors and discovering how active they are on social media and in online communities and forums. These are the people who can be your most valuable fans. Actively nurture them and treat them well.

Ready, Set, Grow: 7 Examples of Retention Done Right

Here are just a handful of great examples of customer retention activities that companies are using right now to move customers to brand advocate status:
Eloqua’s Topliners Community offers members resources such as exclusive content, answers to Eloqua software questions, etc. hosts it’s annual users and developer’s conference called Dreamforce. The event introduces users and developers to new product announcements and offers them several sessions on how to get the most out of the Salesforce products.
Forrester has blogs for multiple disciplines, which are designed to help leaders be successful in their roles and at their respective companies.
Character Counts, a character education program for the K-12 market, offers a webinar series to help educators apply the materials of the program in the classroom.
Evernote’s blog is filled with tips and stories, which is designed to help users use the app more frequently — and become product evangelists.
The Hubspot Academy offers training and education to Hubspot customers.
Blackbaud offers blogs on news and best practices for using the company’s products.
There are many different ways to nurture customers to become brand advocates — which ones are working for you?
Image by Luigi Anzivino

Director of Marketing and Customer Experience

<strong>Sue Duris</strong> is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience of <a href="">M4 Communications</a> a Palo Alto, CA-based marketing strategy and communications firm that helps technology, entertainment and nonprofit organizations build and extend their brands.