Did you know that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, and Bain & Company says it’s 6 to 7 times more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one?
So, if it’s really 6 to 7 times costlier to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one, why do we spend most of our time talking about customer acquisition and not much time talking about customer retention?
And, better still, how can we engage our customers to become lifetime customers and brand advocates so they can help us acquire new customers?
First, we need to define what customer experience (CX) really is. Because CX is not in the mainstream, yet, I hear many definitions. My favorite definition is from Forrester, which defines CX as “every interaction, or touch point, your customer has with your brand. It not only includes the what’s (the interactions), but also the how’s (perceptions, feelings) the customer experiences.”
CX starts with brands wanting to be customer-centric. For some, that might require a business model change. Being customer-centric requires brands to focus all of their brand building activities around customers, not products. In addition, this is an activity where each employee must be engaged and rowing in the same direction.
Content Marketing is in a unique position to help create better customer experiences.
Think of CX as the track and content as the train.
Content can move buyers and then customers along their perspective journeys. It is the glue that moves the customer from the onboarding stage, through the brand advocate stage along the lifecycle management journey. Our goal as marketers is to convert a customer into a lifetime brand advocate – and, CX and content have huge roles to play in this.
But, a happy and satisfied customer is not enough. A customer who is willing to tell everyone they can how great your brand is, is a lifetime brand advocate, and the only customer you should be focusing on.
There are two keys to CX — empathy and curiosity — you have to care enough about the customer — in fact, your customers should be the single most important thing you care about. You must be interested enough to understand their pains, motivators, needs and wants, and be curious enough to come up with ways to help them meet those expectations to achieve success.
How can brands use content to help provide a better experience for customers?
It all comes down to meeting the customer need.
The first steps in any interaction are to (1) listen to your customers, (2) engage them in conversation and (3) help them meet their needs.
Take what you learned from your customer in the listening and engagement stages and create the content they want that will help them meet their needs. That might be a thought-leadership piece, a manual or webinar on how to use your product, a case study on how other customers with similar challenges are using you to solve their problems and so forth.
The key here is to always be polling your customers on the type of content they want to see. Voice of the customer must always be top of mind.
I hear many people say “content should solve problems.” But, that is not content’s role. Content’s role should be to help the reader find out more. You should know the buyer/customer well enough to understand their pains and needs, and then create content compelling and enticing enough to them to incite action, whatever that action is.
Tell a story, but make sure that it’s the right story. Does the story address their need? Is the story on point with your messaging and what your brand stands for? Don’t compare yourself to other brands. Tell the stories your customers want.
We talk a lot about the voice of the customer in CX.
It is important to always take the pulse of your customer through win-loss and onboarding programs, surveys, event behaviors and direct contact where you collect appropriate data. But, don’t just collect data. Analyze customer insights and implement insights into your processes.
So what all this means is that it is important to map customer touch points or events on their journey and connect that with content and other communications. You should always be connecting with your customer, ensuring their experience is stellar and helping them move to the next phase of their customer lifecycle management journey.
Is CX something that should be considered from brand awareness all the way through purchase and advocacy?
CX starts well before you interface with customers and throughout the customer lifecycle. It is a mindset.
Answering “have I listened to my customer today and have I helped them?” are the most important questions you must answer for your customer. It’s tough work to ensure a stellar experience and you won’t know what that is without being in constant contact with your customer.
It is up to brands to interject ways to satisfy customers’ needs in the customer retention process. Consider implementing activities like an online community where customers can interface with your team and their peers. You might also consider creating a customer council or advisory board where customers can provide you with feedback and ideas to better meet their needs.
There are tons of ways for you to interact with and learn from your customers. Be curious. Be creative.
Ultimately though, brand advocacy should be your retention goal.
What are some metrics used to gauge the customer experience? How can we measure/track this?
1. Calculate your customer lifetime value for your customers – an abbreviated calculation is as follows:
**Where GC equals yearly gross contribution per customer, r equals yearly retention rate and d equals yearly discount rate.
2. Implement some type of Voice of the Customer program. A feedback loop should be at every customer touch point. Remember to not just file away the customer insights. Implement them. You should always be optimizing for the customer experience.
3. Check Google Analytics for the content that is resonating most with your customers. This will help you determine the content your customers want.
4. Check your Net Promoter Score. Are you asking your customers, “how likely are you to recommend our brand to your friends, family and associates?” Keep track of what they say and adjust accordingly.
5. Check your social media shares, comments and other social metrics. Think about how you can more actively engage with customers on social.
Today, this week, and every day, enhance your customer experience, and ask your customer, what can you do for them, and continuously deliver on your brand promise.
How are you using content marketing and customer experience to drive your customer retention and enhance the experience your customers receive? Let us know in the comments.
A version of this post originally appeared in Openview Labs.