It's easy for business to business marketers to focus exclusively on the early stages of the customer journey, which involve reaching and bringing in new customers. While new customers are always important, marketers can't ignore existing customers. The customer journey extends past the customer's initial purchase. Customers will ideally grow to trust your company, develop brand loyalty, and begin to promote your company to their friends and colleagues. Retaining loyal customers can bring in more income with less marketing effort. However, this won't happen if your marketing team focuses solely on the beginning of the customer journey.
Losing customers is a real concern for B2B businesses. Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, 56% of businesses have switched at least one of their suppliers and 18% have switched all of their suppliers. The post-purchase stages of the customer journey are the time to create and strengthen customer loyalty. Neglecting this part of the customer experience creates missed opportunities for B2B marketers.
Many companies focus mostly or exclusively on the first parts of the customer journey. However, understanding what your customers are thinking, feeling, and saying about your company after they make a purchase is essential for retaining those customers.
The B2B customer journey extends from the customer's first awareness of your product to well after they've made a purchase.
The customer journey starts when a business decides that it needs a product or service to solve a specific problem and starts looking at its options. At this stage, visibility and brand awareness are the most important factors for your company. Customers can encounter your company through your blog, social media posts, webinars, and many other types of content.
Once the customer has an idea of what they're looking for, they'll narrow their search queries to research specific options. For B2B purchases, this might involve a direct conversation with your team to determine if your product or service is the right fit. They might also read case studies and industry reports and look at more targeted advertising communication that you send.
As the customer is making their final decision, you might offer a free trial or special promotion. Once they've purchased, you can offer installation support and live demonstrations. This helps manage any hesitation the customer has so they feel confident about their purchase.
Direct relationships between businesses and customers are especially important for B2B sales. Once a customer has decided to purchase your product, you'll switch your focus from selling to developing the relationship. Since B2B companies tend to sell more complex products and services and are more likely to have formal contracts than business to consumer sellers, individual attention is more important. Customers will have more specific and nuanced questions, which makes having connections, like a relationship with a specific sales representative, more necessary.
At the retention stage, your focus should be on building and maintaining the customer's trust. This means staying in touch and rewarding loyalty. You might offer subscription discounts, personalized recommendations, or coupon codes specific to existing customers.
At this point, the customer likes your company and product enough to recommend it to others. Getting to this stage allows you to benefit from influential word of mouth and peer to peer advertising, which can be some of the most effective and trustworthy sources of information for new potential customers.
Creating a customer journey map, which is a visual representation of your customers' decision-making and purchase process, can help you understand the customer experience so you can adjust it to optimize retention. Many companies overlook the opportunities to stay connected with the customer after they've made their purchase.
There are several opportunities to keep in touch with your customers after they've purchased. This starts with your "thank you for ordering/subscribing" page that should come up after the customer has completed their transaction. The next touchpoint will usually be an order confirmation email. These messages are an important communication opportunity, since customers open them 67% of the time.
Once the customer has received your product, installed your software, or started using your service, sending a check-in email helps move the customer to the relationship-nurturing stage. This check-in should ask how delivery and installation went and whether there are any problems you can help with. Later on, you can solicit feedback by sending a customer experience survey.
Keeping in contact with a new customer during the post-purchase stage can help you identify and correct potential problems. Customers like to stay updated about when they can expect to receive their package and know who to contact if there's a problem, so your shipping confirmation email should contain this information.
Sending a check-in email is a great way to take advantage of the service recovery paradox. This phenomenon means that a customer who has a problem and has it fixed promptly and appropriately will feel more satisfied and loyal to your company than they would if they hadn't had a problem in the first place. Checking in lets you identify shipping problems and installation failures or glitches so you can correct these issues.
At the end of the post-purchase journey, you should integrate the customer into your regular email marketing. It's important to do this thoughtfully. Don't send regular marketing emails to a customer who has purchased a product but hasn't received it yet. You may also want to send an existing customer less frequent but more specific messages than what you would send a prospective customer.
Focusing on customer experience during the post-purchase stage can easily be worth the time and money you put in.
Bringing in new customers is more expensive and time-consuming than retaining existing customers. New customers only have a 5-20% likelihood of making a first purchase, compared to the 60-70% chance of existing customers making a repeat purchase. Customers who feel loyal and connected to your brand specifically are more likely to continue purchasing your product.
Customer recommendations to friends and colleagues are important for any type of business, but especially B2B. Studies have found that 99% of B2B purchases are influenced by word of mouth to some degree. This means that keeping your customers satisfied enough that they become advocates for your company is essential in the B2B space.
If a customer has purchased one of your products or services and feels satisfied with that purchase, they're more likely to use your other products or services to solve other problems in their business. Communication during the post-purchase journey is a great opportunity for you to point out other products your company offers that the specific customer might want.
This can start as early as your post-transaction thank you page. If you sell something like office supplies that will get used up over time, this page can suggest placing a bulk order or signing up for a subscription. Your other follow-up emails can also be tailored to suggest certain additional products. Once the customer has been using your product or service for a while, you can promote upgrading to a higher service tier in your email communications. Targeted communication with existing customers provides the opportunity for upselling and cross selling pitches that are most likely to be relevant.
User-generated content is both effective and under-utilized. Millennials report trusting user-generated content 50% more than brand-generated content, and 79% of people say user-generated content affects their purchasing decisions. Despite this, only 16% of companies have a strategy for user-generated content. This creates a great opportunity for businesses that focus on expanding this content. Post-purchase customer communication is a great place to encourage buyers to create and share content about your company.
Creating spaces to talk about your product, like an online community or forum, or setting up some other type of feedback loop, can provide your company with incredibly valuable information. When customers have the opportunity to discuss the product with other users or share feedback, they may end up suggesting new products for your company to design. Since the suggestions come from your existing users, they could be a better sign that something is a viable idea than what comes up during internal brainstorming.
Engaged customers will also provide detailed feedback on your existing products. They'll be more willing to share specifics about what they like and dislike and the changes they would like to see. They might also mention useful nuggets of information that help you adjust your marketing efforts earlier in the customer journey. For example, if a customer really appreciates and relies on a minor feature of your product, you might attract similar customers by emphasizing that feature in your marketing materials.
Another useful form of user-generated content is tutorials and tips for other users. This is most common on video-based sites like YouTube and TikTok. This type of content is both helpful for your users and effective advertising. It also helps the content creator feel connected with your brand.
Since user-generated content is so useful, you may want to consider incentivizing it. Setting up prizes or incentives for posting about your company is a good way to do this. One study found that more than half of customers would like brands to tell them what types of content to make and share.
Measuring the return on investment for customer experience can be difficult. Since retention because of a good purchase experience isn't a number that you can track, you'll need to look at other related metrics to get this information. As you improve your post-purchase customer engagement process, look at these numbers to get a sense of whether it's making a difference.
This is a measure of how much your average customer spends over the entire time that they remain a customer. A high customer lifetime value means that your customers are staying with your company and continuing to spend money on your products or services. If this number increases, it's a good sign that your customer engagement process is working well.
This is an important metric for customer satisfaction that requires you to conduct regular customer surveys. To gather this data, you'll ask customers how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend, or a colleague for B2B purchases, on a scale of one to ten. Customers who answer nine or ten are considered promoters, seven to eight indifferent and zero to six detractors. To calculate your net promoter score, subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. This means that you can improve this score by increasing the number of happy customers, decreasing the number of unhappy customers, or both. This makes NPS a good metric for measuring customer satisfaction.
Your business's churn rate is the percentage of customers that leave your service during a given timeframe. This is most relevant for subscription-based businesses, since they rely on customers staying subscribed for stable earnings. Churn may not be the most useful metric for companies that sell products that businesses purchase occasionally or as needed. A low churn rate indicates that your customers are loyal to your company and is a positive sign for your customer engagement ROI.
Verified reviews are reviews written by customers that you've confirmed have actually purchased your product. These are extremely useful sources of trustworthy, user-generated content. For online purchases, 32% of customers rely on reviews from other customers. In addition to the actual content, monitoring the number of customers who are willing to provide a verified review can be a good indicator of how willing your customers are to recommend your product to others.
The customer journey starts with brand awareness and bringing in new customers, but it continues past the customer's initial purchase. Focusing on customer experience during the later stages of the journey can help retain those customers and sell them more of your products and services. Engaged and loyal customers will create content about your brand, which provides valuable and trustworthy advertising. They'll also make repeat purchases and recommend your company to their friends and colleagues. While there's no single number that shows whether these efforts provide a good return on investment, you can keep track of customer lifetime value, net promoters scores, and churn to get a good idea.
Adjusting your marketing plan to emphasize post-purchase customer experience can be challenging, but doing this is a worthwhile way to create long-term customers. Working with the marketing experts at Steel Croissant can help you improve customer engagement and all other aspects of your company's advertising.
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