In my last post, I discussed why most B2B companies need content marketing programs that are specifically designed for existing customers, and I described three specific business situations that make marketing after the initial sale particularly important.
The ultimate objective of marketing to existing customers is to retain and, where possible, expand the business you do with profitable customers. The most direct and effective way to achieve this goal is to help your customers successfully implement and use your solutions. Therefore, most of the content you use with existing customers should be focused on providing information and insights that will help them maximize the value they derive from your solutions and from their relationship with your company. A number of thought leaders are beginning to call this kind of content "customer success content," and it plays a vital role in the emerging field of customer success management.
Obviously, existing customers have different content needs than prospects, but many content marketing principles are the same for both audiences. Suppose, for example, that you sell a complex product such as an enterprise software solution or some kinds of industrial equipment. In these circumstances, your new customers will likely face a significant learning curve to become proficient with your product. Most of your customers will progress through multiple stages in the process of learning how to use your product, as illustrated by the following diagram.
We now know that when we're marketing to potential buyers, it's critical to have content resources that are specifically designed for each stage of the buying process. That's because the issues that are important to prospects change as they move through the process. The same principle applies when developing content for existing customers. The information needs of a power user are different from those of a new user, and the same content won't be equally effective for both.
Another similarity is the need to provide content in a variety of formats. For example, "how-to" content for existing customers is usually presented in written form (online help articles, answers to FAQ's, etc.). Today, many companies are using instructional videos to convey the same information and provide customers an alternative way to access the information.
Finally, while it's true that you usually need different content for prospects and existing customers, there are important exceptions. Some content that is designed for customers can be very effective with late-stage prospects. For example, a case study that provides a detailed description of how one of your customers used specific features of your product to accomplish an important business objective would be useful and valuable to other customers and to late-stage prospects.
So far in this post, I've haven't discussed the issue of using content to sell new, related, or ancillary products to an existing customer. Content can play a valuable role in expanding your relationships with existing customers, but you need to use the right approach. As with new prospects, the best approach is to start with content that focuses on the business issues that your new, related, or ancillary products can address. Once the foundation is in place, you can move to more product-focused content.
Content marketing shouldn't stop when the initial sale is closed. For many companies, marketing to existing customers is just as important as marketing to potential buyers, and content is critical to your success with both audiences.