In an earlier post, I explained why most B2B companies need to focus more attention on strengthening relationships with existing customers, and I suggested that marketing should play a leading role in these efforts.
The primary objective of marketing to existing customers is to retain and, where possible, expand the business you do with profitable customers. The most effective way to achieve this goal is to help your customers successfully implement and use your solutions. Therefore, most of your communications with customers should be focused on providing information and insights that will help them maximize the value they obtain from your solutions and from their relationship with your company.
Many marketing thought leaders are beginning to call this kind of content customer success content, and it plays a vital role in the emerging discipline of customer success management.
In a recent white paper, Forrester Research discussed the growing use of customer success management by software companies that offer their solutions on a subscription, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), basis. Forrester described customer success management in the following way:
"In the B2B SaaS industry, companies have been hiring senior level people dedicated to the active management of their customer base. . . Irrespective of the title, the goal of this function is to become the 'trusted advisor' to the company, to make their customers successful with the products they have purchased, and ensure that they are realizing economic value from their investments in order to preserve their revenue."
Obviously, existing customers have different information 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-level software application 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 move through multiple stages in the process of learning how to use your product, as illustrated by the following diagram:
We 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 you're developing content for existing customers. The information needs of a mature user are significantly 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, some of your users will prefer to access "how-to" content in written form (help articles, answers to FAQ's, etc.), while others will prefer to learn via videos.
Finally, while it's generally true that you need different content for prospects and existing customers, some content that is designed for customers can also be effective for potential buyers. 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 valuable to other customers and to late-stage prospects.
Marketing's responsibilities don't end when a new customer is acquired, and content marketing should not 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.