Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Customer Nurturing: It's Not Lead Nurturing so Stop Calling it That

You know, I really want to do X with your product. Can you get on a call to chat?
This is a typical message that customer success managers or any customer facing person hears from their customers almost on a daily basis. In many of these situations there is in fact a solution. The problem is that the customer wasn’t aware of it. This can happen for many reasons. The trick is to try and get in front of the items that come up over and over again so you improve the customer experience and lower your support costs. You will of course always have these types conversations and you want them but if you can decrease the frequency, this is a win-win situation for your company and your customers. Unfortunately, marketers have focused too much on launching lead nurturing programs and discount how automation can be used for customers. A recent study that Matt Senatore from SiriusDecisions proved this.
Lead Nurturing in not Customer Nurturing
Only 8% of companies that were part of a SiriusDecisions survey were using marketing automation for customer marketing.

What is Customer Lead Nurturing?

Customer nurturing is specific to customers that are in some sort of a contractual agreement with you. It
involves communicating regularly to help deepen the relationship that you have with your customers. It’s mostly about education but it can also serve to provide important notifications. For example, it can be used to educate customers on tips and tricks as well as notify them of an upcoming contract renewal.

Lead nurturing on the other hand concentrates on your prospects and is more focused on the top of the funnel. Elizabeth Usovicz summarizes this well. She sees lead nurturing as away of communicating to a profile that marketing is targeting. Customer nurturing on the other hand involves communicating to a real person. In addition, a customer is much more valuable. If you have provided an amazing customer experience, that one customer can refer you 10 new customers which will lead to additional revenue. You need to treat them much differently.

5 Examples of Customer Nurturing

Let’s go through some examples of customer nurturing that you can use today. The typical channel for these items would be email but you can also include print mail, social media and of course phone calls. These examples are focused on automated customer nurturing.
  •  New customer program. It’s recommended to create a simple automated campaign that helps onboard new customers in the first 30-90 days of your relationship with them. This program can include a welcome email, an email that outlines the different ways that they will be supported as well an email that asks them to provide feedback on their early experience working with your company.  You can also use this opportunity to invite new customers to an advocacy program that you may have in place. It’s never too early to have your customers start advocating for you.

  • New user program. Once has a customer has completed the onboarding process, you may see different people within the client organization start to use your product. This can disrupt the flow that had been established and can even lead to a customer churning if a new user isn’t brought on board properly. Typically, most of the training and configuration decisions are made during the implementation, which leaves new users out in the cold. By highlighting key training and support resources, a customer nurturing program can help new users get up to speed quickly without having to exhaust the customer success resources.

  • Post-onboarding programs. Once a customer has onboarded, there can be a period where a customer begins to stagnate. The customer may not know what to do next as they may have been used to the handholding approach during the implementation. This is a great opportunity to use a customer nurturing program to send timely tips and best practices to maintain the momentum established during onboarding.

  • New advocate program. You’ve done it! You’ve spent a great deal of time identifying an advocate and recruiting them to your advocate program. This advocate will refer new business to you, act as a reference and/or provide you with testimonials. The best way to bring on a new advocate is to send them 2-3 emails that explain what it means to be part of your advocate marketing program. You can include the following in your communication: How often should they expect to hear from you? What are some initial tasks that they should do? Who will be reaching out to them and for what? Set the right expectations up front and maximize your advocates' potential.

  • Renewal program. This can be as simple as reminding customers that their renewal is coming up. You can take this further. As part of your customer nurturing programs, it’s best to keep obtaining feedback. There is no better time to gauge company’s satisfaction then when they are close to their renewal. Consider sending a feedback survey or NPS survey ninety days prior to renewal. Reminding customers of the value that they are getting is another good approach – especially if it’s personalized based on the activities the customer is performing. You should also consider an upsell/cross sell campaign.

Whichever program you decide to start with, remember to start small and prioritize an approach that fills a gap in the customer lifecycle. As you start to see positive results and appreciation from your customers, build from that momentum and expand to other areas.

What type of customer nurturing program have you found to be successful?

Chad H.

PS - For more ideas, check out Brian Hansford's post: How Marketing Automation Supports Onboarding Customers

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