According to the Content Marketing Institute research, 2018, 47% of B2B content is produced for the awareness stage of the buyer journey. 87% of all respondents (B2B and B2C) stated that they used content marketing to generate leads, and 82% to encourage brand awareness. A surprisingly low 8% of content was produced for the purchase end of the buyer journey.
But where does this leave the rest of the buyer journey?
It’s proven that acquiring new customers costs five times as much as it costs to retain existing ones. It’s also known that new customers are only 5-20% likely to make a purchase compared to 60-70% among existing ones.
With customers being more valuable at the later stages of the buyer journey, it’s surprising that businesses don’t see the value in using content to nurture loyalty.
In fact, businesses who increase their customer retention rates by only 5% can enjoy profits of over 25%.
And you can too…
6 ways to drive loyalty using after-sales content
1. Coordinate marketing and sales content
One of the main mistakes businesses make when it comes to content is that sales and marketing teams work in isolation.
Marketers focus on producing the right kind of content to generate leads and push them down the buyer funnel. Meanwhile, sales teams will be producing or curating the appropriate content materials to accompany the product or service being offered.
In fact, often each team defines the buyer journey in their own way, failing to work together to envisage a buyer journey from both a sales and marketer’s point of view.
A coordinated approach between sales and marketing, as well as on and offline content, would help to produce consistency in your messaging, advice and support post-sale.
Begin a collaborative approach between sales and marketing personnel. Start by collaborating on the buyer journey to define the touch points where both marketing and sales content would benefit the customer.
Look specifically at the point of sale. What content is included with the sale, and is this consistent with the content that came before, and will come after the sale?
For example, if a customer makes a purchase, their product may come with a printed instruction manual. This manual should also be found online, and include options for further support (i.e links or details of support numbers or email addresses).
The manual could also be accompanied by printed messages to elicit loyalty, for example, a genuine thank you for the purchase along with a gift voucher for a future sale.
2. Be responsive
Being responsive to your customer after they’ve made a purchase is an absolute must. Sadly, not all businesses agree, with many dropping off communications once a transaction is completed.
According to research by Accenture, 52% of respondents said they switched brand due to poor customer service, with banks, retailers and cable providers being the worst offenders.
But in an omnichannel world, customer service is no longer about being available on the other end of the phone. Customers will leave feedback or ask for support in a variety of ways.
Some customers may turn to social media and mention you in a post or directly post to your feed. Others may email you or phone you directly. Others might prefer to use your on-site chatbot or virtual assistant, or leave a review on a third-party review site.
The key is to be responsive on all your channels and make sure you respond promptly and appropriately.
Create a plan both for how customers can get in touch with you for support/information and for how you monitor and respond on these platforms.
Social media management suites such as Hootsuite help you to manage and monitor all your mentions, so that you can respond as and when they arise.
Chatbots can be set up to programme an immediate response to support or information requests so that frequently asked questions can be fielded quickly yet helpfully, without the need for human input.
Make sure you’re on top of the most salient review sites for your niche. Respond directly to all reviews, good or bad, referring to the sender by name where possible. If you get a bad review then respond calmly, apologetically and helpfully.
Mention is a platform that allows you to monitor your brand mentions across the web, so that you can respond quickly where appropriate.
3. Be proactive
The best you can do to elicit loyalty is to take a proactive approach.
This means striking whilst the iron’s hot. Research shows that customers are most receptive to a brand’s content immediately after a purchase. Experian has reported that post-sales open rates are double that of other promotional emails.
By proactive content, we’re talking more than just a confirmation email. Proactive post-sales content should be a planned, omnichannel and helpful.
According to Adobe’s Consumer Email Survey Report, 2017, 40% of those surveyed said they wanted emails to be less promotional and more informational.
How-to guides in text or video format can help customers get the most of their purchase. These should be embedded or attached to emails, and also found easily on designated sections of a brand’s website.
Create a content plan for immediately after a purchase. Your email sequence should be set up to provide the right kind of information at the right time (with the right permissions). Your focus should be on being helpful and informative, above anything else.
For example, your immediate email will be a purchase confirmation with a link to your support pages/phone number/email.
Your second email might include some helpful information about how to make the most of your product, e.g. a how-to video, a downloadable guide, real-life images of how the product can be used or has been used by real customers.
Your third email could include some recommendations for similar products and your fourth might provide a money-off voucher or discount code for a future purchase. You can learn more about post-purchase email strategy here.
4. Build a sense of community
Brands who use their content to generate a community following are those who are winning at customer loyalty. One American study has found that retailers experience a 19% increase in revenue from customers once they’ve joined the brand’s online community.
Within your product pages, email marketing, and purchase confirmation (either on email or in the print that accompanies the product), include your social media channels enticing them to follow you. You can even use examples of your social activity with images to showcase your activity.
Create opportunities to highlight user-generated content, and share insights by embedding real customers’ comments on your product/landing pages. You could even consider asking for contributions by asking people to share (e.g. on social media) what they like most about your product (in return for a competition entry).
5. Treat customers like VIPs
It’s a well-known fact that customers are won and lost by the way companies treat them.
But to go the extra mile and encourage long-term loyalty, there’s no harm in offering them a bit of VIP treatment.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean spamming your customers with promotional emails (and watch out for the rules around email unsubscribing), and we’ve already discussed the importance of providing helpful content over promotional content.
However, the occasional VIP promotion now and again can work towards building up a long-term relationship with your customer.
Indeed, VIP treatment doesn’t necessarily mean promotions either. You can invite your loyal customers to exclusive events (either on or offline) or share exciting news with them first.
Loyalty schemes are essentially a way of giving your customers the VIP treatment. Whether it’s a Tesco Clubcard or a local cafe offering a free coffee for every 10th beverage you purchase, these schemes are designed to offer benefits in exchange for your loyalty.
Use your email marketing software to generate a list specifically for your VIPs. It’s down to you how you determine what a VIP is. It could be anyone who’s made any purchase, or they may need to have made a handful of purchases, or spent a certain amount of money, to make the list.
To do this in Mailchimp, you first need to look at the pre-built segments, or custom build your own segment. You can then rename your segment “VIP” and then determine the appropriate automations/workflows to ensure the VIP mails are triggered to send to the right segment.
6. Personalise your content
It’s proven that personalised content translates into brand satisfaction and, therefore, to loyalty.
Epsilon states that consumers are 10x more likely to be a brand’s most valuable customer (make more than 15 transactions per year) if they believe their personalised experiences are “very appealing”.
And what’s more, customers are shown to be happy to share their data in exchange for a more personalised service.
On the flip side, not personalising your email content can do a great deal of harm. According to the Adobe 2017 survey, 14% of respondents cited a lack of personalisation by location or season as the most frustrating way in which brands can lack the personal touch.
Personalised content can take many forms. Most brands are already confident at personalising emails, but not many smaller brands are offering recommendations based on purchasing histories in the way the giants like Amazon are.
Geo-targeting can help local businesses to provide the most relevant content to the right people, and at the right time.
Start with your email marketing and set up your personalised content, from salutations, to subject lines. You can then begin to invest in more advanced personalisation and recommendation software.
It’s standard practice to use content to generate leads and guide consumers through the buyer journey. But for some reason, marketers tend to lose interest in their customers as soon as a sale is achieved.
But this is the stage where customers are most likely to engage in your brand, but also, and most significantly, it’s the part of the buyer journey that delivers the highest return on investment.
Post-sales content should be focused on developing an on-going relationship and elicit a two-way loyalty. It’s the point at which you promise to produce helpful, personalised and readily available content as well as a sense of community. In return, you hope to receive repeat purchases and loyalty from your customer.
These six tactics, and there are many others, will help get your SME started on the road to providing the valuable content that customers need after they’ve made a transaction.