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Customer Marketing Programs

November 22, 2023

Without dedicated customers, growing a B2B business can be difficult—to put it mildly. Once a customer becomes loyal, though, the benefits are plentiful and wide-ranging. Loyal customers, or customer advocates, not only provide ongoing revenue opportunities over the course of their relationship with a brand, they also spend more (and influence others with their positive reviews and referrals). 

All too often, marketing departments focus an outsized proportion of their energy and resources on initiatives like increasing brand awareness to draw new customers into their orbit. What happens from there, though? How can companies develop an understanding of what, specifically, brings customers to the brand? And, just as important, what is going to keep them coming back? Finally, what’s going to make them have—and share—positive experiences?

What’s ultimately needed is a customer marketing strategy. As one of the key B2B marketing trends for 2023 and beyond, customer marketing represents a great opportunity for companies to show customers that they’re valued and understood by providing an exceptional customer experience and developing a meaningful relationship. This helps to drive authentic brand advocacy, and, ultimately, increases revenue and leads to business growth.

What is customer marketing, how does it work, and how do you develop an effective customer marketing program? Keep reading for these answers, insights, and some recommended best practices.

What Is Customer Marketing?

Customer marketing is a type of B2C or B2B marketing strategy that primarily focuses on understanding and meeting the needs of existing customers (rather than focusing only on prospects or transactional activities). It involves segmenting customer profiles, personalizing communication, and fostering mutually beneficial relationships to better support the business and serve the customer—as its foundational techniques. 

An excellent example of customer marketing is reviews and referrals. According to research published by Harvard Business Review, “84% of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral,” and “peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions.” This essentially puts an exclamation mark next to the importance of generating high-quality customer reviews and referrals. By implementing a customer marketing management platform like Orca, companies can streamline their workflows and processes for identifying the best referral candidates. It’s important to note that customer marketing goes far beyond mere referrals and reviews; we’ll talk more about this in a moment.

Similarly, it’s vital to remember that customer marketing isn’t the entirety of an organization’s overall marketing strategy. After all, every loyal customer begins as a brand new customer, discovering your brand and making their initial purchase. Whatever strategies are bringing customers in should remain in place, but they should be supplemented with customer marketing strategies as well. That way, companies can form a diverse, healthy customer base that includes new as well as existing customers.

What Is the Role of Customer Marketing within an Organization’s Larger Marketing Strategy?

While traditional marketing aims to cast a wide net and engage a wide range of prospects, customer marketing focuses more specifically on keeping those customers involved as their relationship with the brand develops over time. And where traditional marketing is meant to build initial value in a company’s offerings, customer marketing is meant to build ongoing value in product and service offerings—as well as customer service and related facets of relationship building.

Forrester research has found that one of the most important components of any marketing strategy—but especially customer marketing—is appealing to customers’ emotions. This is just as important for B2B businesses as their B2C counterparts. In their report, researchers identify one vital objective—ensuring that customers feel “valued, appreciated, and respected.” In other words, customers expect a personalized relationship with the company, not just to be another source of revenue. 

This, of course, won’t come as a surprise to experienced marketers, as research indicates that “77% of B2B sales and marketing professionals believe that personalization builds better customer relationships.” Less than half (42%) of B2B companies, however, are confident in their current approach to personalization in their marketing. This presents an exceptional opportunity for brands who embrace customer-first marketing strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition.

What Are Examples of B2B Customer Marketing Strategies?

There are several different B2B customer marketing strategies that can help B2B organizations to demonstrate their commitment to putting customers’ needs first. This goes a long way in showing that the company values, appreciates, and respects its customers. A few of the most common customer marketing examples include:

  • Case Studies: When prospective customers ask to see proof that an organization’s solutions deliver value and would be an excellent fit for them, a case study is often considered (by customers) to be more credible than website content or marketing campaigns—especially if it has compelling data making its case. Well-written case studies typically follow a consistent and repeatable structure that begins with the customer context or problem, describes how solutions were generated, and explains the impact and outcomes of those solutions.
  • Events: Many organizations find it challenging to forge authentic customer connections through purely digital interactions like social media engagement or content marketing. Well-designed customer events help companies to show customers that they—and their opinions—are highly valued. There are several different types of customer events that can help drive loyalty, including focus groups, networking events, conferences, and webinars. Through these and related event types, companies can demonstrate that they value, understand, and want to improve customer experiences through high quality and helpful topics, presenters and structure. 
  • Influencer Marketing: This strategy involves connecting with influential social media accounts and paying them to endorse your company or its products. While this strategy is often used as a way to attract and engage new customers, it can also be used for customer marketing programs geared more toward loyalty. For example, if an influencer or thought leader can generate buzz about a B2B provider’s exceptional customer care and advocacy, it can inspire other B2B customers to recognize that same value when it’s time for them to renew.
  • Newsletters: While the idea of a customer newsletter isn’t exactly novel, it can still present a great opportunity for customer communication and engagement. Rather than only presenting company updates during formal touch points such as B2B contract renewals, producing a newsletter on a regular basis helps to keep an organization front-of-mind and show that customer satisfaction is an ongoing priority for the business. It enables companies to generate excitement around industry-related topics and thought leadership, customer success stories, product or service upgrades, and so on. 
  • Referral Programs: When existing customers recommend your products or services to potential new customers, it can result in excellent, highly-qualified leads. Research shows that over three-fourths of B2B marketers say a customer referral “generates leads of good or excellent quality.” The same research also concludes that customer referrals are associated with a higher volume of leads and a lower cost per lead. These results are compelling, but perhaps the greatest value of customer referrals is that prospects are more likely to trust recommendations that come from other customers rather than through conventional marketing materials. According to Gartner research, as much as 90% of customers “trust product recommendations from other people over brands vouching for themselves.”
  • Reviews: For better or worse, reading customer reviews is one of the most important ways a prospective or existing customer can evaluate how well a particular organization’s offerings can meet their needs. Many customers see fellow customers’ reviews as being more trustworthy and genuine than traditional marketing materials. One study actually found that 99.9% of customers read reviews prior to a purchasing decision, underscoring the importance of soliciting reviews from especially happy customers. Some companies hesitate to include customer reviews on their website out of a fear of negative reviews. A customer marketing best practice, however, is not to shy away from negative reviews, though. It’s important to use them as an opportunity to showcase your brand’s commitment to understanding and addressing customer concerns by how you respond to them (and make things right). 
  • Social Media: When done well, social media engagement can be a powerful component of a larger customer marketing strategy. This means meeting customers on whichever platforms they’re active on and showcasing your brand’s ability to engage meaningfully with its customers. Through their social media presence, customers can see how your brand treats its customers. If you can regularly engage with customers—whether they’re happy, upset, or even ambivalent—and demonstrate a desire to understand and improve their experiences, it can go a long way toward establishing your brand as a genuine, customer-first organization.

Orca provides customer marketing teams with innovative tools designed to enhance a brands efforts and provide additional benefits like:

  • Fatigue Management: Automate the tracking of customer advocate requests and related processes, helping to identify new referral candidates and avoid reusing the same customer too often.
  • Better Workflows: Spend less time reviewing and fulfilling advocate requests and more time nurturing meaningful and productive relationships. Workflows allow account teams and customer success managers to have control how who engages with their customer and when.
  • Streamlined Nominations: Use tags to identify activities, products, and frequency usage limits to save time across the nomination process.

In Customer Marketing, What Defines Success?

Generally speaking, successful customer marketing programs are those that allow a company to…

  • Develop and demonstrate an understanding of their customers’ needs, expectations, and preferences.
  • Actively engage with customers across multiple channels or platforms in order to cultivate deeper, more productive relationships.
  • Solicit, organize, and act on customer feedback from a variety of sources.
  • Provide personalized customer service to forge more authentic and lasting connections.
  • Enhance the company’s ability to identify customers who aren’t just happy with their service, but show potential for becoming enthusiastic brand advocates who will speak positively about the organization and its products/services.
  • Identify brand advocates and encourage them to provide referrals for the business.
  • Activate and energize existing customers with loyalty programs to drive further adoption as well as cross- or up-selling opportunities.

How Do You Create a Customer Marketing Plan?

While customer marketing programs technically begin at the onset of a new customer relationship, much of the proverbial “heavy lifting” occurs once a customer has completed their onboarding and had the opportunity to sink their teeth into the product or service. From there, it’s important for companies to be forward-thinking as they design their customer marketing framework to be ready to engage with satisfied customers, drive professional opportunities their way, and then encourage them to engage with the business through some of the strategies listed above. 

Here’s a B2B marketing strategy framework to help create your Customer Marketing plan:

  1. Determine one or more ideal customer profiles. What types of companies are your products and services best suited to? What are their pain points, and how do your products/services address those needs? The better a company is able to identify these profiles, the better-positioned they’ll be to craft exceptional customer marketing strategies and drive positive outcomes.
  2. Develop brand awareness. Every customer relationship starts with brand awareness, making it an essential consideration for customer marketing program design. When brainstorming ways to increase brand awareness, think about what makes your brand unique and why would your customer want to align with your brand then develop strategies accordingly. 
  3. Engage prospects. In a way, engaging prospects is like a “next step” of developing brand awareness. In other words, initial brand awareness is just a starting point; once customers are aware of your brand, the name of the game is differentiation. What makes your brand or customer marketing program different from others, and how do customers benefit? How is your approach to understanding and addressing customer pain points unique?
  4. Make the purchasing process clear and easy to navigate. Depending on the technical complexity of your offerings, this step might entail something as simple as user-friendly documentation, or it may require more of a walkthrough-type service. Similarly, the processes of implementing or configuring the solution should also be clearly outlined with accessible support available for customers who need it.
  5. Design exceptional onboarding procedures. Nobody likes the experience of being convinced to buy something only to then feel like they’re on their own to figure out how to actually make the most of their purchase. Providing clear documentation through helpful articles or recorded walkthroughs can go a long way toward helping customers to see how easy it can be to hit the ground running with your products or services. 
  6. Provide the type of customer experience that will drive retention and renewals. Once customers are onboarded, it’s still important to demonstrate that they are valued, appreciated, and respected. Check in with them on a regular basis to learn about what’s working well and/or what they need help with. Especially in a B2B context, it’s vital that companies provide their customers with a consistently high level of communication and support throughout their relationship with the brand. That way, when renewal time comes around, much of the “selling” is already accomplished.
  7. Share successful customer stories. As described earlier, customer testimonials provide a unique way for companies to showcase not only their products and services, but their level of customer commitment, care, and service as well. Ideally, customer testimonials will highlight specific pain points and how your products/services were instrumental in achieving positive outcomes. When customer stories are provided by real customers and supported with authentic data, it helps to show—instead of tell—what kind of company you are (one that values its customers).
  8. Develop brand advocates. By following the first 7 steps of this framework, companies provide an end-to-end customer experience that aligns well with their real wants, needs, and concerns. When B2B customers become brand advocates, it provides an invaluable boost to an organization’s marketing efforts. These customers will be more likely to spread positive word-of-mouth about your business, which generates additional brand awareness (and brings us back to the first couple steps of this framework, where the process can continue).

When developing customer advocacy or loyalty programs, Orca can streamline workflows and automate processes so once manual and administrative tasks can be performed more efficiently and effectively, saving a great deal of time, energy, and resources. 

Is Customer Marketing More Difficult than Other Forms of Marketing? It Doesn’t Have to Be!

While customer marketing isn’t without its challenges, it really isn’t any more difficult than other, conventional marketing methods—especially with the right tools and company support! 

Among the challenges of customer marketing are:

  • Identifying, understanding, and segmenting customers effectively.
  • Identifying customers who are primed to become brand advocates, and discovering the factors that influence their perspectives.
  • Figuring out the right actions to take at the right time to develop productive, customer-first relationships.
  • Avoiding the pitfall of targeting the same customers repeatedly for reviews, testimonials, or other engagement; which can lead to customer fatigue.
  • Getting executive buy-in and overall company support.

Orca was designed to address each of these challenges and more, by offering a native Salesforce application for efficient, effective customer marketing and reference management. Realizing the power of customer advocacy, Orca makes it easier for companies to understand customer engagement and sentiment, automate repetitive workflows within the process of generating customer advocacy, and track which customers are actively participating (so that they aren’t over-burdened with too many requests). That way, they can develop timely and innovative B2B marketing strategies that are likely to deliver positive and sustainable results. 

Customer Marketing: It’s Just Better with Orca

Visit our features page to learn more about how Orca empowers companies to build better customer relationships and develop innovative brand advocacy programs. Orca’s platform provides an end-to-end solution with a wide range of powerful features related to activities like…

  • Identifying the best candidates for advocacy.
  • Scheduling reference calls.
  • Preventing advocate overuse or fatigue.
  • Automating the process of collecting feedback after reference calls.
  • Rewarding loyal customers and advocates.
  • Streamlining advocacy workflows (without requiring code).
  • Evaluating the ROI of advocacy campaigns.

Ready to see Orca in action? Just click the blue button on our homepage to book a demo

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