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Content marketing is the creation of useful, valuable content designed to draw in website traffic and generate leads naturally — it’s generally not associated with many customer retention strategies…
But it should be.
Content marketing, of course, is opposed to your average piece of advertising, which is designed to interrupt the content that a consumer is consuming with your brand’s message.
Content marketing is overwhelmingly preferred by both marketers and consumers. Here’s one of my favorite statistics speaking to this point, from the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing rakes in conversion rates 6 times higher than other methods” (Source).
Six times higher is proof that consumers respond to content marketing, a delicious statistic for any marketer looking to improve their marketing efforts.
Modern Customer Retention Strategies Utilize the Principles of Content Marketing
However, content marketing isn’t much good if you’re solely focused on generating leads… and then losing your customers once they’ve made a purchase.
What good is generating traffic, leads, and sales if that traffic never converts, if those leads never purchase, if those sales are one-offs?
Content marketing rakes in conversion rates 6 times higher than other methods
Content marketing principles can, and should, be used as part of most modern customer retention strategies.
The same content marketing practices that are used to draw in leads and generate sales — namely, the practice of creating useful, valuable content for your customers that answers a question or solves a problem — can be used by the savvy customer retention expert to increase retention rates and decrease churn.
Here’s how you can implement these practices in 2018.
1. Start With the Basics — Documentation
The most obvious type of content that solves a problem or answers a question is documentation, but perhaps unsurprisingly, businesses struggle to create effective documentation that really solves their customers’ problems.
Documentation includes FAQs, help, troubleshooting guides, chatbots, and the like (in addition to the traditional manual) — these pieces of content ensure your customers stick around once they’ve made a purchase and don’t quit your product/service out of frustration or the inability to get started.
The more you invest in this form of content, following the practices of answering questions, solving problems, and generally being helpful, the less you’re going to have to invest in customer service, and the happier your customers are going to be.
Microsoft is an expert at documentation — they have one of the best style guides around — and one of the genius moves they’ve made with their documentation is to break it down by customer type, as you can see in these screenshots:
Breaking their documentation down this way does two things:
- Ensures the right content is more likely to be found by the customers who need it most
- Reduces the likelihood that a customer gets frustrated enough to call customer service
Documentation is only the beginning, but it’s a crucial foundation for all serious customer retention strategies — once documentation is solidly in place, we can start getting clever.
2. Time to Get Clever — A Separate Blog for Customers
Blog posts are generally pieces of content that introduce a customer to your brand, generate traffic, and move potential leads to a higher-level piece of content (ebooks, whitepapers, etc.) through CTAs, pop-ups, and other methods.
However, that kind of introductory content isn’t always appropriate for an existing customer, so try creating a separate blog just for your existing customers. We know that customers love customized content — consider this statistic:
“80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content” (Source).
Customized content is one way you can show your customers that they matter to you — at the same time, you can more effectively push higher-barrier-to-entry products/services/deals.
Since this content caters exclusively to existing customers, you can ask for more with your CTAs as you’ll know your audience has already demonstrated buy-in through previous purchases.
It also gives your existing customers a feeling of exclusivity, showing them, through your actions, that they mean more to you than the average lead who has yet to make a purchase.
Pulp Literature does something exactly along these lines, providing a dedicated secret Facebook group called the “Pulp Literati” where members are given exclusive content that doesn’t appear on their regular blog. The group then becomes a platform where exclusive deals and rewards are offered to members.
3. Make It Personal — Customized Email Segmentation
Marketers today are getting increasingly sophisticated with email content.
When someone becomes a customer, it’s common practice to make precisely zero changes to that customer’s email subscription — in fact, it’s often the case that customers continue to receive the exact same email content that everyone else on the list is getting, which shows customers that they aren’t any different from someone who just landed on your website and signed up for the email list.
What you can do today is to not only set up product/service-specific email introduction/education drips (a form of documentation, as listed above), but to also put customers into increasingly complex, overlapping email drips/segments that target existing customers on a variety of parameters.
Customized email lists are time consuming, but they’re powerfully retentive
That might mean the 40-year-old mother of 3 in Wisconsin with a passion for Crossfit who purchased an entry-level product is getting educational material on said product in addition to (from a separate email list) deals and offers that align with both her passions and the small amount of money she’s invested in her initial purchase (avoiding the push of products/services that are outside her demonstrated investment range)…
While the 21-year-old single college athlete who’s making purchases largely through funding from his parents back home and who made a big purchase of speciality items is getting put in several very different drips that cater more to his needs, including not simply deals and offers, but educational/instructive content, maybe some industry news, and a dash of deep-dive explorations into topics only an athlete in his sport would appreciate.
Time consuming, but powerfully retentive.
For instance, Ticketfly does an excellent job of segmenting customers based on preferred venues, past purchases, genre preferences, and location, providing their customers with targeted offers more likely to appeal to their audience.
I can only imagine what their conversion rate is on these things — I purchase tickets regularly based on the emails they send me — and I didn’t start getting these until after I had made a purchase through them and agreed to sign up for their marketing. As an existing customer, I find the process valuable, and it keeps Ticketfly top-of-mind for ticket purchases, which is critical in their industry, where one reseller is about the same as all the others in terms of price.
4. Bring the Value — Customized Webinars
Starting to notice a theme here? Customization is the key to retention through content.
Any fool can produce broad-ranging content that speaks to everyone and no one at once, but creating custom pieces of content that are designed to educate/empower your existing customers based on their needs, their customer journey, their activities/interests/opinions, their demographic information, and a variety of other factors, is the key to showing your customers that you care, that you want them to succeed, and that they mean something to you.
The clever part comes in the customization
Webinars are another powerful way to do this.
Consider investing in ultra-specific webinars that speak to a specific type of customer. Many of these are product/service-based and help said customer become more proficient with the item they’ve purchased, but others are focused on an industry or a base of knowledge and are designed to deepen and broaden a customer’s understanding of said industry/knowledge base.
The clever part comes in the customization — creating a webinar so narrowly focused that only a small segment of the customer base will be interested. That same narrow focus will ensure those customers find the webinar highly valuable.
Rather than focusing on getting a ton of people into the webinar, focus on a customized, personal experience for a small group of customers — you might even consider hand-picking the customers you want to target, reaching out personally to invite them.
The goal, of course, is to increase the bond between brand and customer, but these are great ways to introduce exclusive deals/offerings to customers who may be an excellent fit for them while also offering them something of inherent value from the start.
Rather than focusing on getting a ton of people into the webinar, focus on a customized, personal experience for a small group of customers
Copyhackers does an excellent job of this. Here is an example of how they offer niche webinars that appeal to a very narrow audience (copywriters) and then more targeted webinars based on what I’ve signed up for previously (keeping the webinars niche):
Not only do they keep me in the funnel, but they consistently offer me valuable webinars that appeal to me, both free and paid. Do the same for your customers, and they’ll love you for the free ones and be more likely to sign up for paid offerings (webinar or otherwise).
5. Enhance and Distribute — Enhanced-Value Ebooks and Whitepapers
Lead magnets are one of the most powerful tools in the content marketer’s toolbox, but ebooks and whitepapers can be powerful retention tools as well.
Most lead magnets that are given away for free are skimpy at best (5 pages is not an ebook — that’s an e-short-story).
Consider creating enhanced versions of popular lead magnets that have additional content, and give those away freely to your best customers from time to time. Show them, with these free gifts, that they matter to you.
At the same time, the mere existence of these enhanced versions show your leads who get the free options that there is a potential for more value down the road with paid versions, with the implication that your products/services hold additional value as well.
For instance, on our website, we offer free and paid versions of several of our templates. The free versions introduce customers to the content and brand — they’re traditional pieces of content marketing.
But the paid versions are excellent tools for us — we often gift them to existing customers, allowing us to strengthen that relationship or to sweeten a deal.
An example of this is our marketing course. We include several of our paid templates (and a paid ebook) in the price of the marketing course, proving to our customers that we don’t mind being generous and showing them they matter to us.
6. Don’t Forget Audio — Customer-Focused Podcasts
Just as the unique email drips and blog posts above are created specifically for customers, a customer-focused or customer-exclusive podcast is a source of content that certain customer types adore and will hungrily eat up — along with any offers you sneak in.
Though podcasting has been around for years, it fell out of favor for a while. It seems to be making a resurgence, but most marketers out there are only using it to generate interest or traffic — they keep it at the top of the funnel instead of in the bottom.
This is something that very few folks are doing, something that has a lot of potential to give the savvy marketer a great deal of success.
Spend some time really thinking about how you can provide high-value information through a podcast to your existing customers, and then market that to your customers as an exclusive bonus only available to them.
Podcasting has a powerful ability to generate and maintain loyalty, so take advantage of this tactic before the rest of the world becomes wise to the content gap.
7. Create a Home — Customer-Exclusive Resource Centers
Resource centers are one of the hallmarks of modern content marketing, but nothing screams exclusive quite like a dedicated resource center just for your customers.
By creating a home for content that non-customers are completely barred from accessing, you show your customers that you’re dedicated not to the sale, but to their success.
Intuit does this exceedingly well. They have an exclusive Customer Resource Center for their flagship product QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise, which you can see here:
Not only does this resource center, by its very existence, show customers that Intuit wants them to learn the product and grow in their understanding of its power (an implicit message that Intuit is there to help), but it also helps Intuit fight churn and ensure that new customers don’t disappear because of learning curve issues.
Do Your Customer Retention Strategies Involve Customized Content? They Should
Custom content that goes above and beyond your existing, entry-and-mid-level content designed to generate traffic and leads, content that targets your existing customers, that shows them you value their business more than a potential customer, that’s the content you need to create.
Clever marketers understand the value of keeping customers around instead of pouring effort into generating new business — content underpins this in a powerful way.
There are many ways of delivering that content — the savvy marketer will choose the best option for their audience(s).
Not sure where to start? The biggest gap in most marketing strategies is the strategy itself — it just doesn’t exist.
Our popular ebook, Analyze Your Marketing, walks you through the process of creating a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Take a look.
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