Customer Acquisition and Customer Retention Require Both
Back in the 1970s, my father ran a cutting-edge direct mail company. Creative Mailing Consultants of America (CMCA) relied upon a massive computer that not only generated address labels at an unprecedented pace, but also “personalized” the direct mail pieces. Instead of “Dear Sir or Madam”, the pieces actually had the first name of the recipient in the salutation.
Marketing, sales and customer retention have come a long way since then. This kind of personalization has actually become ubiquitous, and at times can feel almost impersonal. A personalized salutation is not enough to prove a business actually knows its potential buyer or existing customer. As buyers and users, we now expect that anyone trying to sell to us or retain us as a customer ought to know us and our business well. While we don’t want them to know too much of our personal information, we do want them to know enough about our business to understand our needs and how they might fit with their solution.
A time and place for both
Personalization is a baseline expectation in email marketing. Mass emailing without any knowledge of your audience is not only old-school, but ineffective. Personalization is one piece of the marketing pie, along with accurate segmentation and targeting. Together with an artful persuasion, these strategies are essential to capturing quality leads.
That said, knowing the name, title and industry of a recipient is not going to close a deal or retain a customer. In a recurring revenue economy, where customers have lots of quality choices and switching costs are relatively low, customers (both future and existing) rightfully expect to be known on a deeper level. This is where getting personal becomes essential.
Loyalty depends upon getting (a little bit) personal
Even in the B2B world, relationships are personal. Getting personal involves effective communication and connection between two people. People buy and keep buying, in large part, because of relationships and experiences. These two things cannot happen without knowledge about a person’s business, their role(s), and use cases. This is the kind of personal information that is necessary to close deals and cultivate loyalty.
Account Based Marketing (ABM), Account Management, and Customer Success Management all depend upon knowing your customers and building personal relationships. Think about your ideal customers and what makes them so great. No doubt those customers with high lifetime values also have strong relationships with individuals within your organization. The same is true for your ideal prospect. You anticipate that they will have a high lifetime value and you are willing to invest in getting to know them well.
Marketing, Sales and Customer Success Must Collaborate
The key to making personal relationships work is for marketing, sales and customer success to work together to know and understand their customers more deeply at progressive stages of the relationship.
- At the front line, marketing utilizes targeting and personalization to garner leads.
- Sales then moves from personalization to personal in order to close the deal. This doesn’t mean simply qualifying them by unlocking their BANT, (Budget, Authority, Need and Timing), but conducting genuine discoveries that lead to a deeper understanding of their business and goals. Only this kind of “personal” knowledge can clear the path toward determining fit and closing deals.
- Those responsible for customer retention (and growth) must have the same clear insight into the customer that the sales team learned during the sales cycle. This includes:
- The most important use cases
- Issues and concerns the customer hopes to address with the purchase
- Internal dynamics (leadership, sponsorship, responsible buyer, end user, etc.) that sheds light on potential risks or gaps within the organization
Note: One obstacle to incorporating what’s been learned about a customer during the sales cycle into account management (Customer Success) is failed handoffs.
Keys to being personal
While both approaches to customer relationship-building are important, it’s far easier to personalize messaging than it is to get personal with a prospect or a customer. It’s also harder to scale personal touch. Here are a few suggestions for moving toward a more personal approach to customer acquisition and retention:
- Remember that behind every account are real people with real emotions and needs. Any time there’s an opportunity or need to be in direct contact with an account, seek to communicate with them as you’d want to be communicated with if you were in their situation. What makes a single user happy often makes an organization happy. You never know who your key user might be.
- Don’t make your customers (or prospects) have to retell their story to each person. Maintain comprehensive and transparent account information that is accessible to all so that your organization, as a whole, knows them. This makes interactions seamless and allows relationships to always be moving forward.
- Recognize the uniqueness, as well as the ordinary, of each account. Always be seeking to gather and understand your customer’s real use cases and desired outcomes. At the same time, try to assimilate similarities among your customers so that you can learn from each and develop better, more comprehensive approaches to closure, adoption, retention and growth strategies.
Getting to know prospects and customers is not an easy task, and even more difficult to do at scale. That said, in today’s subscription economy, where buyers can be fickle, it’s worth moving toward a more personal approach to garnering and nurturing customers. The payoff is in their increased loyalty, advocacy, and overall lifetime value.