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How to Use Content Marketing to Cross Sell Your Current Customers

What is it up to now? Ten times more expensive to generate a new customer than to keep an existing one?  50 times? 100 times?

Regardless of the number, we are all well aware that the most important asset to any business is its existing customer base.  Of course, just retaining those customers is only a portion of the value they can provide to the bottom line.

Existing customers have already made a purchase.  This makes them very likely to buy new offerings or existing offerings that they were not aware of.  This is also known as cross selling.

The horizontal sales letter

The concept of the horizontal sales letter is a simple one.

First, let’s discuss the traditional sales letter, the vertical sales letter.  This is one long sales pitch that describes all of the offerings and the benefits of those offerings.  It’s a tough pill to swallow for most of us in an age when a 90-second YouTube video is considered long-winded.  The vertical sales letter is generally a series of pitches with strong calls to action studded with customer testimonials.

Conversely, there is the horizontal sales letter.  The business tells its story in short bursts over time. That story is told through whichever communication channels the customer is most comfortable.  Email, social networking sites and webinar series are just a few of the low-cost ways to drip out your story.

Each piece of content that is developed by your business should have a goal.  To effectively cross sell your current customer base, that content should not only be valuable to them, but it should also be relevant to your existing and upcoming offerings.

As your business takes on new partnerships, launches in new directions or develops new solutions to customer problems, your content can be the vehicle by which you educate your existing customer base about your new offerings.

A graphic story

PNI Creative has been in business since 1989 and has a large group of existing customers.

Ninety percent of their customers are in the real estate business as PNI’s original line of services was confined to creating, laying out and printing the graphics for real estate signage.

In 2001 PNI, saw the handwriting on the wall.  The Internet was becoming a powerful advertising medium and some of their customers were beginning to ask for a solution.  PNI hired two full time web developers and began building websites for real estate agencies.  By 2005, website graphics and design made up 40% of their revenues.

Ironically, most of their customer base was not aware that PNI Creative could do websites.  Most people still considered them a “sign company.”

So what did PNI do?

  • They set out to educate their existing customers using an email newsletter system that was already in place but being infrequently used by the company.
  • They began building content that addressed the needs of real estate agents that were interested in marketing via the web.
  • They wrote articles for their blog, and existing customers were notified of the new content via the email newsletter on a weekly basis.

PNI Creative generated articles like:

11 Real Estate Website Success Stories


Best Practices for Using Real Estate Signage to Drive More Website Traffic

This consistently-delivered, valuable content was much appreciated by their existing customer base.  As PNI Creative continued to drip their message about websites, they were able to slowly reposition their brand in the eyes of their customers and increase revenues for their website design division.

Gaining permission to have a discussion

In the example above I quickly glossed over the fact that PNI Creative had been gathering permission from their existing customers to email them.  It is difficult to overstate the importance of gaining the asset of permission for this type of marketing to work.

Your existing customers are communicating in low-cost channels such as email, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.  It is critical that your business connect with these customers in these spaces.  To tell your story, you will need the attention of your customer base.  You will only gain that attention if you have first gained the permission to have a discussion with your customer in these channels.

Creating consistent, valuable and relevant content for your market is the best way to gain attention and permission to tell the story about your new and existing offerings.

What are your thoughts?  How do you use content to make existing customers aware of your new and current products and services?