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Use Loyalty Content To Sustain Your Hard-Won Customer Relationships

You might not consider customer retention the primary goal in your content marketing strategy. After all, you can’t retain customers if you haven’t acquired them, and no business can reach future revenue targets with nothing but last year’s receipts.

But you may want to think again. As CMI founder Joe Pulizzi says, it makes sense to make your current customers’ informational needs and pain points your top content marketing priority: “Only after you perfect the loyalty experience and turn customers into evangelists should you look at other parts of the buyer’s journey.”

And it seems the most successful content marketing organizations agree: According to CMI’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2022, 78% of top-performing content marketers use content to build loyalty among existing customers, with 64% focusing on nurturing leads and subscribers, and 57% on generating sales/revenue.

78% of the most successful content marketers use #content to build loyalty among existing customers, according to @CMIContent 2022 #research via @joderama. #CustomerLoyalty Share on X

Of course, the same content approaches to win new business won’t necessarily help keep customer connections warm after their post-purchase excitement has cooled. But it’s worth going the extra mile to sustain their interest – and empower them to exert their influence. Here are a few reasons why:

What you – and your customers – stand to gain

  • Financial incentives: For starters, there’s the revenue perspective. It can cost as much as five times the marketing spend to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Furthermore, according to Harvard Business School, an increase in customer retention by just 5% can lead to a 25% to 95% increase in profits.
  • Upgrading and upselling opportunities: If your customers are happy with what you delivered the first time, it becomes easier to approach them with add-ons that can scale their success, upgrades that expand their capabilities, or additional offerings that serve their other needs.
  • Trust you can trade on: Trust in brands is a hard-won commodity these days; but once customers trust you, they may be more willing to influence the decisions of other prospective purchasers. On the other hand, if you fail to reinforce their trust, you may put your retention rates in jeopardy – especially for younger audiences: According to a recent TCN consumer survey (gated), 65% of consumers ages 18 to 24 and 61% of 25-year-olds to 40-year-olds are likely to abandon a brand after a poor customer experience.

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  • Valuable information: If you earn a customer’s trust, they’ll give you the keys to unlocking their heart – and the hearts of others like them. And in many cases, those keys come in the form of personal data.

If you’re relying on anonymized insights, behavioral analytics, and composite customer profiles to inform your content initiatives, you’re missing a critical part of the picture: who your audience members are as individuals.

In contrast, your satisfied customers aren’t aggregated analogs – they’re real, live people whose personal opinions, creative ideas, and use cases can deepen your understanding of what content prospects really want to see. Their unique perspectives can help inform and improve your efforts to attract others like them.

But the bar for loyalty is getting higher

It has become all too common for brands to approach retention and loyalty simply by lavishing reward points on anybody identifying as a customer or loading an app on their phone. And when the appeal of earning exclusive deals and deep discounts doesn’t do the trick, brands often fall back on scare tactics to fuel their fear of change, failure, and risky decision-making.

However, today’s consumers – particularly digital natives and other mobile-first social media shoppers – may be more concerned with fear of missing out on a hot trend than fear of messing up a good thing. And with online reviews, social referrals, and comparison shopping tools readily available to influence every purchase decision, marketers are facing an uncomfortable new reality: Even our most loyal customers may ditch us, their bestie brand friend, whenever something new and more appealing pops up in their social news feeds or their searches on Amazon.

Customers are becoming more selective about the companies they choose to do business with. When a fan perceives their favorite brand uses deceptive tactics, allows harmful practices to go unchecked, or promotes cringe-inducing falsehoods, they may give you a one-way ticket to Canceltown instead of an extended, rent-free stay on their “likes” list (a blow that can take more than a few overpriced pillows to cushion).

When a fan perceives their favorite brand uses deceptive tactics, customers may opt to give your brand a one-way ticket to Canceltown, instead of a rent-free stay on their “likes” list, says @joderama via @CMIContent. Share on X

Make it the beginning of a beautiful friendship

How do you keep your customers loyal? Your competitors can be everywhere at once. Customers increasingly choose current price, proximity, and convenience over prior purchase satisfaction. A single brand misstep can quickly erode the favorable reputation it took years to build.

Did you guess content? (Ding, ding, ding, you’re right!) But as I mentioned, the rules for retaining customers differ from those to acquiring them. These tactics and tips can help evolve the relationship from a one-time fling into an enduring partnership.

Don’t go out of sight, out of mind

Taking an extended absence from their inboxes won’t make their hearts grow fonder. To stay top of mind, use content to show your business wants to do more than just sell to them. For example, you might consider an exclusive collection of content for customers, such as:

  • Personalized thank-you videos or getting-started demos
  • Email campaigns that regularly deliver feature updates and inspiring examples
  • Live and virtual events that give them opportunities to connect, ask questions, and share their ideas and experiences with other customers
Use #content to show your customers your brand wants to do more than just sell to them, advises @joderama via @CMIContent. #CustomerLoyalty Share on X

SaaS companies often master this technique. For example, here’s a welcome video from Airtable that demonstrates multiple use cases for the tool. As it goes along, the video offers more detailed tips, rewarding those who stick around to watch.

Listen to and support their struggles

Your product may be the answer to customers’ prayers, but it may not give them everything right out of the box. Not only should you monitor feedback channels and customer service call logs to search for distress signals, but you should also proactively prepare content that anticipates – and offers solutions to – common pain points they may experience, such as onboarding guides, process tutorials, and FAQ lists.

It’s also a great time to extend the value of their purchase by sharing the positive experiences other customers have with your brand. A detailed user product review, customer testimonial, or fan-submitted video demonstrating a helpful tip or new use case can prompt customers to discover more effective approaches and experiment with new features that give them more bang for their bucks.

For example, publication design-centric software company Turtl has a customer-only monthly newsletter, The Egg. It is filled with exclusive tips and checklists, interviews with expert-level users, and thoughtful discussions on relevant topics of interest. There’s also a hall-of-fame page, where it highlights ideas, examples, and stories of success that users share on Twitter with the hashtag #WFT.

Treat them like VIPs

Consumers all want to feel seen and respected by those they admire – including the brands they do business with. Make yours feel special by recognizing their personal contributions and accomplishments, as well as for their status as one of your valued customers.

Consumers all want to feel seen and respected by those they admire – including the brands they do business with, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CustomerLoyalty Share on X

Personalized content speaks to that desire for acknowledgment and recognition directly. Segmenting your newsletters by customer type or area of interest, customizing how visitors navigate and find relevant information on your website, or even simply tagging them in your social posts signal to customers that you value their time, interest, and contributions to your business.

Tagging your customers in social posts signals to customers that you value their time, interest, and contributions to your business, says @joderama via @CMIContent. #CustomerLoyalty Share on X

Another way is to let them self-disclose the kinds of content they like and send them more of that. It’s a skill that shopping sites like Amazon and streaming brands like Netflix excel at. For example, after I started viewing the latest season of Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father, I received an email asking me how I was liking it so far. Clicking thumbs up or thumbs down automatically opened the Netflix app on my phone, logged my rating on the show’s page, and (let’s assume) fed that info into its algorithm, so it can deliver more accurate viewing recommendations next time I login.

Another approach worth considering is to create an exclusive brand community for your customers – such as niche-focused social media forums and members-only live events. Empowering them to build personal connections with their peers, trade ideas, and discuss topics of interest with other like-minded consumers will help them feel more invested in the value your brand has to offer.

For example, emergency supplies vendor Redfora invited existing customers to join its private Community of Preparedness group on Facebook, where they can get practical readiness tips, discuss issues of current concern, and receive advice from experts on how to handle a crisis, such as securing their homes during hurricane season or stocking up on supplies for lengthy power outages.

Get emotional

And don’t forget: The “p” in VIP stands for person, not personas. Your customers are individual humans, each with their own passions, preferences, and life circumstances. While their transactional needs might shift radically over time or in relation to current conditions, emotional needs are more enduring and universal.

Storytelling content can help you tap into the human feelings and experiences we all share, as well as those we all want to see more of in our world. By creating memorable moments that aim for the heart, you give them a stronger sense of what your business stands for, beyond the products and services it sells – a critical advantage when it comes to driving loyalty.

Consider this example from Oreo as proof of principle. Regardless of how you might feel about the issue, it’s hard to deny the emotional power it packs in this story about parental love:

Content that respects customers retains customers

As a consumer, what does it take for a brand to earn your loyalty? And, as a marketer, which ones do you think raise the bar for businesses in this respect? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute