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Customer Relationship Nurturing: What You're Missing

August 02, 2013 | By Megan Heuer

The best sales pitch is a good customer relationship. Establish communications that support development of that relationship, and help the customer get value out of the current investment, and the customer will find it a lot easier to make the next investment.

One of the biggest complaints customers make about marketing messages is that they’re all about selling something. If you’re thinking, “But that’s what I’m supposed to do – send messages to create demand,” you’re missing out on a real opportunity. The best sales pitch is a good customer relationship. Establish communications that support development of that relationship, and help the customer get value out of the current investment, and the customer will find it a lot easier to make the next investment.

Most marketers are familiar with the idea of lead nurturing. Think of these post-sale communications as customer relationship nurturing. Customer relationship nurturing picks up just after the sale is closed and continues until a contact is no longer a customer (and sometimes even after that to win them back). It supports the delivery of positive interactions using various messages, offers and delivery methods. The goal is to develop relationships with various contacts inside a customer account, ensuring they get the most out of their investment and that the supplier remains a top-of-mind resource.

The biggest mistake you can make is to turn customer relationship nurturing into an ongoing stream of sales pitches. This approach simply trains customers to ignore your messages. Once you’ve squandered the valuable resource of a customer's attention, it’s very hard to regain. Our clients who effectively use customer relationship nurturing report impressively high engagement (e.g., email click-through rates of 25 to 35 percent). These companies have trained customers to see their messages as relevant and worthwhile.

Here are some of the steps you can take to deliver this level of value:

  • Define customer roles. Customer relationship nurturing should align with the post-sale roles that exist within accounts. Define who interacts with the product or service post-sale and what they need to be successful. In another blog post, I shared tips for defining customer persona attributes to extend the use of persona insights beyond the buyer’s journey. These are essential for effective and scalable relationship nurture development.
  • Define lifecycle stage needs. Track the needs of each role by lifecycle stage (our version of the customer lifecycle is explained here.) Use those needs to define and prioritize the types of outreach your relationship nurture will include. Don’t forget to factor in other communications from outside marketing.
  • Differentiate by account type. Some accounts require truly customized outreach; for others, a more scalable model makes sense. Roles within an account may also have different requirements (e.g., the CEO compared to a large group of end users).
  • Keep sales and partners in the loop. This is a must. Make sure sales reps and partners are informed of every communication that goes to their accounts. It may make sense to vary relationship nurture touches; consider allowing sales to deliver some of these touches so they have an efficient way to keep in touch and stay top of mind with valuable contacts.

Megan Heuer

Megan Heuer is Vice President of Research at SiriusDecisions. With more than 20 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer.

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