When used wisely, content marketing is a time tested, proven strategy to grow a larger sales funnel. By appealing to unique buyer personas and answer their questions effectively, brands are able to nurture their leads further along in the sales cycle, ultimately converting more qualified leads into customers.
But what happens after that?
Sadly, many marketers and sales professionals stop contributing valuable content to their leads once they become customers. Perhaps marketers assume the services or product they provide are valuable enough to perpetuate a lasting business relationship. Perhaps the sales rep's effort stops after the commissions are paid. Either way, failing to provide value after the sale leaves a big ole' gap that competitors are more than eager to fill.
Here's a practical how-to to help you close that nasty gap by continually providing value to your hard earned customers.
Ask & Listen
What is the most practical and effective way to find out what our customers need? Ask and let them tell you! It's both marketing and sales' jobs to keep their ear open at all times, creating opportunities for customers to let their voices be heard. Developing well aligned sales and marketing listening mechanisms will grant your business invaluable insight in which to focus your content marketing around. Frequent and active listening is the critical first step of the entire customer-facing, content marketing process.
What to do:
From social monitoring tools to the old fashioned phone call, there are many ways to listen to your customers. For the sake of keeping this article relatively short, we'll focus on a cornerstone of all market research, the survey. Marketing can use survey software like SurveyMonkey to create a consistently delivered survey that delves beyond the typical satisfaction questions. If possible, integrate these survey tools into a marketing automation solution like Hubspot, allowing you to quickly segment customers into response-based lists. (With a little extra effort, you can create automated workflows that nurture each of these segmented lists. Win!) Most importantly, ask fearless, open-ended questions to understand more about how your customers really feel.
Here are a few examples:
- "What could we have done to make your onboarding process easier?"
- "What questions regarding our product/service have we still not answered for you?"
- "What would have made us not just your first choice but the perfect choice for your needs?"
Just remember that to get the most candid response, you should have someone other than the person who closed the deal handle the surveys/interviews.
Develop a Content Strategy
Now you've got all that valuable data and feedback from your customers, it's time to analyze. If you've listened well and feel comfortable with the sample size, you can start to put this data into action! Looking at the feedback you received, what does it tell you? More specifically, what questions and needs do your clients feel have NOT been adequately satisfied?
Here are just a few examples of common results:
- Your customers feel they don't know where to go for answers to advanced product/service questions.
- Your customers feel they were not adequately prepared for the complexity of the onboarding process.
- Your customers feel your product/service was misrepresented during the sales process.
All of these present wonderful opportunities for your business to further educate your clients and create a more relevant, friction-less experience for them.
What to do:
Answer their questions, of course! If the info you gleaned requires more detail in order for your to create a sound strategy, consider revising your survey or have your marketing department reach out to them via phone to wrap things up.
Then, bundle these responses into categories It's typically best to create these categories by topic and by lifecycle stage. An example might be "Product 'A' feature 2 - Awareness Stage." This will help you determine what new content to deliver and where.
Now, you might be thinking, "If they're already at the 'customer' stage within my sales/marketing funnel, why should lifecycle stage even play a role?" The answer is simple: Creating a better customer experience is a holistic process - beginning at the awareness stage and continuing long after they close.
Deliver the Goods
Now that you know what questions to answer and how you're going to answer them, it's time to determine how best to deliver this new content. So where might be the best place to drop these new content goodies of greatness?
Your content delivery options are plenty:
- social networks
- web pages
- direct mail
What to do:
Much of the how and where of your delivery strategy is at your discretion. For example: If you found the question was quite prolific, it might validate creating an entire client-facing web page dedicated to it. Likewise, if it was something you felt everyone should know, making it a frequent mention throughout your social networks might be a good idea -- perhaps even worthy of creating a blog with some social promotion.
On the other hand, if it was a question rooted deep within the post-sale process (i.e. billing or account based questions), you may find it best to deliver that content via email or direct mail.
Analyze, Rinse & Repeat
Great job delivering that uber-valuable content, now let's go celebrate! But wait...maybe we should see how it's performing and find ways to improve it? Ah, good idea. Awesome content marketing is an ongoing process, even for our clients who have already signed on. We need to analyze, interpret, adjust and continually deliver better and more relevant content. Why? Because our content can become dated, our products/services may change and our customer's needs will inevitably shift. This process is perpetual, so it needs to be part of our regular operations.
What to do:
As you continually deliver new and improved content, you'll also continually reach out to your customers to determine it's effectiveness. If you're seeing decreases in the need for certain content, you just might have done your job! You also want to check in on the performance of your web pages, social promotions, emails, etc. With today's marketing automation tools, anaylzing this data has become so much more intuitive and easier to quantify. Even your direct mail can tie into dedicated landing pages on your website, which allows for improved performance monitoring. In short, do these two things:
- Keep in touch with your customers regarding their questions and needs.
- Continually monitor and improve the content your delivering to answer your customer's questions and needs.
Keep 'Em Happy & Informed
The reality is, our clients and customers will continue to have questions/concerns beyond the close. They may not say it loudly, but they need someone to listen to them and answer their questions regarding your offering and all things related to it. So we really have one of two options. We can be their trusted sounding board and resource for info...or our competitors will be happy to do it for us.