• Using a customer- centric approach enables organizations to grow and retain customers
  • Build trust with your customers and reward them for their continued engagement
  • Marketing content and interactions should be designed to move customers from satisfied to loyal to advocacy

In a recent consulting engagement in which I participated, we helped a client scope and plan a marketing transformation to become an aligned B2B marketing organization that delivers an excellent experience for their prospects and customers. I was involved with enabling a customer-centric mindset that supports and engages customers to achieve maximum value and fosters an environment for retention and growth – a win-win for all. 

One concept that resonated with our client was the idea of a continuum that evolves as customers take their journey with us, and our obligation as practitioners to support this evolution through purposeful, deliberate and coordinated interactions – and content that supports customer engagement. We must fully engage with our customers and understand and define the various customer roles we serve in a post-sales environment; these differ from the personas we engage with during a buying cycle. Consider the following attributes and challenges of each customer state:

  • Satisfied. To become satisfied, a customer needs to see proof that supports his or her decision to buy from the organization in the first place. As the customer journey unfolds, we need to deliver on the promises set in the buying cycle by designing interactions throughout that supply a memorable experience. Even then, being satisfied may not be enough to protect the business from competitive intrusion. This is the state where we begin to build trust with our customers by delivering a consistent, reliable customer experience that is tailored to the particulars of the customer’s role and preferences for interactions and content. 
  • Loyal. Customers transition to a loyal state when we show proof that the purchase exceeds their expectations. To do this, we must demonstrate how the experience of being a customer surpasses the expectations set when we sold to them in the first place. This stage is very hard to achieve, but well worth the effort as loyal customers purchase from us again and again; they are also less vulnerable to competitive pressures. Interactions like customer communities, meaningful customer communication and leadership opportunities help move our customers into and through loyalty.
  • Advocate. A percentage of loyal customers can evolve into advocates; our research indicates it’s significantly higher than what you might expect. Some may evolve organically and share their positive experiences without our prompting, but that’s not something we should count on. Advocates should be cultivated purposefully and managed programmatically. After loyalty has been earned and documented, a customer can be approached about becoming an advocate. The secret sauce of advocacy is to ensure that participants (and the salespeople or customer success team assigned to the accounts) understand that this is not a favor they are doing for us, but rather an opportunity to showcase their good work and raise their visibility and profile. And as a super group of the loyal customers, your advocates have an even higher likelihood of retention, renewal, re-purchase and referral.

I’d love to hear more innovative ways B2B organizations are developing deeper knowledge about where their customers are falling into these three categories, and how they are enabling them to take the journey from satisfied to loyal to advocate. Where are your customers along this continuum?