This post was originally published on ATI Customer Retention Experts. Anita Toth is the Founder and Chief Churn Crusher of ATI Customer Retention Experts, a consulting firm helping B2B SaaS companies grow their revenues through customer retention research, strategy and education.
This is one article you’ll want to share with your customer marketing team.
At ATI, we’re always looking for new ways to help Customer Success Leaders bridge the gap between Customer Success and other teams like sales, product and marketing.
Today, we’re looking at best-in-class examples from Amazon, Slack, Calendly, Buffer, Starbucks and more that both Customer Success and Customer Marketing teams can use to increase customer retention.
These examples are categorized around the different stages of the Customer Relationship Journey which is covered in the next section.
Feel free to adapt these tips to suit your company and your customers’ needs.
The Customer Relationship Journey
The customer-company relationship is a lot like a romantic relationship.
Lead generation (marketing and sales) is like dating – you’re meeting a lot of different people in the hopes you’ll find the ‘right one’. It’s tactical. It can be a lot of fun as you try new things to attract your ideal customers.
Conversion from a prospective customer to a customer is a lot like the wedding. This is where the commitment is made. For the customer, they commit by spending money. For individuals getting married, they commit by sharing their wedding vows. At this stage, emotions are high as people are excited for the future.
Onboarding a new customer is like the honeymoon. It can be long or short. It’s the first stage where the expectations set in the lead generation stage are put to the test. If customers expected one thing and got another, they’re likely to be upset or frustrated. More than any other part of the customer journey, the seeds of churn are often planted during onboarding.
Retention is a lot like a marriage. It’s often the longest part of the customer journey and requires different tactics and activities to make it successful. What worked to get the relationship started in the lead generation/dating phase isn’t going to work to grow the relationship in the retention/marriage phase.
Wandering Eye and Test Drive stages happen with a company doesn’t put in the consistent and necessary work to keep the customer-company relationship strong. The Wandering Eye stage is where your customers start to look around at your competition and begin to believe that they may do better becoming a customer of your competition. Entering the Wandering Eye stage often starts simply with customers reading your competition’s marketing materials, following them on social media, and joining their webinars, just to name a few. Your customers enter the Test Drive stage when they have sales calls or try a demo of your competition’s product or service.
When customers have reached the Wandering Eye and Test Drive stages in the customer journey, it’s near impossible to change their minds without a huge effort on your part.
Then there’s Churn. Just like in a divorce, the relationship is beyond saving. The best you can do at this stage is to try to leave the customer with a more positive feeling toward your company.
Now that we’ve covered the different stages of the customer journey, let’s look at specific customer retention tips and examples you can use at each stage.
Lead Generation Stage Customer Retention Tips
Know your ideal customers so well that your marketing will easily attract them.
Knowing your ideal customers at this level means you’ve gone well beyond their demographics and their firmographics. You have a deep understanding of what motivates your customers, what they’re looking to achieve, how they think and how they feel about their problem and your solution.
Once you’ve achieved this level of depth for all your ideal customer segments, the benefits are staggering — your customers are more likely to purchase other products, your customers are more likely to refer your business to colleagues, friends and family and you can identify customer advocates who can help gain the trust of your prospective customers.
How to Identify your Ideal Customers
The best way to easily attract your ideal customers is to research them so you get to know them almost better than they know themselves.
To do this, use a combination of surveys, focus groups and interviews to determine:
What they want.
What they believe.
What they value.
What they desire.
How they see their problem.
How they see your product/service as a solution to their problem.
Take what you’ve learned and create your marketing materials and tailor your sales assets around the data you’ve collected.
Apple has done a stellar job of understanding the differences in their ideal customers. Their Mac computer line has 2 ideal customers: Education and Business. Mac’s marketing speaks to the different needs of these two groups, including copy, images and pain points.
Conversion Stage Customer Retention Tips
This is the best stage!
Your prospects have decided to become customers. You have a very small window to maintain your new customer’s excitement and enthusiasm before the dreaded buyer’s remorse starts creeping in and your new customers start doubting their purchase decision.
To keep that enthusiasm and excitement high, make becoming a customer simple and easy. You can always gather more information about your customers later as part of the onboarding stage.
Buffer has done a great job of converting prospects into customers. Before any money changes hands, they have you set up an account using only 2 fields. By keeping the signup process to 2 simple and easy fields, Buffer can maintain the new customer’s enthusiasm and excitement.
Onboarding Stage Customer Retention Tips
Onboarding can be a long and sometimes frustrating process. This section is going to cover several different ways to retain your customers throughout the onboarding process.
Amazon has mastered the art of keeping their customers’ enthusiasm and excitement high by consistently doing 3 things in the onboarding of all their different products—both consumer and business.
- They welcome new customers.
- They offer helpful resources that a new customer wants to know.
- They assure the new customer that they made the right decision when they purchased.
Slack grew very quickly as a company because it was easy to invite people into your workspace. Slack’s simple onboarding made becoming a Slack user very easy. In less than 2 minutes, new Slack users could find their first value by creating a channel to communicate with team members or friends.
Much like Amazon, Slack immediately offers its new users different resources to help leverage their first win. Slack offers either self-serve options or to join a live webinar where new users can ask questions and get a guided tour of how to get the most out of Slack.
You’ll want to keep metrics on the customer adoption of your product or service. Adoption metrics that are taken at different points throughout the onboarding process can help you to identify friction points where adoption rates stall. Interview or survey your customers at these ‘stall points’ to find out why they struggled at these points. Your customers’ responses will give you the context that you need to fix those friction points and increase your adoption rates.
Retention Stage Customer Retention Tips
Unlike the previous stages, the Retention stage requires you to always be on the look out for new ways to keep your customer engaged.
Just like in a romantic relationship, showing up on your anniversary with flowers and chocolates isn’t going to make a lasting impression. In both your romantic relationship and your customer relationships, you need to undertake different activities to grow the relationship and keep it strong.
3 Ways to Keep Customers Engaged
#1. Look for opportunities to provide more value to your customers.
Calendly has done an excellent job of engaging with customers through its newsletters. Calendly’s newsletters are always focused on providing value for the customer, rather than just reporting new features or company updates.
Even if some of the updates aren’t applicable to certain customer segments (like Workflow for Teams when you’re a solopreneur), Calendly’s newsletters show all their customers that they’re working hard to provide the most value for all their customers. The Tip of the Day section is the best proof of this.
#2. Stay in contact with communications that are meaningful to your customers.
Calendly’s newsletter is one example of a communication that’s meaningful to customers. Another example of a meaningful customer communication is this email from Simplii.
Simplii’s ‘Thank you for banking with us’ is a nice email to receive. What makes it particularly meaningful is that the customer is automatically entered into a draw to win a gift card. Reducing friction by automatically entering the customer into the contest shows that Simplii respects its customers’ time. It’s a ‘feel good’ way to reinforce that Simplii is thinking about the needs of its customers.
#3. Show your customers that you listen and take action on their feedback.
It’s not enough to just take feedback from your customers. Customers feel more valued and engage with your company more often then they see that their feedback has made a difference. Show your customers by sharing exactly how their feedback made an impact.
For example, Hugo used the subject line of their newsletter to call out the impact that customer feedback had made on their product. This subject line not only demonstrates how much Hugo values their customers’ feedback, but it also makes its customers feel valued and proves that their feedback contributions matter.
Customers who feel valued are more likely to refer, are more engaged in their success, participate more often in your community, and spread more positive messaging across social media.
Wandering Eye & Test Drive Stage Retention Tips
Earlier, we had talked about how difficult it is to get customers to re-engage once they’ve entered the Wandering Eye and Test Drive stages. It takes a significant amount of effort to re-engage customers at these stages than it does to keep them engaged in the first place.
Starbucks uses an enticing offer to try to re-engage customers who haven’t purchased in a while. Not only does the headline speak directly to the customer (Come back – we miss you.) which makes them feel valued as a customer, the customer also has the chance to redeem 15% off their next order, which is a compelling deal for most people.
Teespring took a different approach to re-engaging its customers. Rather than offering a discount, Teespring highlighted the value their disengaged customers were missing. The copy shows the number of products sold, the total sales revenue and the success rate of the customer – all positive attributes to try to re-engage their disengaged customers.
“I get hundreds, and some days thousands of emails from customers.
This is a privilege because they talk to you as if you’re sitting at their kitchen table.
Because they care so deeply about Apple, they want to make a suggestion, or want to ask for help on something, or want to tell you how much they love the product.”
Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Customer retention starts the very second a prospective customer turns into an actual customer. If you think of the customer-company relationship as being similar to a romantic relationship, you’ll quickly see that retention is the end result of a series of different activities for different parts of the customer journey.
Talk to your customers through surveys, focus groups, interviews, social media, support calls, business review meetings, onboarding meetings–and every other type of meeting—to get their opinions and thoughts. Dig deep and discover their emotions. What do they like? What don’t they like? What makes them happy? What makes the unhappy?
Then take action on the data you collect.
And make retaining your customers far easier on yourself and more enjoyable for your customers too.