Getting a customer is not the end goal it’s the middle

Getting a customer is not the end goal it’s the middleIn a recent speech by Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research at the ITSMA Marketing Leadership forum it occurred to me that customer acquisition is no longer an “end state” for marketers its somewhere in the middle. Let me explain …

Many marketers focus their efforts on the customer acquisition angle which has the benefit of measurability and thus the accountability for ROI. This is great in a world of tightening budgets and ROI on every campaign but getting the customer up the scale from Awareness to Consideration to Purchase is just part of the deal now that social media has arrived.

I would argue (and so did Josh) that the real work comes on Day 2 of the customers purchase. It’s the experience they had with your company over the entire sales cycle and the ongoing relationship they will have with your company when it comes to long term support. This end of the spectrum pales in comparison to the time frame it took to sell the customer (dare I say 12-18 months). If they have committed to your technology or software as a service they most likely will be with you for twice as long unless you do something horribly wrong.

B2B Marketers need to examine and invest in this area of the spectrum – the customer retention area. Why? Because unlike our B2C Marketing cousins we sell to very few customers comparatively – so a top priority should be for you to retain as many of your existing customers as possible!

Think of your budget as a B2B Marketer and just do a back of the napkin examination of your spending on Acquisition vs Retention.

Are you over weight in Acquisition?

It’s not uncommon that this would be the case – the question is what to do about it. One great spot to invest in is Social Support. Social Media is hot and I can guarantee someone is out there talking about your product or service right now. Perhaps it’s a new customer telling of their experience with your company or perhaps it’s an old customer longing for the good old days with your company – either way you need to be sure you are listening and ready to engage with them if they have an issue. Just letting them know you are out there to help is always a good idea as well.

The role of the B2B Marketer has changed over the last 10 years but what hasn’t is the need to be sure you are retaining those customers your sales team fought hard to land from your acquisition efforts.

10 comments to Getting a customer is not the end goal it’s the middle

  • Paul: Joe Jaffe has been giving the same advice in his new book, Flip the Funnel. He argues that marketing and sales should be spending MORE time on their existing customers, the ones who are providing the bulk of the revenue!

    The not-yet-sold-to customer is always the “next frontier,” but spend too much energy chasing them at the expense of keep existing clients happy and there will be a price to pay in the end.

  • Right on target, Paul. Why is customer service considered a cost center and marketing a revenue generator?

  • @Bryan – thanks for that – I have heard of Joe’s new book but havent dived into it yet – thanks for commenting

  • @Josh – that’s a great question – I guess its just years of branding customer service a cost center – when it could be (especially in B2B) a revenue generator! Thanks for commenting! and good luck with your new book!

  • Great reminder. I wonder how many people who just strive to get the customer are in complete agony when they lose the customer after a few weeks. Some companies are just revolving doors, and this is caused by seeing the gaining of new customers as the end.

  • “The role of the B2B Marketer has changed over the last 10 years” I definitely agree with this. Great post I learn more every time I read your info.

  • Hi Paul – Great insight! While in general I agree, our company efforts are overweight on the retention side and we’re not doing enough on the acquisition side.

  • I think sales people have understood this for a while, but I’m not sure they invest as heavily in “account management” as they do pure sales–closing the deal. To retain customers, the sales and marketing organizations have to be more closely aligned and have to work together to understand customers’ needs now and and anticipate their future wants. It’s an investment in time–as you say, up to 18 months of work–and in culture–you can’t silo the responsibilities into purely lead gen (marketing) and closing the deal (sales).

  • Nice post Paul and sounds like a stimulating presentation at the ITSMA conference. For that matter why stop with buying and retention (continuing to buy)? Happy customers can continue to contribute to marketing efforts– and a company’s bottom line–by participating in reference programs, communities, advisory boards, executive-level relationships, etc.

  • Customer retention is huge, sure many consider their goal getting a customer, but how do you keep them coming back? Great customer service for one, and keeping yourself, your brand out in their eyes through various channels is the second way. Social media is a great way to do so whether they follow you on twitter, are a fan on facebook, you need to make sure you keep up and give back to them through those channels.

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