Model it after a successful marriage.
Want the TLDNR version of this post? Just one word. CONTENT.
What did you expect from a company whose name starts with that word? But, we don’t have to do any reverse-Cinderella voodoo here to make the shoe fit. It’s still content that must be at the foundation of your customer retention strategy. Here’s why.
The real reason why content works for customer acquisition
That needs a preface. Content works for customer acquisition when it’s correctly used, and we’ve touched on that subject here and here. Your sales funnel won’t fill up with anything unless you can tell the right story with your content. It’s the story that people who aren’t yet your customers need to find to determine their engagement with you. Your content needs to:
- Make people say, “OMG, that’s exactly my problem!”
- Reward people with authoritative information about that problem
- Offer—with no strings attached—objective solutions to that problem
- Establish an interactive relationship that rewards people with a deepening level of resources they can use to solve the problem
You’ll notice what’s missing—and it’s not a glaring omission: A blatant declaration that your product or service is the solution.
This is the winning strategy for customer acquisition. Not because we say so. Google it and listen to the booming echo of industry experts who will tell you the same thing.
Laying the groundwork
Hey, kudos. You’ve nailed this customer acquisition strategy and you’re seeing the results. More website visits. More interaction on social media. More registrations. More direct engagements. More sales.
The American Psychological Association says that nearly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. You and your customers have entered into a marriage of sorts. How do you keep it a lasting relationship? That’s your retention strategy.
The APA offers this advice: “Keep your romantic partnership in good working order by talking openly, keeping it interesting and seeking help if needed.” The organization goes on to offer what they call, ‘Nine psychological tasks for a good marriage.’ Some of them—like establishing a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship—don’t jive with customer retention. Other suggestions are spot-on, and they revolve around one basic premise:
Remind each other what brought you together in the first place.
That was your content.
Before the sale, content established your shared focus. It was that problem you both wanted to solve, remember? Now, your content has to move to the next level where it reinforces both the objective information and the benefits of your product, so that it continually validates their purchase decision.
Why is this crucial to your retention strategy? The American Psychological Society has the best answer—even though it’s supposed to be about a happy marriage. “Nurture and comfort each other,” the APA advises, “satisfying each partner's needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support.”
Content—interactive content—nurtures and comforts. No marriage is without conflict. Nor are your relationships with customers. Encouraging feedback is the best way to nurture and comfort. Content that tells the story of how your product initially wasn’t working out for someone, but through mutual effort, found a solution.
People live vicariously through the stories they hear about others. Your customers live vicariously—and are retained—by hearing these kinds of “Not working, now what?” stories.
Here’s the thing, though. You won’t hear about most of these stories unless you undertake the effort to stoke the passion level you have with your customers. It’s up to you to use content to fish out those outstanding moments of customer service or product performance. It’s up to you to share them with your customer base.
Those outstanding moments? They’re gold. However, unless you’re careful, you’ll turn them into sheets of tinfoil. Successful content about customer service and product performance has to be free of all self-promotion. It also has to be eminently sharable. Here’s why.
It’s gold, remember? It’s gold for your customers, too. They’re looking for ways to validate their decision to be your customer—and nothing is a more valuable validation than the ability to share examples of other customers’ similar experiences with their friends and family.
Do they want to share a white paper, or pass on a link for a webinar? Hmmm…that’s starting to sound like tinfoil.
What they want—and what you must provide—are tasty, bite-size morsels of storytelling that they’ll use as social currency to offer advice on social media. Discounts and incentives aren’t a motivator. Being armed with the ability to offer help to others is their reward.
How do you make a marriage last? You strive for constant reminders of what brought you together in the first place. How do you create a successful customer retention strategy? See the previous sentence.