Truth is, the traditional B2B sales funnel is dead.
It’s 2020 and buyers have more options, information, and influence than ever. We are in an era where “buyer power” is what runs the world of business.
For the B2B sector that means having to try much harder not only to acquire new customers but also to earn their loyalty. In fact, research shows that it can cost even five times more to attract a new customer than it costs to retain the existing one.
Pretty interesting, isn’t it?
The traditional sales funnel will bring your customers once, but if you care about repeat business and potentially saving a ton of cash, it’s time you ditch the old and embrace an idea of customer lifecycle marketing.
In this article, I will give you a detailed overview of how your B2B business can benefit from this approach. Ready?
Let’s dive in!
What is customer lifecycle marketing
The concept of a customer lifecycle marketing is an approach that focuses on the long-term view of the relationship with a customer. It’s no longer a linear path to selling a product and forgetting all about the customer who purchased it. Instead, you design your customer’s journey as a loop and taking a holistic approach towards building your marketing funnel.
A traditional marketing funnel follows the AIDA model:
After the action is taken (purchase), the customer is no longer a part of the process. The company has no idea what happens with those who buy their products and does nothing to bring them back or use customers’ advocacy to attract new clients.
The anatomy of a B2B customer lifecycle marketing
With a modern approach to sales, you can still base your simplified model on AIDA, but modify it by adding “Retention” at the end of the model.
Each phase of the customer lifecycle is characterized by the relationship that your lead, and eventually a customer, has towards your business.
For each stage, there is a set of marketing strategies and approaches that can be used to optimize the process and move your lead to another phase.
Stage #1 – Awareness
It’s the first stage where a potential customer has just come across your business and is about to learn more about it. In this phase, your audience has just landed on your page and has no clear intention of wanting to purchase your products or services. Your goal here is to grab their attention and spark some interest to move them down the funnel.
Where is your lead in relation to your business: aware of your brand/product.
Here are the marketing strategies you can use to encourage taking action and to move your audience down the sales funnel.
Generating awareness with blog content and SEO
One of the most common channels through which your people find out about your brand and your products is through your company’s blog. It’s 2020 and if you still haven’t got one, you might be leaving tons of cash on a table. Now, I won’t go into details describing each individual step to creating a blog strategy, but you can take a look at this content marketing guide to learn more.
Writing relevant, SEO-optimized content based on your keyword research is crucial if you want to rank higher on search engines and attract qualified traffic to your website. At the awareness stage, investing in content marketing and SEO is your best bet as your potential customers get a chance to land on your page straight from SERP.
For example, if somebody is looking for a guide to target market analysis in Google, they will come across an article written by Point Visible as it’s ranking #2 in SERP.
At that point, the website’s visitors land on the Point Visible blog for possibly the very first time. Depending on how well the company has developed their lead generation strategy, the visitor will either become a lead or leave a page if uninterested.
Generating awareness through social media
Social media is jam-packed with leads, which makes it a great place to boost brand awareness and attract the right traffic to your website. Moreover, it has literally unlimited reach, which works in your favour. High reach = more attention to your brand.
There are, of course, lots of social media platforms to choose from. The list is endless, but it’s really important that you take a look at your buyer persona and then decide which platforms are right for you.
Where are your ideal customers hanging out?
For example, Instagram is good for eCommerce while LinkedIn and Twitter are ideal for SaaS businesses. Just to give you an idea, here are a few real-life examples for leveraging the power of social media platforms in the awareness stage.
On Facebook, you can set up targeted ads, for example, based on your website’s visitors behaviour or other parameters. This allows you to reach out only to the people who might be potentially interested in what you have to offer. Facebook ads are great for giving your audience a gentle nudge and a reminder of your existence. It’s a great way to boost your brand’s awareness.
Twitter is great for B2B marketing. One way to leverage its power is to start running Twitter chats that are still gaining popularity. Twitter chats allow you to engage with your audience and show up on the feeds of their followers. To add even more value and increase your reach, you can consider inviting experts to participate. Here’s a great example of a successfully run Twitter chat done by the Digital Olympus team.
Even though for a long time Instagram was mostly considered a platform for B2C businesses, especially eCommerce, nowadays there are plenty of B2B companies using it to their advantage. With Instagram business accounts and features such as IGTV and Instagram stories, there are plenty of opportunities to showcase your company and boost brand awareness.
For example, here’s how ZenDesk is using Instagram to show a company’s culture.
There are plenty of ways to let the world know that your business exists using LinkedIn. It’s yet another great platform for B2B companies that want to make some buzz around their products or services. A great way to supercharge your LinkedIn reach is to become a part of a LinkedIn engagement pod. This can be done using manual pods or automatic pods, such as those offered by Lempod.
Here are the results Tidio got using the LinkedIn engagement pod.
Turning interested visitors into leads
Generating awareness is great, but that alone won’t get you far. You need to pick up contact information from potential prospects so you can lead them through your marketing funnel.
The most common way to get that contact information is through a lead magnet. I won’t go in-depth explaining step-by-step how to make a lead magnet that will be appealing for your audience, but here’s a guide to help you learn more.
Once your lead magnet is ready, you should consider ways in which you will deliver it. Here are some ideas:
- Pop-ups. There are many useful types of pop-ups out there that can generate tons of leads… if they contain the right offer.
- Gated content. A common practice for news sites which lets you read a part of the article and keep the rest of the content locked for you to either leave your email address or even pay to get access.
- Chatbots. When done correctly, they are less invasive and more creative than standard pop-ups as they add more interactivity. Below, you can see a chatbot set up with Tidio on an eCommerce website.
Stages #2 & #3 – Interest and Desire
This is the stage where your website’s visitors have become your leads and are curious about your product or service. In fact, interest and intent are two subsequent phases where you need to give your leads a similar nudge to move them down the funnel.
In the interest stage, they are usually not yet fully convinced that they will make a purchase but are ready to find out more about how your product or service can help them solve their problems. The key here lies in the word: education.
You have to educate your leads on the benefits and value of your offering in order to help them understand why they might need it. That’s how you move them from the interest stage to the intent stage when they are pretty much ready to pay you for your product. Desire phase means that they just need a good opportunity laid out to take action.
Where is your lead in relation to your business: curious and potentially interested in purchasing
Here’s what you should do to successfully facilitate your leads’ journey towards making a purchase decision.
Lead nurturing by combining email and content
In order to build trust and familiarize your audience with your brand and your products, you should invest in lead nurturing. This process can take many forms, but the most popular ones come down to email and content marketing.
In order to nurture your leads, you need to focus heavily on providing educational, valuable content on your blog and in your emails.
For example, you might want to consider building a knowledge base where you can refer to your leads who want to learn more about your product.
It’s also crucial to have a top-notch onboarding process in place if your company is offering free trials or freemium models. The onboarding is often what makes your leads decide whether the product they are testing suits their needs or not.
In the process of nurturing, it’s important that you deliver personalized experiences to your leads. Ideally, you would have already segmented your audience, for example, based on their website’s behaviour. This allows you to launch email campaigns based on those segments.
Here’s a great guide on B2B email list segmentation for those who want to learn more.
Lead nurturing through community building
Another good strategy to familiarize your prospects with your product or service is to create a community around it. This works especially well if you are a SaaS company offering a freemium account, such as Tidio.
By creating a space for both your free and paid users to exchange information about your product or service, you are bringing them closer to your brand and start building trust. By showing how you can help your users address their pain points, and doing that free of charge, you increase chances of them turning into lifelong customers.
Here’s an example Facebook group we’ve created for Tidio’s users.
You can create such a group for free space using Facebook or Slack.
Lead nurturing with webinars
Lastly, you can use webinars which can add great educational value for your audience. That’s right, they are not only a great way to pick up leads, but can also serve as a way to nurture them.
Webinars should not be promotional per se, but rather providing your viewers with useful information and helping them to solve their problems.SEMrush is an example of a company that is successful at running popular webinars as they also invite industry experts to add value to their audience.
Stage #4 – Action
The fourth stage that finally brings money into your pocket is the action stage. This is where your prospects finally take action and that usually means a purchase. To support your leads in their decision-making process and to nudge them in the right direction for the last time, you should ensure that your brand and product is as trustworthy as possible.
Where is your lead in relation to your business: ready to buy your product.
Here is a set of strategies to help you convince your leads to finally take action and purchase something.
Driving purchase action with social proof
Customers want to know that your product or service has contributed to the success of other businesses. Nothing works better than seeing other similar businesses saying how much your product or service has helped them achieve their goals. Social proof is a powerful way to build trust between your brand and your audience.
This can take a form of testimonials on your landing page or online reviews (which you can’t influence much). Here’s an example from Uplead landing page with published testimonials.
Another way to use social proof is to leverage its power in your PPC campaigns on Facebook or Instagram. All you need to do is simply ask for permission to include the testimonial or a review as a part of your ad copy and design.
Here’s an example of this practice in real-life done by ConvertKit.
Driving purchase action with product demos
Product demos are great for helping your leads get to know the tool inside out. Product demos can be time-consuming but they are a powerful tool in your toolbox.
Showing your leads how your product solves their problems is far better than merely telling them. It gives you a chance to answer burning questions, shows tips and trick they would probably miss themselves, and focus the attention on the strengths of your product.
Driving purchase action with conversational marketing
How about having a chat with your customer-to-be one on one? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to connect with each of your leads individually? This works especially well with conversational landing pages.
The idea of conversational marketing is to become closer to your audience and give them the opportunity to connect with you almost “personally”. You can do it by creating a separate, conversational landing page such as the one below, used by TopContent.
Stage #5 – Retention
The last stage which has become a new addition to the traditional AIDA model is loyalty (a.k.a. retention) phase. This is where our customer lifecycle marketing both closes and begins anew.
The retention stage is crucial as word-of-mouth is said to be one of the most powerful marketing channels ever. In this phase, you want to do everything you can to provide your customers with excellent experience and encourage them to become your brand’s advocates.
Where is your lead in relation to your business: satisfied with your product, ready to recommend it to others.
Consider referral marketing
Setting up referral programs does two things: It shows appreciation for your customers by giving them a chance to make some extra cash simply by recommending your product.
It shouldn’t be too hard to get people to use your referral program, by the way: 83% of customers say they would be more than willing to share a positive brand experience. They just want you to show them how to do it.
Investing in referral marketing is an awesome idea as it’s a win-win for both sides. You boost your brand’s awareness, reward your loyal audience, and bring new customers into your business.
Use Early access and VIP content to improve customer retention
Early access and VIP content makes your clients feel special and appreciated and can often work better than your other promotions.
Giving VIP content helps to build relationships between you and your customers. It can help them see you as more than just a business who sells them a product and moves onto the next customer. Instead, it shows them that you actually care about them. And this sort of thing can go a very long way to building long-term loyalty.
Early access, meanwhile, can make your customers go crazy about new products. It can even make them more willing to share news about your company and brand to their network.
For example, here at Tidio, we’ve recently launched a new mailing feature that we wanted to test in the beta version. We’ve decided to grant access to our most loyal customers who got to use it completely free of charge. We wanted our existing users to test the feature so that they could grow their businesses even faster, save some cash, and give us feedback so that we could improve. Here’s how the invitation to get early access looked like:
Improve loyalty with discounts and free offers
Lastly, promotions and discounts are great ways to reward your loyal clients and encourage them to recommend your products to others. By offering your customers special deals you make them feel appreciated at the same time keeping your sales up and having them active in your funnels.
There are multiple ways to approach this, depending on the type of business you run. For instance, SaaS companies can offer discounts for annual subscriptions or free access to premium features.
It’s a good idea to experiment with your special deals and bundles and personalize your offers to what your customers would be happiest with.
Before I let you go, I want to give you this final example on improving loyalty. This article is published in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses stepped up to the plate by offering big discounts on their pricing plans, delaying payments, and even implementing new features to help their clients navigate the crisis.
This was all part of their strategy to improve client retention by adjusting their marketing strategy during this crisis.
All in all, understanding the customer lifecycle marketing helps you to engage your leads with the right message at the right time.
Your customers are your best asset and building a long-term relationship with them should be your number one priority. The customers’ journey does not end after they purchase your products or service, in fact, it only begins anew.
In 2020 and beyond, smart B2B companies should focus on switching from the traditional AIDA model to this customer lifecycle marketing model if they want to keep thriving.