Customer marketing is a uniquely important form of marketing. While most marketing functions focus on finding, attracting, and securing new business, customer marketing strategically angles marketing activities to retain customers, expand their product use, and build a community of brand advocates.
When customers trust your brand, they are loyal to your products and are more likely to share their experience or refer others. This is, of course, the type of marketing that all companies dream of: not only does it feel organic, but your customers do most of the heavy lifting for you.
But a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to get to a place where customers are doing your marketing for you. And if you leverage customer-driven marketing correctly, you can get there too.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the core components of customer marketing, how to get started, and shares ways to connect with your customers using video.
What is customer marketing?
While marketing, in general, largely focuses on winning over potential customers, customer marketing is solely directed at your existing customers. It helps drive retention, loyalty, community, and advocacy, with the goal of making your current customers a key part of your growth engine.
Every company will likely have its own definition of the marketing activities that make up customer marketing. Our team breaks customer marketing down into three key areas that follow the customer journey.
Three components of customer marketing
Customer marketing is built on the simple idea that happy customers a) buy more and b) share their stories. So we must start with happy customers. Helping to create a great customer experience from day one is a critical component of customer marketing.
To empower customers to succeed with our product, our Customer Marketing team works closely with the Customer Success team to ensure that every piece of communication a customer receives — from onboarding emails to newsletters to educational content — is effective, on-brand, and inspiring.
Think of a delightful customer experience as the foundation to your customer marketing strategy.
Customer advocacy is what most folks think of when building out a customer marketing function and it is, in fact, core to successful marketing and growth. It includes any kind of marketing that leverages the customer voice to highlight your brand, including testimonials, references, case studies, customer stories, and reviews.
For example, Vimeo highlighted three brands using video to connect with their customers, highlight their stories, and connect in powerful ways. Here’s a story from Tarform, a Brooklyn-based startup engineering electric motorcycles powered by clean energy.
Customer-driven content not only lets you showcase the power of your product, but also works as a wonderful way to educate your customers and create a community of users learning from one another.
Customer advocacy works so well because it lets potential customers see the impact of your product — not just what your product is, but why it exists. Prospective buyers are also far more likely to trust a customer’s rave reviews about your product than marketing copy.
There’s an assumption that sales teams are solely responsible for expansion and upsells. However, if you’re thinking about it that way, you might be missing out on a big opportunity — since there are many ways a Customer Marketing team can set the Sales team up for success ahead of time.
At Vimeo, our Customer Marketing team works closely with Sales to figure out how we can expand our product footprint within our existing customers’ accounts. That often means figuring out when we have a natural opportunity to upsell and strategically marketing to them based on those moments.
By approaching customer marketing with a sole focus on advocacy, you’re missing out on opportunities to create those advocates through customer success and expansion.
How to get started with your customer marketing strategy
If you’re trying to create a more comprehensive customer marketing strategy, it might seem overwhelming.
However, here are a few steps you can take to streamline the process of building your customer marketing strategy.
Plot the customer journey
Start by sitting down with representatives from the Sales, Product, and Customer Success teams to map out the customer journey. From the moment a customer signs up or purchases your product, track the interactions they’re having with each of your teams and what communications they’re receiving regularly.
Some exploratory questions you can ask here include:
- What kind of educational content are we providing customers with at different stages of the customer journey?
- What signals are we getting from customers that they’re a good fit to upgrade their plan?
- What kind of feedback have we gotten from customers on our existing communication or content?
- When are Sales approaching customers to try and upsell? Does that timing make sense?
Get to know your customer inside out
If customer marketing is all about delighting your customers, then it’s critical to understand your customers needs, wants, and vision. Practice seeing your company and product through their eyes, and get to know their questions, frustrations, and desires.
This might mean reviewing common support requests, sending out surveys, chatting directly with customers, listening in on QBRs or tracking their behaviors across your product and website. You want to get to know the milestones they reach during the customer journey – from what may cause them to churn to signs that they’re raring to do even more with your product.
Set priorities for each area of customer marketing
Once you have your customer journey plotted out, you can use it to decide your priorities and goals for your customer marketing strategy. This is another point where it can be helpful to think of customer marketing as three specific areas.
When it comes to supporting customer success, start with your onboarding communications:
- Do your onboarding communications make a strong first impression? Are they inspiring?
- Do your emails get the customer up and running with the product successfully?
- Are you delivering onboarding content at the right pace for your customers?
- As customers finish onboarding, are you still serving them content regularly that helps them see even more success with your product?
Don’t forget to consider which format is going to work best for the customer success content or customer onboarding content you create. Depending on the content, learning styles, and objectives you may want to look at a short video (like the example below, help center article, or an email).
When it comes to customer advocacy, identify the types of customer stories you want to tell:
- Have you identified the customer stories you would like to highlight?
- Is everyone in the organization aware of the stories you’re cultivating?
- When is the right time to approach a customer for their story?
- Are there opportunities for co-marketing?
When it comes to expansion, focus on understanding customers’ growing needs and timing the content you deliver:
- Have you identified the levers that you can push to encourage growth?
- Do you know when a customer might need more from your product?
Once you’ve identified the answers to these questions, you can plan a strategy that will engage customers at precisely the right time, with precisely the information they need.
Take your strategy on a roadshow across your organization
Customer marketing is, by nature, a very collaborative function. Multiple teams across your organization are talking to customers daily — which means it’s important that you’re all on the same page and supporting each others efforts.
Once you’ve landed on your customer marketing priorities, make sure teams across the organization are on board and understand their role in meeting them. That means sitting down with leadership, Sales, Customer Success, Product Marketing, Product, and others to ensure the strategy is transparent and complimentary to the goals of their team and the organization.
5 tips to build successful customer marketing strategy
Once you’re ready to execute on your customer marketing strategy, here are a few tips you can use to make the process more smooth.
1. It’s all in the timing
Regardless of which area of customer marketing you’re working on — Success, Advocacy, or Expansion — always consider the timing of your content and communications. You want to make sure educational content is reaching customers at the right time, that you’re approaching a customer to share their story after they’ve experienced exciting success with your product, and that you’re only upselling when a customer really does need new features.
A seamless customer marketing experience needs to happen on the customer’s timeline — not the company’s timeline.
2. Don’t force it
An important question to ask yourself about any customer touchpoint is: “Does this feel natural?”
If your strategy feels forced, then it won’t be as effective. To be successful, every piece of content you create should flow with the customer journey and the natural course that customers take through your product.
3. Empower your customers
If you empower your customers with valuable and inspiring information, your product stops being simply a product to them. Instead, it becomes a tool that’s essential to their growth: whether that be a company increasing revenue or an individual delighting their team.
If you focus on empowering your customers, your products will sell themselves.
Empower your customers by creating helpful guides, e-books, and, most importantly, videos. These aren’t just tactical instructions (such as how to use Vimeo Create) — they’re comprehensive guides that help people achieve results with video, be better at their jobs, and thrill their customers.
4. Create a community
In the same vein, we don’t want customers to only learn from us — we want them to learn from each other. Our customers all have interesting stories, and they’re staffed by brilliant people who use video in innovative ways. So we run virtual events where our community can come together to share stories and learn, and we’re constantly sharing how these companies use video to boost their marketing, monetize their brands, or engage with their teams.
Community building can take place in so many different formats, from running events featuring customers to running an active customer forum. Experiment, discover what works well for your customers, and iterate from there.
5. Play the long game
Customer marketing generally isn’t a short-term gain.
It takes time to implement new processes and see the effects of them. But once you do build out a strategy that looks at the long game, you’ll start to see success that’s largely self-sustaining. That’s when you get to that special place where your growth seems to have a life of its own.
Remember that it’s all about the customer
When customer marketing is done right, it’s practically invisible to the outside world. But it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed by your customers, who feel supported, valued, and empowered by every interaction you have with them.
Want to start running virtual events or producing explainers for your customers?