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Are your customers content?

March 18, 2011

Content Marketing for CRM: Part 1

How you market to your customer base matters more than ever. Businesses are at last waking up to the fact that the key to success now lies not only in acquiring new customers but importantly, building the loyalty and maximising the value of their existing customer base.

Don’t just take our word for it, improving customer retention is viewed by 79% of senior marketing executives as the most important issue impacting their marketing strategy, according to a recent Accenture survey.

So if improving retention and driving revenue growth within your existing customer base is a strategic goal, what part, if any, should content marketing play? To cut to the chase, a significant one. In a Junta 42/MarketingProfs study on the role of content marketing, 69% of marketers ranked customer retention as a key goal – just behind brand awareness (78%) and rather surprisingly ahead of lead generation (63%).

So how can you make content marketing work for your business and its customers?

It’s all about value

The guiding principle behind content marketing is the concept of the value exchange. Essentially everything you do should be built around offering customers content which has a perception of value. This increases the likelihood of the recipient reciprocating in some way – and in the case of your customers that may mean:

i) Putting more business your way

ii) Becoming an advocate for your product, service or brand (whether spreading the word internally or externally amongst their peers)

iii) Choosing to keep their business with you

As the good folk at Junta42 explain: “The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

Value is everything. Lose sight of that fact and your content marketing initiatives are more likely to perform with a whimper than a bang.

CRM but not as we know it

Customer Relationship Management is a dirty word in most b2b organisations. It’s been tarnished by association with systems that have proven costly to implement, onerous to manage and are all too often the thorn in the side of many a marketing function.

For all the goodwill and investment in the world, the truth is most companies are yet to reap value from ‘CRM’. They lack confidence in the quality of data held therein and the ability of the organisation to garner any meaningful insight to inform and improve their relationship with customers.

Altimeter Group gets to the heart of the problem: “Though these CRM programs started out with the goal of providing a single customer view and 1:1 relationship management, early efforts quickly refocused on automation of front office tasks and improving management visibility across marketing, sales, service and support. Because these programs have often failed to support the front office worker’s need to manage relationships, internal adoption halted as users grew to resent, and in some cases revolt, against CRM.”

Altimeter and other seasoned experts on all things CRM, including the likes of Paul Greenberg and Brian Solis, talk about the evolution of CRM and the principle of Social CRM. That ‘social’ buzzword aside, this is more than mere opportunism on the part of commentators trying to coin the next big thing. Instead it’s a compelling view, especially worthy of consideration when informing your approach to content marketing to your customers.

Essentially, the view is that if CRM to date has been about operational management of customer relationships, and is often centred around a transaction, Social CRM is about building a strategy around collaboration and engagement with the customer – in a word, interaction. And to be clear, Social CRM isn’t just about social media – but all the channels used to build customer relationships and advocacy. It’s about being able to locate, educate and engage current and potential customers, however and wherever they prefer to be communicated with.

The bottom line is content can play a key role in supporting and shaping that interaction and engagement – and as such, your relationship with each and every customer.

This is the first in three part series on Content Marketing for CRM. Look out for Part 2: Building an effective Content Marketing strategy.

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