Thoughts and ideas from SHAKE Marketing Group

How to Retain Customers During Uncertain Times

If there's one thing companies should focus on during times of uncertainty, it's how to stay relevant to their customers. Companies that obsess over their customers are able to offer 'value' in the form of new and appropriate solutions when needs and situations change.

The alternative is what Theodore Levitt called "marketing myopia" - a shortsighted obsession with selling products or services versus focusing on what customers really want. Companies that fall prey to this way of thinking go out of business (for example, the railroad industry, blockbuster, blackberry, kodak, sears).

When thinking of voice of customer research, I like to look at the entire customer lifecycle and determine how value is being uncovered, communicated and delivered.

1> Pre-sale

Gartner research shows that customers only spend 17% of the buying process meeting with sellers. The rest of the time they are doing their own research online. In order for marketers to break through the 'sea of sameness' out there, they need to deeply understand the daily problems and challenges facing their prospects, as well as their individual motivations and desires.

1:1 interviews with customers can help uncover their biggest obstacles and problems, their top goals, and personal motivations.

When I conduct customer research for my clients, I find that 95% of the time they leave out something the customer thinks is the most important aspect.

2> Sale

Most buyers complain that the sales team doesn't understand their company or their needs. While prospects admit to being open to new ideas/ insights to help shape their thinking, most sellers aren't taking the time to personalize their outreach or sales pitch.

Rather than targeting 'everyone', VoC research should focus on best-fit customers to understand why they chose you over a competitor, what value they ultimately get from using your product and which major problems your product solves.

This research helps sellers become more in tune with what customers want, and create use cases or case studies to show how customers are using the product.

3> Post-sale

Many companies spend all of their energy and budget to acquire a new customer, then hand them over to a junior level 'customer success rep' to do the heavy lifting. VoC research can be helpful to understand what the customer's experience is like once the contract is signed, and if there are gaps in the onboarding process. After all, the customer gets no value until they implement and use your product.

If your product has multiple features, or if you sell multiple add-ons or complementary products, somebody needs to be responsible for ongoing customer education. For example, I recently purchased a software product because I was allured by one particular feature. The problem was that this feature alone didn't justify the monthly cost. I couldn't find any educational or training videos on the vendor's site to learn how to use the rest of the platform, and nobody ever reached out to make sure I was receiving the value they promised. In the end, I cancelled my subscription.

Had someone at the company been doing VoC research, they would realize they had major gaps to address.

In the end, customer retention and loyalty boils down to the organization's ability to:

1) demonstrate they understand and care about their customers

2) deliver on their promise (i.e. value proposition)

3) stay relevant

B2B marketing and organization goals can be met when you show your customers some love. Customer marketing is absolutely essential during times of uncertainty. If you want to recession-proof your b2b marketing, focus on customer value.