In the ongoing push to attract new prospects, generate leads and nurture leads into new business, B2B firms can fail to exert the proper amount of focus, time and effort on existing clients. But like all relationships, clients deserve ongoing development and nurturing.
Yet, it’s a well-known fact that it’s much less expensive to keep an existing client than it is to gain a new one. And for many firms—especially services firms that sell to other businesses or organizations—existing clients represent a substantial portion of their overall revenue AND future pipeline. In fact, many B2B firms are increasingly taking a hard look at their Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Cost metrics and are looking for effective ways to boost those numbers.
So while attracting new clients is obviously an important goal of B2B marketing and business development, nurturing and further developing existing clients should also be part of your ongoing efforts. Here are a few “client nurturing” ideas that could help your client development:
Everyone understands how valuable and important it is to have face-time with your clients. But with the busy-ness of the work week and a packed schedule of new business meetings, it’s not always easy to make time to regularly go out and meet with existing clients. And while talking to clients might seem more like a sales or business development activity, if conducted properly, face-to-face client meetings can also strengthen relationships.
In addition to checking the pulse of the relationship and discussing existing projects or engagements, client meetings should also serve as an opportunity to gain valuable intel from your clients. Ask open-ended questions. What’s keeping them up at night? What challenges or opportunities are they facing? Marketing and business development teams can gain rich insights when you listen more and talk less.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a strategy focused on fewer, specific targets, as opposed to marketing to the masses. And ABM is useful not just for attracting new clients, but also retaining existing clients as well. ABM works to deploy marketing’s resources to assist with client development by creating an account-specific marketing strategy aimed at reaching, engaging, nurturing and growing the account.
We’ve previous stressed the importance of creating content for every stage of the customer lifecycle. Remember, the end goal of your marketing is not to turn prospects into clients; the end goal is to turn prospects into promoters. So as you plan your content, consider the topics that would specifically be of interest to existing clients. Make the mission of your blog to be a destination, not just for new prospects and leads, but existing clients as well.
While webinars and other events are often used for new business development, they can also be used to nurture existing client relationships. Take a topic you’ve identified in your editorial calendar and consider developing a webinar or seminar on that topic and extending the invitation to existing clients only. Let your clients know that you’ve geared it specifically for them in an effort to keep them informed of the latest trends, best practices or industry issues. In-person “client appreciation” events are also a great for client development and provide a way to get in front of clients, while showing them some love along the way.
Take a page from the B2C world and consider creating a multi-touchpoint drip campaign for new clients as part of your on-boarding process. Similar to how you would plan out a lead nurturing campaign, consider the type of content and information that new clients would find useful and schedule a series of targeted emails. One of those emails could be a brief survey asking them to rate their level of satisfaction so far or to identify any issue that needs to be addressed. No news isn’t always good news, so the more you can engage new clients at the beginning of the relationship, the better opportunity you will have to keep them in the long run.
This should go without saying, but your clients’ success should be your success. So take the opportunity to brag on your clients (not brag on what you’ve done for your clients) on your social media channels. Share their wins, their accolades and their content. Retweet. @mention. Like. Share. Link to. This will speak loudly to your clients (and potential clients) that you are invested in and energized by their success.
The emphasis is on “client-centric.” Many case studies are so company-focused, they do a great job of telling what work you did for the client, but not necessarily what your work did for the client. But with case studies, there is a great opportunity to emphasize shared success. While highlighting your work along the way, the end goal and the client’s success should always be the focal point. Whether in written form or video, think about creating a case study that your clients are not only willing to, but are actually eager to, share with their clients. That should a motivating factor.
Along similar lines, another great way to nurture client relationships (while also demonstrating your expertise in the process) is to co-present with a client at an industry tradeshow or conference. Whether a plenary session, keynote, workshop or breakout session, choose an industry conference that your client regularly attends and identify a topic that you can speak on together. It might be built around a case study, lessons learned or innovations gleaned from a recent project together. Even if you drive the presentation and the client is more of a supporting act, your client will appreciate the inclusion and recognition and presenting together in a public forum will build comradery.
To underscore the emphasis on communicating and talking to clients, I’ve circled back to this idea. Regular, consistent, intentional communication with your clients is absolutely critical. This includes face-to-face meetings (remember #1), check-in calls and web conferences, email communication, etc. Just like your personal relationships, regular and beyond-surface level communication is a vital ingredient to the ongoing health of the relationship. And here’s a sobering reminder: if you’re not taking the time to talk to your clients, chances are your competitors are. Don’t be out of their sight, or you may find you’re out of their mind.
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It’s easy to become so consumed with the latest prospect that you ignore or neglect the existing client right in front of you. It happens, but its not going to help you in your quest for long-term, profitable client relationships. While you focus on lead generation and lead nurturing, don’t forget to nurture clients along the way.
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