As Marketers we spend our time focusing on leads – from how to get more leads to improving lead quality.  We’ll read blogs, look at data, and run experiments to improve our marketing efforts.  Often times though we overlook a very valuable resource right at our fingertips… customers!

Sure, customers are great for case studies, and you’re already using them for that, but are you doing more?  What you may not realize is your customers are a goldmine for improving your marketing efforts.  You can learn from them, work with them, and use them take your marketing strategies to the next level.   Here are 3 ways you should use your customers to improve marketing.

1. Get your customers to promote you

Getting customers to be advocates of your company is a powerful way to increase both the quantity and quality of your leads.  This concept isn’t new; the trick though is how to get customer to promote you.  It’s not easy identifying the right customers, let alone encouraging them to promote your business.   Don’t despair though; the following advice should get you some advocates in no time.

To get started, you need to identify who your potential advocates are.   It’s important to note that an advocate is more than just a happy or successful user.  They need to be someone willing to publicly state that your product or service is great.   Fortunately, there is a very easy method for identifying them – the Net Promoter Survey (NPS).

For the uninitiated, the NPS asks your customers 2 questions –

1. Score from 0-10 how likely you are to refer this business to a friend or colleague

2. Why did you give the score you gave

As you can see, one of the questions flat out asks if your customers are willing to promote your business.  Simply grab the list of all customers who scored a 9 or a 10 in the first question and you’ll have a list of potential advocates!

Traditionally, the NPS is a survey run by a customer success group or a product group.  So see if they already have this info before you run a separate survey.  If they don’t have it, then you should work with them on the survey as the results will be very helpful for everyone.

While the NPS is very effective at finding advocates, it may not be an option for you.  If that’s the case, there are other methods.  One such strategy involves tracking customer behavior. You can identify potential promoters by seeing which customers use your product the most, get the most value from your services, or are frequent repeat customers.  Depending on your business, you can accomplish this by using customer tracking software, looking at purchase history, or talking with employees who work directly with customers to see which ones are the most successful.

You can also monitor social media to see if anyone is already promoting you.  If you find a customer reviewing you or even mentioning your business in a positive way, they’re already an advocate!  So make a note of who they are and engage them.

Lastly, if none of the above methods will work for you, then try using an incentive program to encourage customers.  The key behind an incentive program is you don’t want customers promoting you just to get a prize or some other gimmick.  This will cheapen the experience and greatly devalue the endorsements you get.  Instead, you need an incentive program that is more organic and leverages social currency or other benefits if a customer participates.  For example:

  • Promote other people’s endorsements – via social media or on your blog.  Everyone loves when you re-tweet their material or link to them
  • Co-market with customers who endorse you – invite a customer to put on a joint webinar with you or let them be a guest author on your blog or vice versa
  • Invite customers who endorse you to usability studies and feedback sessions – make them special and give them a voice in improving your product
  • Create an advocate badge your customers can wear at meet-ups and events
  • Invite advocates to dinner with your CEO

If you use some of those incentives, be careful with messaging.  Don’t just blast out a marketing message that says something like “If you promote us, you’ll get a really cool advocate badge!”  Instead, just be very visible with these benefits.  For example, if you invite advocates to a dinner with your CEO, write a blog post the next day where you talk about what you learned at dinner with advocates.  Or if you take the badge approach, create a page on your site saying who they are, give them a chance to speak at your customer events, and so on.  In short, you want to promote the end result of these incentives as it will get other customers thinking “I want that too” so they’ll start promoting you as well!

2. Buyer Personas & Analytics

Your customers are great sources of data to help you better understand who buys your product or services.  The more you understand your customers, how they use your services, and how you found them in the first place, the better you can target potential leads.

The first thing you should do is look at the marketing data around your customers through a process known as closed loop reporting.   All of you probably already use an analytic program, like HubSpot, to analyze where your leads come from, what kind of keyword searches they do, what offers on your site successfully convert, and so on.   With closed loop reporting you’ll analyze your customers in the same way – find out where they came from, what converts them, and so on.

After going through this exercise you should learn some very valuable information, such as:

  • What social media sites your customers use
  • What kinds of referring sites send you the most customers
  • What subjects your customers are most interested in (based off keyword searches and blog articles they read)
  • What offers and landing pages generate the most customers

Another benefit of looking at your customers this way is you can learn some surprising facts, such as a source that generates a lot of leads may not be generating a lot of customers.  You can now work on improving the lead quality from that source.

Next, you should create a buyer persona, or a detailed definition of who buys your products.   When creating a persona, you want to analyze your customers for common patterns and create a detailed profile of who buys your products.    For example, in addition to what you learned in your closed loop analysis, you may want to look at things like:

  • Departments your customers work in
  • Their titles/seniority in those departments
  • Kind of content they are interested in
  • Common challenges they need help with

Then, as you learn about your customers, you can create personas, for example: Marketing Managers at B2B companies with 5-50 employees typically have the following 2 challenges we can help with and they respond well to high level help and how-to content

Once you know your customers at the level of detail, it becomes much easier to find them online, engage them, and ultimately convert them.

3. Don’t forget to market to existing customers

A marketer’s job is to get more leads and help increase sales.  While that is the lifeblood of any business, it’s very important you don’t forget about marketing to existing customers!  Not only are they possible sources for additional revenue, but you need to keep them engaged and loyal so you can get advocates, repeat business, and retain them if you have a subscription based business.

The first thing you should do after someone becomes a customer is remove them from any and all general marketing campaigns.  They already bought, so you don’t want to bother them with messaging and offers meant to generate new leads.  All that will do is annoy them and increase the chance they’ll ignore future emails from you!

Next, just as you segment leads in a marketing campaign, you want to do the same with your customers.  In addition to segmenting them based on persona and other demographic info, you need to think about the goal of the campaign.  Are you trying to:

  • Generate upgrades
  • Generate upsells
  • Engage customers
  • Promote new features
  • Get advocates

And so on.  You’ll want to further fine tune your segments based on the goal.  For example, if you want to generate upsells, you’ll want to identify customers that use one product but not a companion product and send them one message, yet send a completely different message to customers who use the companion product, but not the first one.  This is far more effective than just blast emailing your customers a list of features and seeing who is interested.

Lastly, make sure you remember when you email your customers!  It’s very easy to over email customers if you send a survey one week, and upsell campaign the next, an upgrade campaign the following one, and so on.  So, make sure you coordinate your marketing efforts with the customer team, product team, and anyone else who communicates with your customers.  Try not to email any customer more than once a month.