What is customer marketing?

Customer marketing is a term referring to any marketing activity or marketing campaign that’s aimed at your current customers.

For some, customer marketing may be a new concept, and you could find yourself in a position similar to Prashanth Shenoy, VP of Marketing, Cloud, and Networking at Cisco, where you need to shift from product marketing to customer marketing.

What is the purpose of customer marketing?

Companies invest heavily in their customer marketing efforts to improve their customer retention, reduce churn, and boost customer loyalty, brand advocacy, and community participation.

A method hinging on customer segmentation, engagement methods, and customer advocacy programs, customer marketing strategies hone in on leveraging the experiences of existing customers, to improve both retention and growth.

Customer marketing and product marketing are key components in B2B Marketing. However, it is important to keep in mind when you talk about your product and solutions, it’s marketing. When your customers talk about your products and solutions, it's evidence.

Externally, a customer marketing organization should work to build strong relationships with their customer communities to build strong engagement that will lead to advocacy. Internally, the customer marketing and product marketing partnership are important to enable a better experience for our customers.

Why is marketing to potential customers important?

When it comes to how to interface with your clients, as a customer marketing manager you are the role model within your team. If you can create positive experiences for your user base, it'll give both your team and support teams the agency to ensure they are delighting your users and also sets the baseline expectation.

Customer marketing vs product marketing

Customer marketing and product marketing aren’t the same things, they’re very different.

The two have different focuses. Product marketing focuses on communicating about items purchased, their availability, and how they can fulfill customer needs.

On the other hand, customer marketing focuses on using data-driven customer- segments to market to customers effectively.

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Optimizing the customer journey is crucial to the success of your product or service. Discover how to reduce customer cognitive load and make your offerings more accessible for the customer/consumer.

What are customers or consumers in marketing?

Customers are people who purchase a product or service. However, it’s important to acknowledge that while they have a relationship with the vendor, they may not necessarily be the end user.

The consumer is the person who actually users (i.e. consumes) the product or service.

For example, if a Mother buys her son or daughter a pair of running shoes in the local sports store as a birthday gift, then she is the customer. The recipient of the gift would be the son or daughter, as they’d be using, i.e. consuming, the product.

Adam Weigand, Group Product Marketing Manager at Coinbase, explained how to build products that meet customer needs.

What are key customer markets?

There are four key customer markets: consumer markets, business markets, global markets, and nonprofit and governmental markets.

  1. Consumer Markets - This includes companies that sell mass consumer goods and services. For example, sports drinks, cosmetics, and sports apparel. They invest a great deal of time and resources to establish a brand image, to surpass their competition. However, with the consumer market often subject to change, this represents a challenge to companies who are trying to provide a consistent and reliable service for their customers.
  2. Business Markets - Business markets include companies that are selling business goods and services. They’re often faced with well-trained and well-informed professional buyers who are skilled in evaluating competitive offerings. Their target audience of business buyers purchases their goods to generate profit, and it’s an objective of business marketers to clearly demonstrate how their products will help these buyers achieve higher revenue or lower costs.
  3. Global markets - These markets extend to customers on a global scale, and with that comes obstacles that perhaps aren’t an issue elsewhere. For example, choices need to be made as to which geographic regions to target, plus which methods to implement in their role as an exporter, licencer, etc. Consideration will also need to be given to pricing strategies, while product communications may need to be amended to suit culture, language, and so on.
  4. Nonprofit and governmental markets - These companies sell their products or services to nonprofit organizations, including churches, educational institutions, charities, and government agencies. It isn’t in the best interest of these companies to set high price points, because their target audiences, typically speaking, have a small budget.

What are the types of customers in marketing?

1. Loyal customers

Loyal customers are customers who come to you repeatedly for products or services.

These types of customers are literally worth their weight in gold and are an indicator of when the work you’re putting in on improving your brand is hitting the right notes.

2. Discount customers

Discount consumers only buy your product or service if it’s been discounted and is not listed at its full retail price.

While difficult to manage, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility to manage them and keep them onside - it’s all about being creative and thinking outside the box.

3. Impulse customers

Impulse customers don’t necessarily have pre-determined plans to purchase your product or service. Rather, their purchase is a spur-of-the-moment decision, that can sometimes arise from a situation when they weren’t considering buying anything at all.

4. Need-based customers

The buying decisions of need-based customers are influenced by a specific need. They’ll enter a store or enter your website knowing exactly what they want, why they want it, make the purchase, and then leave. Because they’ve made a decision already, upselling and cross-selling to this segment of your customer base can be challenging, though not impossible.

Benefits of customer marketing

Irrespective of how you may define customer marketing, it’s clear to see why many companies adhere to its key principles, with a string of benefits including:

1. Greater propensity to buy

We’ve all been in a position where we’ve experienced mediocre customer service.

Similarly, we’ve also been made to feel like royalty by a company and been inclined to put our money into their pockets, instead of their competitors.

This principle applies when marketing to existing customers; they’re 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more compared to new customers.

Key takeaway? Never underestimate the influence of great customer service; a positive initial experience with your product will boost the chances of a repeat purchase.

2. Get to know your customers

When product marketers are doing their utmost to attract new customers, buyer personas are used to try and understand the target market.

Sure, it’s effective, but it takes time. And time, as they say, is money.

Rather than imagining who your customers are, customer marketing strategies help you use real-life examples, through use cases and case studies, to develop user personas and buyer personas.

3. Customer retention

Customer marketing strategies are pivotal in staving off churn and increasing retention rates. If a customer marketing strategy is executed well (i.e. your product messaging hits the right spots, they’re engaged, and your relationship’s watertight), then why would they go anywhere else?

The longer your customer uses your product, the more reluctant they’ll be to sever ties - and that’s great news for company revenue.

Why is customer retention important?

Customer retention is important because the cost of attracting new customers surpasses that of retaining existing clientele. Furthermore, when you retain your existing customers and work with people who are vested in your brand, your product is more likely to grow via word-of-mouth marketing, and they’re likely to be more receptive to becoming brand ambassadors.

4. Customer advocacy

Customer advocacy is one of the most valuable ways of adding to your customer base. There’s every chance you could land additional business in the form of recommendations or referrals.

When a customer sings your praises and shouts how good your product is from the rooftops, they effectively do the hard work for you, offering their respective networks authentic, reliable feedback.

What is a customer marketing strategy?

A customer marketing strategy hinges on customer segmentation, engagement methods, and customer advocacy programs, and hones in on leveraging the experiences of existing customers to improve both retention and growth.

With so many PMMs adopting customer marketing strategies as part of their function, we were curious to see how they defined the process.

Here’s what they had to say:

“The process of providing your audience with the types of communications and experiences they need, want, or like as they move from prospects to customers then, ideally, to advocates.”
“The mission of customer marketing is to turn customers into advocates who expand and renew their relationship with the business. Where PMM is responsible for overall GTM strategy, CM plays a role in driving go-to-customer strategy.”
“Activities designed to drive retention, loyalty, advocacy, growth, and community participation for current customers. The strategy, which is different from marketing to acquire new customers, relies heavily on maximizing strong customer relationships.”

Cost-effective methods to support customer marketing

There are CRMs on the market that’ve been designed to help companies spot trends and increase their customer retention rate.

The problem? They cost money - and if you’re a small-scale start-up the chances are, you won’t have a great deal of spare cash in your account.

However, Eve Brill, Head of Product Marketing at Farfetch, shared how companies can improve their customer retention for no extra money.

By the time you've finished reading her article/watching her presentation, you’ll have what you need to go back to your teams and implement some new retention tactics.

How do you measure the success of your customer marketing strategy, do you use OKRs or other metrics?

"OKRs, influence to churn/retention rates, upsell/cross-sell pipeline."

Kevin Lau, Global Head of Customer Advocacy, Digital Experience at Adobe

"OKRs, pipeline influence, customer participation in both marketing & sales activities."

Valeria Gomez, Senior Marketing Manager, Customer Marketing at Zendesk

Further customer marketing advice

How to set up a customer advisory board

"Before you begin, ensure you have cross-functional executive leadership participation and support."

Kevin Lau, Global Head of Customer Advocacy, Digital Experience at Adobe

"Don’t forget to set the goal for the CAB. And be sure to make it as diverse as possible - that makes the insights that more valuable."

Igor Kranjcec, Product Marketing Lead at Lemax

"Ensure that you engage the right level of customer contact within the CAB.  If their mandate is one of strategic input, it will be difficult to do that if you populated it with product users who’ll want to focus on feature ideas and feedback."

Ryan Tollofson, Director of Next Gen Communication & Implementation Services at TELUS Partner Solutions

Customer advisory boards offer access to invaluable customer conversations that can be used to enhance your product and optimize your company’s performance.

In this article, we unpack how product marketers use conversation and revenue intelligence to refine their credentials.

How to turn customers into advocates

"Allow them to get to know you! While this may sound like a lightweight or fluffy answer – it works. Members of an advocacy program want to know a real human is running the program who cares about their success.
“When you open up, allow customers into your world and share your ideas (crazy as they may be), they’ll do the same. They’ll provide honest feedback, and they’ll be there for you when you need them. They’ll become advocates!
“Any advocacy program that hopes to achieve success must start by building genuine relationships with customers. So open up, and let them get to know you. It will pay off!"

Jeni Asaba, Manager, Community Engagement and Advocacy at Jamf

"Make sure to provide value to the customer on each step of their customer journey. Coming from personal experience, when this happens, I’m more than glad to advocate for you. I see often companies trying to push to become an advocate by giving discounts, and incentives. That works, but it’s a one-time thing.
“A happy customer does it on its own, and is happy to engage in all the advocate activities you have."

Igor Kranjcec, Product Marketing Lead at Lemax

"We've learned that our customers are most excited to advocate for Asana when we bring them together, understand their needs, and facilitate fruitful discussions.
“For example, when we launched our annual Anatomy of Work Index, an in-depth analysis into how people spend time at work and the factors shaping those habits, we brought leaders together to discuss the results and best practices in the world of distributed work."

Kalina Bryant, Head of Customer Advocacy at Asana

"Practice empathy and listen more than you speak."

Kevin Lau, Global Head of Customer Advocacy, Digital Experience at Adobe

"Just ask. You’d be surprised how many customers are ready to be advocates, but they haven’t been asked and given meaningful opportunities to contribute.
“If they’re not ready to contribute, perhaps you’re asking the wrong person in the organization (find the champion who likes to get things done) or you haven’t helped them first (e.g. take their product feedback to your product team and report back on the response)."

Jeff Hardison, Head of Product Marketing at Calendly

"Keeping it human! When you focus on the human aspect of the customer relationship, it’s easier to build trust because you have learned what your customers are most passionate about.
“When you understand your customers’ interests, they would feel empowered to share their success stories with you because you have nurtured that relationship with them in a genuine way."

Valeria Gomez, Senior Marketing Manager, Customer Marketing at Zendesk

Valuable customer feedback methods

"Online review sites, NPS, and customer story interviews. Stellar reviews can be leveraged for marketing material. Negative reviews are actionable in that they provide an opportunity to activate customer success and support to address the challenge the reviewer is experiencing.
“NPS is an indicator of a customer's overall satisfaction. This can be used to determine which customers might be a good fit for your advocacy program. The customer interview is where you learn a lot of insightful details about how the customer is using your product, how using the product has impacted their role and the impact it’s had on the business as a whole.
“The interviews are also a chance to hear about challenges or shortcomings in the product. I record all interviews and share the customer’s feedback with the appropriate team(s) across the business."

Andrew Sevillia, Director, Customer Marketing at Sage Intacct

"Simple and short satisfactions presented in product or right after a customer touchpoint is best."

Ryan Tollofson, Director of Next Gen Communication & Implementation Services at TELUS Partner Solutions

"I prefer NPS and CES (customer effort score) for setting the baseline and seeing trends. After receiving the score and/or feedback; I reach out to the customers that answered (both high and low scores) to schedule a deeper interview.
“Additionally, try to do it as much as possible in-app (for software companies), and make it contextual. We’ve managed to raise the response rate to 80% since we used in-app messaging."

Igor Kranjcec, Product Marketing Lead at Lemax

The role of customer marketing in an organization

We asked product marketers where the role of customer marketing sits within your organization, who they report to, and which teams they collaborate with most frequently.

"Our customer marketing team sits within the global arm of our enterprise solutions team. We collaborate most frequently with our product and sales peers."

Ayush Sen, Director of Customer Marketing at TELUS Partner Solutions

"Product marketing. We collaborate with the rest of the marketing organization, sales, and success, investor relations, etc."

Valeria Gomez, Senior Marketing Manager, Customer Marketing at Zendesk

How to increase customer retention and reduce churn

"Listen to what your customers are saying to you, identify where you can bring value to their success across the board, and don’t be afraid to show them you have empathy for their situation.
“If you take the time to do these things, you will forge a strong relationship that has greater potential to withstand bumps in the road."

Jennifer Susinski, Customer Advocacy & Marketing Manager at HPE

"Focus on creating exceptional customer experiences designed to help your customers realize value quickly with your product/solution."

Kevin Lau, Global Head of Customer Advocacy, Digital Experience at Adobe

"Start worrying about churn as soon as someone becomes a customer, through the whole lifecycle. Don’t start providing value and communicating with your customer 2 months before renewal.
“When you do it all the time, it’s easier to spot potential churners, and renewals rates are higher."

Igor Kranjcec, Product Marketing Lead at Lemax

"In addition to the timeless advice of “create an excellent product,” spend time meeting with your customers. Particularly with those who - according to the in-app behavioral data - aren’t engaging with your product.
“If it’s an important logo for your company, and no one in CS is available (and they’re cool with it), why not reach out and see how the customer is doing, why they’re not using the product, and so on?
“By listening, you might turn around the relationship (just as CS does) and then make them not only a renewing customer but also an advocate for your customer programs."

Jeff Hardison, Head of Product Marketing at Calendly

How to close enterprise deals

"It's key to partner with your sales organization to set up an engaging executive program. For example, Asana's executive briefing center brings together customer stakeholders and a team of Asana leaders, and subject matter experts to explore near-term opportunities and collaborate to accelerate transformations.
“Every six weeks, we partner with our AE's to run an engaging pitch week for key accounts. With this process, we set up our customers, internal executives, and account owners for success."

Kalina Bryant, Head of Customer Advocacy at Asana