The 5 Key Components of a Killer Customer Marketing Strategy

The Ultimate Guide to Customer Marketing:
10 Proven Strategies to Drive Growth in 2023

In today‘s hyper-competitive business landscape, acquiring new customers is getting harder and more expensive than ever before. That‘s why forward-thinking companies are shifting their focus from customer acquisition to customer retention and growth.

Enter customer marketing – the discipline of engaging existing customers to drive retention, loyalty, advocacy, and growth. According to research by Bain & Company, a 5% increase in customer retention can boost profits by 25% to 95%. Another study by Constellation Research found that improving customer retention by just 1% can lead to revenue increases of over $250,000 in a $50M company.

However, many companies still struggle with customer marketing or don‘t prioritize it enough. A 2022 survey by HubSpot found that while 93% of marketers agreed customer marketing is important, only 61% had a documented customer marketing strategy.

So what exactly is customer marketing and how can you excel at it in 2023 and beyond? In this guide, we‘ll break down the 10 key elements of a winning customer marketing strategy along with best practices, examples, and actionable tips you can implement right away. Let‘s dive in!

  1. Leverage customer data to deeply understand your customers

The foundation of effective customer marketing is a deep, data-driven understanding of who your customers are, what they care about, and how they want to engage with your brand. Some key data points to analyze include:

  • Demographic info (age, gender, location, job title, etc.)
  • Behavioral data (product usage, support interactions, email/web engagement)
  • Transactional data (purchase history, contract value, discount usage)
  • Feedback data (NPS scores, reviews, survey responses)

Use this data to develop detailed customer personas that capture their goals, challenges, preferences, and journeys. Don‘t just create these personas once and file them away – keep them updated as your customer base and offerings evolve.

According to McKinsey, companies that leverage customer behavioral insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth. So make sure your entire organization, not just marketing, has visibility into your customer data and personas.

  1. Provide proactive, personalized customer service and support

Customer service is the new marketing. In the age of social media and online reviews, every interaction a customer has with your brand can make or break their loyalty and advocacy.

One study found that after one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again. Conversely, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service.

Some ways to deliver exceptional, proactive customer service:

  • Offer omni-channel support across phone, email, chat, social, etc.
  • Invest in AI-powered chatbots and self-service options
  • Personalize support interactions based on customer data
  • Proactively reach out with relevant tips, training, best practices
  • Quickly respond to and resolve customer feedback and issues
  • Empower frontline support teams to delight customers in the moment

Customer service shouldn‘t just be reactive – look for opportunities to proactively educate, support and delight customers at every stage of their journey.

  1. Engage customers across their preferred channels

To keep customers engaged, you need to meet them where they are. And in 2023, that means engaging across a range of digital channels like email, mobile apps, SMS, social media, online communities, and more.

The key is to provide value and be helpful, not spammy or overly promotional. Some engagement tactics to try:

  • Sending personalized email newsletters with product tips, industry news, events, etc.
  • In-app messaging to onboard new users and promote key features
  • SMS alerts for timely announcements, promotions, or reminders
  • Social media content that educates and entertains (not just sells)
  • Exclusive online community for customers to network and learn
  • Virtual or in-person customer events, meetups, and conferences

The goal is to become a trusted advisor that helps customers succeed, not just a vendor trying to upsell them. Enable two-way communication and make it easy for customers to reach out and engage on their terms.

  1. Incentivize loyalty and advocacy through rewards

Loyalty programs are a powerful way to encourage repeat business, higher spend, and advocacy over time. According to Bond Brand Loyalty, 78% of consumers are more likely to continue doing business with a brand that has a loyalty program.

Some popular loyalty program structures include:

  • Point-based programs (earn points for purchases, referrals, reviews, etc.)
  • Tiered programs with accelerated rewards for higher spend/engagement
  • Paid memberships with exclusive perks (free shipping, discounts, access)
  • Value-add programs (extended warranty, exclusive content, experiences)
  • Partner programs with other complementary brands
  • Charity-based programs where actions are tied to donations

The key is to make your loyalty program simple, valuable, and on-brand. Focus on rewards that motivate your specific customers segments. Promote it heavily across touchpoints, and make redemption seamless.

Use loyalty as a lever to encourage high-value actions, like trying new products, subscribing to your blog, or leaving reviews. And make sure to measure and optimize your program over time to maximize ROI.

  1. Tap into the power of customer referrals and word-of-mouth

Customer referrals are one of the most effective and cost-efficient growth channels. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising.

Referred customers also tend to be more loyal and profitable – one study found they have a 37% higher retention rate and 25% higher lifetime value than other customers.

Some tactics to drive more customer referrals:

  • Create a formal referral program with enticing rewards for referrer and referee
  • Make it dead-simple to refer, with shareable links, codes, and content
  • Actively ask for referrals at positive moments in the customer journey
  • Equip customers with the tools to be effective advocates (testimonials, videos, etc.)
  • Publicly recognize and reward top referrers to incentivize more
  • Run limited-time referral promotions to create urgency
  • Target referral asks to your happiest, most engaged customers

You can further amplify word-of-mouth by encouraging customer reviews and testimonials on sites like G2 Crowd, Capterra, and your own website. Incentivize and promote these heavily, as customer-driven content is seen as more authentic and trustworthy.

  1. Continually gather and act on customer feedback

Customer feedback is the lifeblood of any successful customer marketing strategy. You need a constant pulse on how customers are feeling to identify issues, opportunities, and successes to double down on.

Some key ways to collect actionable customer feedback:

  • Run regular NPS and CSAT surveys to gauge sentiment over time
  • Send targeted microsurveys after key interactions and milestones
  • Analyze support tickets and chat logs for common themes/issues
  • Monitor brand and competitor mentions on social media
  • Engage with customers directly through interviews, focus groups
  • Set up systems to route feedback to the right internal teams
  • Close the loop by communicating what you did with the feedback

It‘s not enough to just collect feedback – you need to have a process for analyzing it, prioritizing key insights, and quickly making data-driven improvements across the business. Let customers know you‘re listening and taking action on what matters to them.

  1. Involve customers throughout the product development lifecycle

One of the most powerful ways to build customer loyalty is to actively involve them in shaping your products and services. This not only leads to offerings that better fit their needs, but also gives them a sense of ownership and investment in your brand.

Some ways to collaborate with customers on product development:

  • Source ideas through community forums, feedback surveys, interviews
  • Run beta programs to get early feedback from power users
  • Create a customer advisory board to guide product roadmap
  • Use customer feedback to prioritize features and bug fixes
  • Highlight customers in release notes to show their impact
  • Continue soliciting feedback post-launch to drive future iterations

By bringing customers into the product development process, you not only create better products, but also a legion of invested advocates who will spread the word and defend your brand.

  1. Celebrate customer successes through case studies and more

Nothing is more powerful than showcasing how real customers are finding value and achieving results with your offerings. Case studies, testimonials, and other forms of customer evidence are critical for building trust and credibility with current and future buyers.

Some tips for effective customer success content:

  • Highlight a diverse range of customer sizes, industries, and use cases
  • Use the "Hero‘s Journey" format (challenge, solution, results)
  • Weave in specific metrics and ROI that others can benchmark against
  • Include direct quotes to authentically capture the customer‘s voice
  • Provide different formats – long-form stories, video, infographics, slideshares
  • Equip sales teams with relevant proof points to use in deals
  • Amplify through PR, social, paid ads, and customer advocacy programs

But don‘t just feature customers in one-off, static content. Celebrate them in dynamic ways, like an annual awards program, a dedicated customer success blog or podcast, or by inviting them to tell their stories at your events and webinars.

  1. Surprise and delight to turn customers into raving fans

While consistency and responsiveness are table stakes, the most memorable customer experiences often come from small, unexpected moments of delight. These thoughtful touches show customers that you value them as individuals and are willing to go above and beyond.

Some ideas to surprise and delight customers:

  • Send a handwritten note or branded swag on their birthday or work anniversary
  • Have executives make unscripted check-in calls to get their feedback live
  • Provide a surprise free upgrade or exclusive access to a new feature
  • Drop off donuts or a gift basket at their office
  • Spotlight them in your newsletter or social media (with permission)
  • Host a private dinner or experience for top customers in their city
  • Include a small bonus or gift with their usual shipment or delivery

The specifics will vary based on your brand and customer base, but the key is to be creative, personal, and generous in ways that align with what your customers care about. Even small gestures can make a big impact on affinity and loyalty.

  1. Measure the business impact and ROI of customer marketing

As with any business function, you need to prove the tangible value and ROI of your customer marketing efforts to justify continued investment and unlock more resources over time. That means setting clear goals, tracking the right metrics, and communicating results to leadership.

Some key customer marketing metrics to track:

  • Customer retention and churn rate
  • Revenue and margin from existing customers (upsells, cross-sells, renewals)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLTV)
  • Net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Referral volume, conversion rate, and revenue
  • Loyalty program enrollment and redemption rates
  • Earned media value from customer advocacy (social, PR, reviews)
  • Product adoption, usage, and feature engagement from customer base

Benchmark your performance against industry averages and your own historical data to show trends and improvements over time. Estimate the incremental revenue and cost savings driven by your customer programs.

And make sure to translate metrics into the language of the C-suite. For example, a 5% increase in retention may not mean much to your CEO, but if you can show that represents $50M in recurring revenue and a 12% boost in net income, that will get their attention.

The Bottom Line

Earning customer loyalty and advocacy is hard work – it requires a holistic, sustained effort to engage and delight customers across their entire lifecycle. But the upside is immense.

According to Forrester, loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 4x as likely to refer, and 7x as likely to try a new offering compared to non-loyal customers. Another study found that a 2% increase in customer retention is equivalent to cutting operating costs by 10%.

By leveraging the 10 proven customer marketing strategies outlined in this guide, you‘ll be well on your way to retaining and growing your best customers while lowering acquisition costs and driving sustainable revenue growth in 2023 and beyond.

The most successful companies, like Apple, Amazon, and Costco, aren‘t just masters of customer acquisition – they‘re masters of customer retention. They understand that in today‘s experience-driven economy, customer relationships are the ultimate competitive advantage.

So take a hard look at how you‘re engaging customers today, and identify some quick wins and longer-term investments you can make to upgrade the customer experience. The customers, and revenue, will follow.