Marketing has always been integral to customer acquisition. But for companies with ambitious growth goals, marketers need to bring the same skills to customer retention and expansion.

Typically, the majority of any marketing department’s time and energy centers on client acquisition. After all, new customers drive growth.

However, acquiring new customers can cost three times as much as expanding existing accounts, which means that focusing on customer success is critical to supporting sustainable growth.

As the function with extensive experience in communicating the value proposition, building relationships and driving revenue, marketing should play a vital role in defining the customer experience, enhancing customer success and enabling the organization to maximize the impact of customer retention and expansion.

In the last GrowthBit, a fellow advisor to LLR portfolio companies, Sarah Doughty explained the three fundamental ways to build a customer success function into a revenue-generating retention machine. Sarah and I co-led an LLR Sales & Marketing Collaborate session on this topic, where I added perspective on the other essential side of this equation.

How marketing can collaborate with customer success to protect, grow and leverage the organization’s customer base:

Protect your base

Protecting your client base is integral to sustainable business development. Keeping the clients you already have provides a solid foundation for growth, and marketing can support that goal in several ways.

Arm Customer Success with the value prop

Marketing often collaborates with sales to define key value propositions and messaging at the top of the funnel. To truly reinforce and solidify the company’s brand, marketing must carry that focus and those communications through the entire customer journey.  By providing talk tracks and training to the customer success (CS) team, marketing can help them communicate the right, consistent message to customers.

Whether that message focuses on savings, efficiency or enhanced performance, when the CS team knows how to guide the conversation, they can reinforce product value by helping the customer recognize specific benefits they are seeing by using your product.

Share value-added content

Marketers spend vast amounts of time creating content that engages the market, and most of us work closely with sales to ensure that they can use it to drive new customer acquisition. To drive retention, we should work just as closely with account management to help them use this content—including thought leadership and product updates—to engage customers.

For example, at Relias Learning, we produced a significant piece of market research called The State of Training that included research for specific verticals in our market.

While it was a major part of our sales strategy, we also worked closely with our account management teams to ensure that they understood how to use that content to demonstrate knowledge, deliver added value and start strategic conversations with existing clients.

Expanding marketing’s remit in this way doesn’t have to be labor-intensive. For the most part, it involves taking existing marketing content and repurposing or repackaging it to support the CS function.

Remember: the person who approves renewals and signs the check is seldom who uses or directly benefits from the product.

Drive renewals and retention

The person who approves product renewals and signs the check is seldom the person who uses or directly benefits from the product. That fundamental disconnect can put the renewal at risk unless the company has a strategy for consistently communicating the product value to the customer.

Every renewal needs to be reframed as a nurture track. In the lead-up to a renewal or a price increase, these nurture tracks emphasize the value delivered to users, other stakeholders and the organization as a whole.

This is another area where marketing’s expertise in delivering the key messages and creating strong relationships with the customer is vital. Marketers can support account managers in delivering QBRs that demonstrate value, communicate usage and contextualize any price increases. They can also work with the finance and CS teams to structure renewal letters that are relational rather than simply transactional.

Marketing should know their customer profile inside and out. Use that understanding to ensure that when someone opens that letter—whether they’re a product user or not—the value proposition is clear and irrefutable.

Just as with a prospect, consider the trigger points in an existing customer’s journey where you can automate the delivery of helpful, timely info that encourages them to seek more.

Grow your base

Your existing customers can be a vital source of growth for the organization through upsell and cross-sell pathways that deepen sales revenues and customer loyalty.

Create “pulse periods”

Marketing can partner with CS to create “pulse periods” during which a specific product aspect or add-on is highlighted in order to encourage upgrades.

By supplying content and special offers that hook into a topical event or theme, these pulse periods give the CS team a reason to reach out to customers, create awareness, generate demand and drive upgrades and add-ons in a programmatic and intentional way. Participation can be encouraged through competitions and other incentives. Marketing can also work with the product management team to coordinate in-app banners, alerts and additional email communications.

Develop dedicated nurture tracks

Just as companies do for new clients and then later to keep existing customers engaged and drive renewals, marketing can create regular—usually digital—communications to drive demand for additional products, services or features.

These can run as “always on” programs that deliver information about additional products or opportunities and prompt customers to request more info, schedule a demo or talk with their CS rep. Then you can overlay pulse periods where CS gets involved to highlight a certain aspect or add-on. Just as you would with a prospect, consider whether there are certain trigger points in an existing customer’s journey where you can automate the delivery of helpful, timely info that encourages them to seek out more.

Leverage customer networks

Whether regional or national, customer communities and user group meetings are friendly environments where you can inform and upsell.

A community is an ongoing, active initiative that can be hosted in a tool like Facebook or on a dedicated community platform—Jive is one example—that is branded as your own.

It enables customers to communicate with and support each other, but it should be monitored and moderated by your company. At Relias, the marketing department administered our community but collaborated closely with CS, who would personalize the experience by responding to questions, pose topics and engage members. Communities are a great place to highlight successes and help customers get the most value out of your solutions, as well.

A user group is a stand-alone event that can be held in person or virtually to support your entire customer base or a specific customer segment, region or other sub-group. Here, too, marketing can work closely with CS to create and guide people to specific sessions or content tracks that align with the add-ons or products being promoted at that time.

Communities and user groups are mutually supporting: the conversations and content from the community can inspire sessions at user group meetings and vice versa. What’s important is having a well-aligned, overarching strategy to deliver a seamless customer experience and make the customers feel like they are part of something valuable.

The customer feedback loop is critical to long-term sustainable growth.


Leverage your base

The relationships you nurture with your customers and the success you help them achieve are components of a virtuous circle that drives further client acquisition. Clients who love you and love the work you do can help market and sell your services by participating in case studies, acting as references and becoming evangelists who market and sell your product for you.

This customer feedback loop is critical to long-term sustainable growth. It helps you understand how customers use your system to run their business or address an issue, which is information you can turn into materials that support both marketing and customer enablement.

Marketers can help to get that feedback loop going with CS by sitting down with the team and making sure they understand what the company is trying to accomplish and how they can help. They are the ones who are closest to the customers and need to identify the stories and success metrics that are worth sharing.

Whether your customers contribute to case studies, webinars or conference panels, this type of peer-driven content—content that features or is produced by successful, knowledgeable customers—has incredible value for both prospects and customers. When you can provide access to it, it becomes part of the overall value you deliver.

Here’s the bottom line.

Adept at building relationships and communication value, marketing has always been integral to customer acquisition. But for companies with ambitious growth goals, marketers need to bring the same skills to customer retention and expansion.

By working closely with the CS team to protect, grow and leverage the customer base, we can make an even greater contribution to the growth and sustainability of our companies.

This GrowthBit is featured in LLR’s 2022 Growth Guide, along with other exclusive insights from our portfolio company leaders and Value Creation Team. Download the eBook here.