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If you love something—be it a Netflix series or a great new tapas bar—what’s the first thing you do? You tell everyone, especially the people most likely to find it interesting.

B2B brands and products are no different. But is your entire company doing enough to make your customers’ voices heard?

Forrester’s new report explores the importance of post-sale marketing and reveals an interesting dynamic: The most successful companies consider engaging advocates a team sport—involving sales, product, and customer success (CS).

In this blog, we’ll share how marketing teams can partner with product, sales, and CS to drive ROI while enhancing the advocate experience.

Organizations can fuel product innovation while also boosting customers’ careers

Increasingly, prospects just don’t believe what you have to say. It’s nothing personal; they want recommendations and endorsements from peers, whose advice they interpret as more credible.

So, more than ever, B2B brands are elevating their customers to celebrity status, featuring them in their videos, content pieces, and webinars, as well as  asking them to speak at events. Companies are, in effect, investing in their customers’ careers in ways that benefit them both.

There’s a lot marketers can do to produce star-quality advocates, says Forrester. For example:

  • Invest in purpose-built programs: Rather than wait for delighted customers to raise their hands, 52% of organizations increased their customer marketing budgets in 2018 to strategically incentivize advocacy.
  • Use customers to increase marketing reach: When marketers encourage customers to appear in assets like articles and videos, those customers get a career-enhancing credibility boost among their peers.
  • Capitalize on review sites: 53% of marketers now have programs in place to encourage reviews on sites such as TrustRadius, G2 Crowd, Capterra, and TechTarget.

A company’s product team can also help raise the profile of advocates. At Sensei Labs, a provider of workplace software, advocates are considered an extended part of the product team. Customers who purchase an add-on subscription can request features, review wireframes, join beta tests, and help steer product decisions.

Customer input helps improve the product. But for advocates, product participation is career rocket fuel. In addition to becoming power users, they get to make their favorite tools even better. This kicks off a virtuous cycle: Customers become more successful, more invested, and more intent on sharing their experiences with their peers.

Marketers must partner with sales to deliver assets and prove ROI

Marketing and sales both rely on the validation that comes from spotlighting their customers’ achievements. But according to Forrester, marketers routinely underinvest in these activities.

One in three B2B marketers say they’re aware that customer marketing directly impacts lead generation. 44% say it increases conversion rates and shortens sales cycles. But, only 26% of marketers focus on engaging advocates as much as they focus on generating net-new opportunities.

The problem? Pressure from sales and a historical bias toward acquisition among most organizations. The fix? A better balance between nurturing advocates and generating leads, says Forrester.

When sales leadership understands the importance of both, advocacy can positively influence pipeline. Sales and marketing teams can partner to:

  • Formalize and streamline ad hoc programs: While all marketers surveyed in Forrester’s study say they run customer reference programs for sales and create case studies and sales assets, only 16% have formalized the process. A more systematized approach serves both teams better: Sales can more easily nominate successful customers and access assets, and marketing can spend less time searching for advocates and more time producing materials.
  • Demonstrate concrete ROI: What gets measured gets managed. When a shocking 80% of marketers admit they have yet to measure the ROI on their customer marketing, it’s no surprise these programs are overlooked during budgeting season.

When sales and marketing do partner on post-sale marketing, amazing things happen. Over the course of 18 months, PowerDMS formally encouraged its customers to leave product reviews. Those reviews influenced over $800,000 in pipeline and $140,000 in closed deals, according to Forrester. (Read more PowerDMS’s strategy here.)

Directly winning new deals is great. But when companies are able to prove the ROI of their post-sale marketing programs like PowerDMS did, it influences sales and marketing budget decisions going forward. This leads to more post-sale marketing and an even better ROI.

Organizations need to partner with customer success to create advocates from day one

Marketers rarely have the direct relationships they need to quickly identify willing customers to participate in webinars or case studies

But when organizations introduce their advocate programs early in the customer journey, the search becomes much easier, as Forrester’s report reveals. And the more customer success teams participate in nurturing advocates, the greater the mutual benefit.

When customer success managers reinforce post-sale marketing programs, they condition customers to participate in case studies and offer testimonials, while increasing their NPS scores and renewal rates.

For the greatest impact, marketers and customer success teams should:

  • Introduce the advocate program during onboarding: The webinar software firm ON24, for example, sends a “Webinerd” branded welcome package and a series of emails that introduce new customers to the community. ON24’s customers learn to rely on other customers, are encouraged to share their successes, and are more likely to give back.
  • Reinforce your program at every touchpoint: The content marketing software Uberflip, for instance, launched a customer portal called the Launch Zone Experience where the company onboards new users through participating in challenges. Its customer success reps are active participants and use the challenges to keep new customers on schedule.
  • Ask for help at high points: The marketing automation software firm Act-On, for example, automatically messages customers based on the NPS score they give. Customers who give a nine or 10 receive an email asking them to leave a review on G2 Crowd and Capterra, capturing and publicizing their satisfaction.

Collaboration between marketing and customer success pays dividends. Since its program was introduced, Uberflip’s customers give higher NPS scores and finish onboarding faster. ON24 reports a 36% year-over-year increase in annual contract size. They also report that over a quarter of its customers participate in the advocate community.

The global research and learning company Wiley found that these benefits can last well into the future. Wiley’s success team closed $65 million in revenue through better retention and expansion thanks to its advocate program. Over time, its churn rate also dropped by more than half—54%.

Engaging advocates is everyone’s job

Post-sale marketing is a job for more than just marketers. When other teams get involved, they amplify the program’s effects.

  • Product teams build better products as well as boost customers’ careers
  • Sales teams generate more pipeline
  • Customer success teams earn higher NPS scores and land bigger renewals

Brands looking to grow their business in any dimension need look no further than their existing customers. For many, post-sale marketing is the best investment a business can make.