Never Stop Marketing to Your Startup Customers

It’s difficult to attract customers so why would a startup not continue to market to them after the deal closes?

It seems like a straightforward proposition, right? But I suspect most startups fail to nurture customers – and I’m talking more than the occasional update email. To keep customers in the fold and, as important, make them evangelists, startups have to focus on meeting the needs of customers in different ways.

For the sake of this discussions, let’s divide the startup sales cycle in two parts: pre-sales and post-sales.

marketing sales

In simple terms, the pre-sale hinges on brand awareness, competitive positioning and convincing customers your product is a better option than rivals. If a startup succeeds on these fronts, the stage is set for attracting a customer or user. It’s a big accomplishment given the competition and how easy a consumer can explore different choices.

So, let’s assume a startup wins a new customer. It may be the end of  pre-sale marketing but it’s just the start of a lengthy post-sale marketing campaign. Not recognizing this reality is where many startups fumble the ball.

The post-sale marketing kicks off when a customer is completing the purchase. At this point, the check-out or contract process needs marketing to make the customer feel good about their decision to deal with second thoughts or buyer’s regret. Instead, the marketing tells the customer they made a smart decision.

This is accomplished by giving the customer post-sale collateral that highlights a products benefits, features, support, as well as insight on how to get started using it. This can involve a brochure or an email that includes clear instructions – call it edu-marketing.

In the first couple of weeks post-sale, the marketing continues at a steady pace. The customer receives information with more tips or advice, as well as support or answers to questions. If it’s a big sale, account managers are reaching out directly to provide personalize marketing.

With the customer solidly in the fold, a startup has to deliver a variety of marketing options to nurture the relationship. This could include the following:

1. A monthly newsletter offering industry insight and curated content, examples of how other customer are using the product, as well as product updates and tips.

2. White papers that offer information and education about key industry issues that could impact the client’s business.

3. A blog that combines thought leadership, domain expertise and, when relevant, product updates.

4. Conferences, user groups, meetings or telephone calls build real (aka analog) personal relationships.

By marketing to customers, startups are looking to accomplish several goals:

1. Retain them as customers by making sure they’re part of the community or, at least, feel like a startup has a vested interest in keeping them in the fold.

2. Creating opportunities to sell more product. It could be more products/licenses, an upgrade to a premium product, tickets to conferences, etc.

3. Develop evangelists and advocates, which is perhaps the most effective way for startups to drive marketing. By having an army of users spread the word, the cost of acquisition tumbles.

All of the above should make complete sense, although it can be difficult for startups to get their heads around the need for marketing in the first place.

The important consideration is marketing is an integral part of the pre-sales and post-sales process. It attracts customers, keeps them and transforms them into bigger and/or better customers. So rather than ignore customers once they’re onboard, a startup needs to keep the marketing engine rumbling.

More: For thoughts about marketing to customers, check out this blog post by Buffer’s Belle Beth Cooper.

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