After-Sale Marketing: Ignoring Your Customers Sets You Back

You underestimate the power of after-sale marketing at your peril. When you neglect the post-purchase experience, you're ignoring a massive opportunity for additional sales and increased goodwill. Happy, loyal customers fatten your bottom line.

  •     The more often they buy from you, the more they spend with each purchase. This isn't simply cumulative revenue; the value of each purchase increases. Repeat customers spend roughly 67% more than first-time buyers.

  •     Everyone knows the cost to sell to existing customers is lower than the cost to acquire new ones – 5 times less, actually. Sales to current customers aren't just a revenue boost, they're a profitability boost.

  •     They refer new customers and according to a study by Wharton Business School, referred customers average a roughly 25% higher lifetime value than non-referred customers.

Like I said, marketing to and nurturing your existing customer base is a revenue multiplier. In fact, not paying attention to them post-sale could set you back against your competitors. This is a zero-sum game.

Consumers want and expect to be courted, well beyond the initial sale. It doesn't matter if the sale was online or IRL, and that expectation doesn't end with the exchange. As recently noted in the Wall Street Journal, "Consumers want a positive experience, not just a transactional relationship, with the brands and companies they engage with."

"Customer experience" (CX) is a key differentiator in today's marketplace. A consumer's experience in exploring a brand, buying from it, engaging with it outside the sales channel all combine to define the overall CX. Pro-actively engaging with customers to define that experience is critical opening up the after-sale sales pipeline. Not engaging is a big mistake – huge. 

So, nurture those one-time buyers into loyal, repeat buyers. Share the power of your pre-sales marketing and post-sales customer support operations to foster these relationships. Pave the way with your technology and content infrastructure to reach out to customers after the sale.

Step 1: Solidify the Relationship

The period immediately after the first sale sets the tone. The goal here:

Get people engaged with their purchase and your brand quickly; reinforce why they just made an awesome buying decision when they bought from you. Do this by merging compelling content with stellar customer support. For example:

  •     If you're shipping goods, use a company-branded package tracking page. Your order confirmation emails are branded, why not the tracking page it links to? You know customers engage often with the tracking page. You can use the tracking page to share additional content like quick-start video or Instagram feed of other buyers with your product.
  •     Create a video and written library of product-specific how-to's that cover basics up to next-level hacks, so you have content that's relevant to customers no matter how long they've been using a product. These informational videos, blogs, and social media tips are effective mechanisms for subtly up- and cross-selling other products and services that enhance the value or utility of the product already bought.
  •     Hyper-personalize your welcome email series (yes, series) using their purchase and browsing history. Link to relevant content on your website that will get them using your service or product ASAP. In follow-up welcome emails, refer back to one of the help suggestions and ask how it worked for them. Directly invite them to share a picture or comment with you using the branded hashtag.

Toys that sit untouched in the corner get forgotten quickly. Make sure your product or service isn't quickly forgotten for the next new, shiny object. The faster a buyer starts enjoying what they bought, the more likely they'll pay attention to your on-going marketing efforts.

Step 2: Expand and Deepen the Relationship

After the initial after-sale stage, you want to nurture the customer towards the next sale, just as you nurture prospects towards the first. However, now you have more information about the buyer and you're a recognized, trusted name.

  • After the welcome email series, continue with regular email marketing geared explicitly to their history and demographics with your company. At least 20% of these emails should be non-sales content. You don't want them to start associating the sight of your "from" line in the inbox as a sales letter. You want them excited to open up your emails. This mixed approach will enhance the persuasiveness of your "recommended for you" emails.
  • Do actively sell to them. Just make it personal. Customize the new product recommendations they see in your emails and when they visit your website.
  • Make them feel special. Give them customer-only access to early sales and invite-only demo webinars. Proactively send them links to short customer surveys; some can be related to what they bought, while others can focus on what they'd like to see you offer next. Find out who your "1%" are and reach out to them directly. Your brand's 1% is that small band of people who contribute most of the content to your social platforms. They have the power to drive others to action or inaction, so target them with their own campaigns. You may even connect with some of them individually as part of an influencer campaign.
  • You can use content like personalized survey links and content to ask for more bits of information about them. For example, a welcome email can ask them for their birthday.
  • Use behavioral and event triggers to send out not just personalized content, but marketing and sales content that's personalized and contextualized. Send out those birthday emails – they have open redemption rates 2.5 times higher than the average brand email. Have they been coming back to the same product image on your website regularly for the past two weeks? Did they leave something in their cart? Send a targeted email nudging the sale towards a close.
  • Ask them to post their own content pertaining to their purchase. You can ask for the positive review (make it simple for them to respond) or for them to hashtag a selfie of them and your product. Let them become walking endorsements for your brand.

Step two is on-going. Ideally, you never leave it, but just keep cycling through steps one and two with each new purchase. The longer you keep them actively engaging with your company, the greater the odds that they'll become a repeat buyer and even an unofficial ambassador.

Step 3: Support Them the Way They Need to Be Supported

Step three occurs concurrently with steps one and two. You're not going to build a strong, ongoing relationship with a buyer who doesn't feel confident asking for help. Quality customer support is a vital pillar to providing an amazing customer experience. Too many companies see support as a cost center. This is the wrong mindset.

Approach customer support as an opportunity to differentiate your brand. Invest in the people and technology that will provide customers with fast, friendly, complete assistance.

This means providing multiple channels of support communication so each person can contact your team in the way most convenient and natural to them. Chat, email, text, and yes, phone. Use helpdesk support tools that mine social media (not just your company's accounts) to capture help requests and bring them into your helpdesk system.

Most critically, these channels must be unified on the back-end. Information gathered in one place about a ticket must be visible to support agents on other channels. More than anything, buyers hate having to repeat their story when they move across support channels.

You can also build your own online forum where your buyers and connect with each other (and help each other) and connect with your team. This customer forum will

  •     be a font of market intel;
  •     act as a valuable marketing channel;
  •     keep your brand top of mind with buyers by giving them a place to go to talk about your goods or services;
  •     build a genuine sense of community among your buyers and between your brand and them.

Bottom line: Being there for buyers even when they're not buying does add to your bottom line.

Step 4: Get Your Teams On-Board with Specific Post-Sale Programs

Of course, to achieve all this, your people need to have the after-sale mindset as well – especially in marketing, sales, and support. The most effective way to get them to embrace this strategic priority is to design processes and campaigns explicitly for strengthening current customer relationships and promoting ongoing sales.

Create a mixed-discipline internal team of people from all these departments who are tasked with leading the post-sale relationship and sales development efforts. They can mastermind the programs that extend throughout the company and be the primary group of people tasked with realizing increases in multiple sale buyers and customer lifetime value.

Is your brand feel churn-and-burn or a tribe?

The approach your company takes towards a buyer significantly influences whether they become repeat buyers and perhaps also word-of-mouth ambassadors, or whether this sale was a one-time thing.

If you don't have a strong ratio of repeat to one-time buyers, you're losing a lot of revenue and spending a lot on customer acquisition. Conducting poor or no post-sale marketing not only costs a brand revenue, but it also costs in lost or unearned goodwill, which is much harder value to regain. Either way, not paying attention to your current customer list is a very expensive way to do business.

BrandyMarie Hughes

Every day Brandy works to ensure every campaign is on track and exceeds expectations. She is relentless about quality and operates as an adept and innovative problem solver. She is also a lifelong learner who finds it downright invigorating to keep up with the ever-changing worlds of marketing and management. Brandy is a native Oregonian who craves spontaneous adventures, travel, philosophy, art, and music. She is also a sleep-deprived mom of 3 (ages 13, 7, and 1) and in her spare time loves listening to podcasts and studying on TEDx or Periscope. She’s a humanitarian at heart, a die-hard Apple fan, Tetris master, and even enjoys a little Pokémon GO. Brandy has also been dubbed the office food taste-tester.

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