“Retention is the new acquisition,” says Co-Founder and CEO of Insider, Hande Cilingir.

“Given the fact that customer acquisition costs are increasing sharply, the most efficient way to increase revenue base is getting it out of existing ones.” 

In a survey by Influitive, 58% said customer marketing was very important, and almost 60% had moderate-to-significant revenue gains thanks to customer marketing. Yet, many customer marketing teams remain relatively small and unsupported in B2B organizations. 

Harvard Business School Research says that “increasing customer retention rates by only 5% increase a company’s profits by 25-95%.” 

That’s huge! 

Cilingir and CMO of Insider, Merve Nazlioglu, share ten game-changing customer marketing tactics to get to 140% NRR —. a feat Insider has achieved. 

By touching your customer’s hearts, not just their wallets, you can increase customer retention rates and create scalable, repeatable, consistent programs that produce real results.

Tactic #1: Build A Segmented Communication Plan

A common segmentation practice is to segment based on a customer’s upsell potential or to create nurture programs that expose them to new products and features. 

That’s it. But general segments aren’t going to move the needle effectively. 

The game-changing practice? 

Segment customers based on their persona, upsell potential, tenure, maturity, etc. 

C-levels want to see results, so if you segment based on personas and choices, maybe even birthdays, you can touch your customers at the right time with the right messaging, creating real impact.

Tactic #2: Take Your Onboarding Gifts “Outside The Box”

Every SaaS company sends an onboarding gift box with branded “things” in it. This is a fine practice. 

But to get to the next level, you must step it up and take your gifts outside the box. Literally. 

Customer retention means building relationships with people. You want to focus more on relationships than on “stuff.” 

So what’s the game-changing tactic? 

To create experiences that touch your customer’s heart. You want to build a foundation and memories. Give them a reason to advocate for you — ideally on social media. 

The future of gifting will be experiential. 

  • A basketball game with branded jerseys and water bottles. 
  • A digital frame with a personalized message from you and a dynamic QR code.
  • A shared bottle of champagne or a steak dinner. 

Kick off the relationship with an unforgettable experience. If you don’t have a big budget, that’s great! It makes you more creative.

Tactic #3: Reinvent Your Traditional Upsell Flow

We all know the drill. Meetings, emails, more meetings, and more emails. 

Instead, opt for product walks by the bay (or even online). Shoot videos for new products where you’re using the features yourself and then share them with customers. 

Introduce a new product while enjoying an actual physical walk and make things real. Humans selling to humans is a much more effective practice for that pathway to 140% NRR. 

If you want to amplify the experience, send along branded T-shirts or hoodies, water bottles, and healthy snacks. And don’t forget to take a selfie and share it on social media!

Tactic 4: Drive PLG With Active Upsell Campaigns

A common practice for upsell campaigns is freemium models, where businesses hope people get excited to buy more at some point. A downside of upsell campaigns is a lack of automated, personalized features or messages in the platform. 

Now that PLG is becoming more important for companies, a game-changing tactic for upsells is what Insider calls “active upsell.” 

To actively upsell, you need to: 

  • Surround your platform with dynamic and personalized content based on a customer’s recent activity. 
  • Make personalized feature and product recommendations within the platform based on their latest usage and results when possible. 

Of course, this isn’t relevant for every type of software, but when it is, you can create a powerful tool with dynamic content and personalized feature experiences.

Tactic #5: Create That “Loving Feeling” In Your Community 

Local community events are often more successful than big and expensive events because bringing local people together creates a positive, intimate experience. 

It’s a common practice for companies to create disconnected programs without real community engagement. 

Sending out messaging in Slack groups, emails, or product webinars doesn’t put you face-to-face with the people on the other side. 

Cilingir and Nazlioglu’s game-changing practice is to build an active community that triggers a sense of belonging, which requires consistent and connected programs. 

Some examples include: 

  • An ongoing gamified webinar series
  • Repeatable, scalable customer events and customer advisory boards to create word-of-mouth
  • Championing customers with online and offline award and certification programs
  • Building meaningful and valuable conversations within online communities and your platform

Cilingir believes the world loses out on a lot when we minimize human interactions. Get on a plane, shake someone’s hand, and talk to people face-to-face. It makes a huge difference when you can feel and influence real emotions in the room.

Tactic #6: Add Meaning To Your Incentivized Loyalty Programs

We ask a lot from our customers. Come to a conference. Leave a review. Buy this product. But what do we give them in return for their advocacy? 

There’s a lack of loyalty programs in most SaaS organizations. It’s just not a priority. Most provide gift vouchers that don’t mean much to the customers who have the potential to become real advocates. 

Companies try to buy attention with Amazon gift cards and vouchers, but it’s not very effective. 

The game-changing tactic is to gamify your loyalty program with meaningful incentives to help you create stronger customer advocates. 

Creating a points system helps gamify advocacy programs. You can give your customers the option to turn those points into gifts like a consultation or a donation for a cause they care about. 

Start thinking about how you can differentiate your loyalty programs and generate real value from existing customers.

Tactic #7: Gamify Your Customer Referral Programs

Many companies have a single fixed reward for referrals. This concept of retention being the new acquisition means utilizing your existing client base and making them your brand’s biggest advocates. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all to customer referral programs, so create tiered incentives based on the number and quality of referrals. 

You can make referral programs more meaningful by: 

  • Going beyond monetary incentives and providing VIP access to events, offering additional features or benefits free of charge, personalized workshops, etc. 
  • With leaderboards, badges, and point systems that are intelligent and a lot of fun.

Tactic #8: Build Enduring Review Programs

Most SaaS companies are present on one of the review sites and working to climb the grids because those turn into new acquisition revenue too. 

But a common practice for building up reviews is to blast everyone with a review campaign every quarter or so. The risk here is that you might get unhappy customers who provide lower scores. 

So how do you build an enduring review program? 

By targeting your high NPS customers for reviews consistently with a personalized email from an Account Manager. 

Keep it human and make them feel special. 

After they leave a review, not before, send a personalized thank you email with a donation gift to drive stronger relationships and advocacy. You give it to them after because you don’t want to buy attention. 

The takeaway? 

No mass communications. Consistently connect with your known happy customers and reward them for their loyalty to your brand.

Tactic #9: Give, Give, Give — Before You Ask

In any relationship, whether professional or personal, you get what you give. 

A lot of companies ask, ask, ask before giving to customers. 

  • Buy more products!
  • Fill out NPS and product surveys!
  • Speak at my event!
  • Write a product review! 

Asking without giving turns people off. 

If you want to work your way toward 140% NRR, you need to give, give, give before asking. You want customers to feel like you care about them genuinely. Once they feel that, magic happens.

Tactic #10: Champion A Culture Of Customer Marketing 

Marketing teams remain relatively lean in many organizations. They fail to get the level of support they need from Customer Success, Product, and Sales teams. 

It can be quite a lonely place. 

C-levels within a company need to create a culture of customer marketing and educate people on the importance of customer marketing for retention and reaching outstanding NRR metrics. 

If team members see customer marketing as a secondary task, you set them up for failure. 

Drive a culture of collaboration with cross-functional teams to support customer marketing programs.

Key Takeaways

Ultimately, your number one source of new customers should be word-of-mouth. 

Happy customers spread the word. They become the best sales reps. Beyond $100M ARR, aim to acquire 30-50% of your new customers through word-of-mouth. 

According to Nielsen, “77% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service when they hear about it from someone they trust.” 

A University of Pennsylvania study says, “Customers acquired through WOM have a 16-25% higher LTV than non-referred customers.” 

So what are you waiting for? 

If you’re successful with your customer marketing strategy and create that loving feeling, it will turn into WOM and support new acquisitions. 

To crack the code of customer marketing, you need to: 

  1. Build a segmented communication plan
  2. Take your onboarding gifts “outside the box”
  3. Reinvent your traditional upsell flow
  4. Drive PLG with active upsell campaigns
  5. Create that “loving feeling” in your community
  6. Add meaning to your incentivized loyalty program

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