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How to Use Content Marketing to Improve Customer Retention

Most companies are focused on how they can use content for customer acquisition. In this article we'll show you how to think about content marketing for retention, and how your content can provide value to your existing customers in ways that drive up lifetime value.
🦸 Contributors: Derek Flint
📅 Last Updated:
⏱ 11 min read
Table of Contents:

Marketing teams have endless theories on what a company’s content should do, and what value it might provide to its customers.

But if you’ve been in content marketing for a while, you may have noticed that most companies are focused on how they can use content for customer acquisition.

They measure their content program’s success based on how well it brings in new customers and qualified leads.

But, content marketing doesn’t stop being useful once a customer makes their first purchase.

Far fewer companies are focused on how their content engages customers after they’ve made their initial purchase. Content marketing can support all types of efforts across the customer lifecycle, like onboarding, how to use the product, awareness of new features, creative uses of the product, inspiration for your customers, and more.

Today we’re talking about content marketing for retention, and how your content can provide value to your existing customers in ways that drive up lifetime value.

Why Customer Retention Strategies Are So Valuable

Every great company knows that retention is one of those indicators that symbolize the overall health of the business. If you’ve ever been through an acquisition or a key round of funding within a SaaS company, businesses will inevitably want to know more about how current customers behave.

How long do customers stay at each service level you offer? Why do the highest paying customers stick with us the longest? Is there any way that we can provide more value to customers at lower subscription levels or incentivize them to purchase the premium version of our software?

Here are several of the key reasons why everyone in your company should be focused on improving retention, including your content marketing department.

It Reduces the Costs Associated With Churn

Customer churn tells you a lot about the current customer success process that you’re implementing at your company. If customers feel like something is too difficult, requires too much work, doesn’t give them the results, or that another brand can give them what they want because their service is better, cheaper, or faster, it will show up in your churn data.

And not only is a high churn rate a frustrating experience for the morale at your company, but it’s also expensive.

As you can imagine, the math on churn can be as simple as understanding basic ARR. If your product costs $10,000 per year for a customer and you lose 10 customers, then you’ve lost out on a potential of $100,000 this year - not to mention the years of future subscriptions and the referrals and word-of-mouth potential of those customers.

But business isn’t that straightforward. You’ll also want to consider how much it costs your company to earn a new customer vs. keeping and selling more to an existing customer.

According to invesp, it costs companies 5 times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. And, the probability of selling to an already existing customer is at 60 percent to 70 percent vs the 5 percent to 20 percent average chance of selling to a first-time customer.

It Forces Your Company to Align On the Entire Customer Success Process

Additionally, an emphasis on customer retention will require aligning cross-functional team goals and create an emphasis on the importance of a customer-centric success process. This means that all of the teams required to support a customer lifecycle will need to communicate and understand the part they and the other departments play in keeping customers happy.

Believe it or not, customer retention starts as early as the customer onboarding process. And the most successful onboarding requires that your sales team not only is closing deals but has accurately set up expectations about your service.

And after the sale, the salesperson should be equally invested in the successful handoff to Customer Success as they get them integrated into a new platform, signed up for an account, and trained on user experience and user interface of your product.

Recommended Reading: The Hourglass Sales Funnel (in this post we talk about how you should be looking at retention as a growth opportunity in your funnel)

Impacts Lifetime Value (LTV), Churn, Time to Churn, and Other Key Performance Metrics

Retention is the holistic measurement of both customer satisfaction and company health. These include important KPIs like the expected or average LTV of a customer, churn, time to churn, etc.

It might be obvious, but the fewer people churning, the more valuable the company will be. The longer the time to churn, the longer a customer pays you, the more valuable your company will be. The longer a client sticks with you, the higher their average lifetime value will be, and, you guessed it, the more valuable your company will be.

6 Types of Content That Are Effective for Customer Retention

Now let’s get back to the role that content marketing is going to play in the success of customer retention.

1) Blog Content That’s Focused on Your Customers’ Goals

That’s right, blog content is not just for customer acquisition. You can use your blog for more than simply answering top-of-funnel questions they might have about topics related to things that your company does.

This might mean creating valuable “how-to” style content that teaches existing customers exactly how to accomplish tasks and achieve their goals by using your product.

Additionally, use a jobs-to-be-done theory to focus on creating blog content that is related to your customer’s goals that aren’t about your product at all.

For example, if you sell a photography service for eCommerce platforms, then you know that your customers are trying to run a successful eCommerce business.  Create content that makes you a worthwhile authority for any eCommerce company. Making your blog posts so informative that it’s like you’re a paid consultant for them will have your customers coming back again and again.

Blogs are also great because they’re a versatile content type. That means that you can package your blogs into eBooks, guides, how-tos, and feature announcements that can be shared in your email marketing automation after a purchase is made. I particularly love the Powered By Search approach to using educational blog posts instead of traditional feature announcements.

Blog posts are also easily shareable on social media. They make for great sales-enablement content that your sales team can distribute and reference during calls with your customers. Additionally, a descriptive “how-to” can help your customer success team explain solutions to customers.

2) Whitepapers and eBooks for Trust and Authority Building

Whitepapers and eBooks are another way to increase customer retention via the authority and trust that they can build for your brand. Customers enjoy knowing that the company they do business with exists at the forefront of the field.

Your investment into conducting top-shelf research, data for industry trends and insights, and providing recommendations based on those, help develop deep-rooted loyalty to your brand.

Recommended Reading: Build a Reputation For Using Data

3) Webinars, Video, and Podcasts for Visualization and Entertainment

More and more companies understand the value of building engaging forms of multimedia. Some of the most effective versions of these are webinars, video how-tos, having a video series on a channel like YouTube, and producing podcasts for the audio-inclined customers.

And these seem to have two retention impacts.

First, videos are an amazing visual way to show someone exactly how to do something. That means long-form webinars on how to use your product, quick how-tos that might improve the onboarding experience, or even how to troubleshoot common challenges that your customers might face.

Second, this type of content can position you as a part of the entertainment industry. And brands that can become entertainment companies often find ways to continue selling products to their most loyal fans aka loyal customers.

4) Social Media Posts for Community Building

Social media posts also make for great retention content. Social media marketers can share quick tips, videos, product sales and deals, product releases, new feature releases, blog posts, and more that focus on keeping current customers engaged.

In addition, they can run contests, ask direct questions, conduct surveys, share survey results, and utilize other community-building techniques via groups and forum-like channels (Think Reddit, Facebook Groups, Discord, LinkedIn, Twitter). If your brand appears to be the place where everyone is having the best conversations and adding the most value, customers are likely to remain happily subscribed and invested in your products.

5) Emails for Distribution and Data Tied Directly to Your Customers

Getting email marketing right is one of the best ways to retain customers. If you think about it, in order for you to have their email address, they likely gave it to you willingly.

It’s your responsibility to not abuse the access they gave you by providing emails that contain great offers, interesting advice, and sharing resources, whether you created them or not, that you know they’ll enjoy.

Best of all, you’ll receive data surrounding open rates, clicks, and transactions that will allow you to continually optimize email content - and inform other content marketing strategies - like which types of blog content your current customers really like reading about based on what they click into.

6) User-Generated Content (UGC) That Celebrates and Rewards Your Customer

Controlled UGC can generate quality content and contribute to retention by making customers feel important. Most of us will participate in brand advocacy if they feature us, comment on our posts, invite us to be on shows, or reward us with special access to content or deals related to their products.

The biggest concern with UGC is usually quality-related. You’ll want to find a way to help your current customers produce content for you so that you ultimately get enough at a high enough quality level. That might mean splicing together multiple customer reviews into one video, inviting them on your shows, selectively inviting specific customers to participate, or giving everyone very specific content creation instructions.

Tips for Improving Customer Retention Rates With Content Marketing

Gather Up Any Data You Currently Have About Your Paying Customers

If you’re lucky enough to have a pile of data stored across different platforms, gather your sales, marketing, and customer success leaders to start analyzing who your customers really are.

What devices do they like using to consume content? Which channel is each of your target audiences most engaged with? Where else on the internet do they hang out if they’re not reading or watching your content? Are you selling to businesses or directly to consumers or both?

Additionally, create surveys and have engaged conversations with your customers about what they love and hate about being your customer or how your product works. And ask them where you could improve or how you could be more valuable to them.

All of this data will help you better understand exactly what type of content is going to generate the most positive experience and ultimately retain your customers.

Implement Improvements to Process Quickly and Announce Those Changes with Content

Being responsive to customer feedback in a timely manner is going to help your company in several ways.

First, you’re displaying that you understand their pain points. Just providing empathy goes a long way with customer retention. Second, you come off as a company that listens well. Third, you come off as a company that takes action.

Most importantly, you get to use content to distribute how awesome and responsive you are to your customers and your competitors’ customers via all of your marketing channels.

Understand Where To Use Automation

Content marketing can sometimes feel like a manual process of uploading content, posting content, emailing content, writing content, filming content, repeat.

Finding effective ways to automate the content distribution process can both help with customer retention and relieve your team from hours of work.

But what can you automate?

Email is one of the most effective ways to automate the distribution of retention content. If a customer has just made a purchase, make that confirmation button trigger an email with the best next steps and ideas content. Segmenting your current customers based on their subscription level and time since their last purchase can also be an effective way to create effective retention automation that feels personal to their buying experience.

Layer in different content marketing experiences with that normal product messaging and you’ll start to deliver a customer experience that feels more valuable.

If customers hang out for a significant amount of time on certain product pages, additional automation such as a chatbot can also serve content that targets the intent of that page.

Build Your Website to Be a Retention Resource and Machine

Your website should contain valuable resources that make the customer experience a delight. That doesn’t only mean having a blog full of helpful content.

Customers enjoy resources like well-organized knowledge base content that walks them through solving their problems without interacting with a customer success representative. In addition, it should house whitepapers, guides, links to social media, FAQ pages, additional contact information, PDF instruction downloads for each product or service, and related case studies.

Utilize your website with PPC retargeting functionality. If your customers keep engaging with your website’s content, serving them more related content might encourage them to remain a customer or even increase to a premium plan.

Like PPC targeting for retention, some companies will opt to utilize mobile messaging and push notifications for content distribution, important reminders, and even discounts / deals. This can certainly be effective, but there is a fine line between being helpful with these types of retention techniques and coming off as too invasive or pushy. Proceed with caution and always try to establish a way for customers to opt-in voluntarily to these types of communication channels.

Think Bigger About Building Customer Loyalty and Retention via Content

Finally, think bigger about ways to create and design customer loyalty via content access and distribution.

Try offering premium content for free to your most loyal and invested customers. Regularly give them early access to new features, let them participate in the beta and test versions so they feel engaged in the product development process.

Engage their inner ego by allowing your customers to create user-generated content (UGC), that prioritizes new referrals, but also rewards them for their efforts. Does sharing content enter them into a drawing for a big prize, or do they get a percentage off if they refer someone else?

If you have industry experts that are your customers, would they be willing to share your content or come on your podcast to be a guest?

Recommended Reading: Should Your Business Start a Podcast?

Develop KPIs to Understand How Content Is Currently Contributing to Retention

Content that is focused on improving retention rates is much more challenging to measure than content focused on acquisition. And we always recommend that developing a process by which you’ll measure the success be done with the assistance of a data scientist.

You’ll want to focus on those big numbers around churn and LTV as we mentioned above, but you’ll additionally need to decide what metrics are a good indicator that the right content is being produced and that value can be assigned to it.

Frustratingly, you’ll likely be unable to assign the true value of something like a knowledge base unless you have metrics around churn and customer satisfaction before a knowledge base was implemented and since the implementation of a knowledge base.

You can, however, find attribution models that reward higher engagement metrics on social and email, assisted conversion data for very specific types of conversions that are typical of retained customers. You might even develop a weighted attribution system for understanding when a specific resource was used in a sales call. Did it have an impact when it was included vs. when it was not, and what percentage of the monetary value should be assigned to it, if it is helping close deals?

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Derek Flint

Derek is the SEO Content Strategist at Ten Speed, a content optimization and marketing agency that specializes in search engine optimization for B2B SaaS and D2C companies.

Website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/derek-flint/

Twitter: @I___DEREKflint

📖 Browse all articles by Derek Flint

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