The fairytale growth story of the business-to-business technology industry is becoming harder to sustain. In recent years, we’ve seen stock prices fall drastically for those tech firms that struggle to squeeze additional revenue from existing customers. Furthermore, investor preferences are shifting favor from new growth toward a greater focus on profitability and recurring revenue.
As we look beyond net-new acquisitions and toward existing customers, expanding the adoption and usage of your portfolio can make for a resilient source of revenue. Our annual effectiveness barometer report indicates that 46% of B2B marketers are putting more emphasis on growing existing customers or moving them to more profitable products and services in 2023.
With new growth at a premium, organizations can do four things to maximize their revenue among their existing customers.
1. Increasing adoption and utilization. It’s commonly known that time-to-value is one of the most important factors for B2B buyers today, and there’s a real pressure to make sure that solutions are being used correctly and delivering ROI back into the business.
In today’s landscape, implementation specialists, customer success and marketing all need to work together with customers post-deal to make sure they are properly using what they’ve just purchased.
Doing this successfully means using behavioral science research to understand what the inhibitors and accelerants for adoption are within a particular organization. Once you understand the levers you need to pull to encourage uptake and overcome common psychological barriers to change, you can create a repeatable blueprint of what you need to do to propel adoption, and work out a plan to deliver that internally in collaboration with the customer.
2. Elevating executive awareness. It’s commonly known that customers want to work with strategic partners, not vendors, and that’s never been truer than in today’s environment. They want someone who can come alongside them and actually talk through a problem or bring new ideas to the table.
Cultivating your customer relationships through targeted outreach with your senior executives can improve value with customers, as well as in cross-functional awareness and support for your own position. Often, people worry about bothering the C-suite, but in many instances executives want to engage with partners who they can collaborate with on a more interpersonal level.
However, executives prefer to be approached by peers or subject-matter experts. They’re attracted to communities by exclusivity, the power of the messaging, the relevance of the topics and the quality of the contributors. At a minimum, communications should be personalized to their business goals and presented in a way that feels personal and premium.
You also need to be able to coordinate a range of activities (more than just executive briefing center events) and combine your efforts with other sales and marketing activities. Good executive experiences should feel core to what you do, not an add-on.
3. Improving customer retention. Improving retention is about protecting your revenue across the contract lifecycle. That means being able to demonstrate your value year-round, not just when it comes time for renewal.
Key to improving customer retention is by building multifaceted relationships with customers, and clearly articulating the value of your work with them. A great way to do this is by capturing and communicating data continuously from day one. Make sure you're working with customer-success and implementation teams to understand the mechanisms by which values can be captured and shared, not just externally but also back to your customers as internal showcases of success.
Being able to articulate the direct value you provide to their bottom line means that when customers are under pressure to reduce costs or consolidate suppliers, you can be sure that you’re on their “safe list.”
4. Creating deep customer advocacy. Good customer advocacy is one of the strongest drivers for improving the health of your top accounts, helping open up opportunities for the cross-selling and upselling of your products/services.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is by better utilizing your champion within the customer organization. Co-creating with your biggest advocates and having them promote your story from the inside on your behalf is a much better way to improve your standing than shouting your story from the rooftops. Your champions can become that connective tissue between you, your story, your value and how other parts of the business receive and retain this information.
Each of these strategies is certainly impactful on its own, but they work best when brought together as part of a unified approach. We recommend building a customer growth strategy with its own KPIs and tactics against each of those four areas. With so much historical focus on creating great experiences pre-sale, adopting these strategies means that your customers will have a better, more cohesive experience post-sale as part of a truly unified customer journey.
This article was originally published in AdAge.