Retain, Engage, Sustain: Crafting Content That Keeps Customers Coming Back

Published: May 15, 2024

Customer retention is the new acquisition — and to build strong relationships with existing customers, 84% of B2B marketers are relying on content marketing. With modern customers demanding personalization, relevance and value in every post-sale interaction, even the savviest of practitioners struggle with long-term engagement strategies and demonstrating the ROI of retention-focused content.

At the 2024 B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale, Arizona, I moderated a panel discussion surrounding the content lifecycle and what some of the latest trends/areas of improvement are. I was joined by Jen Spencer, CEO of SmartBug Media; Dana Harder, Partner at Unreal Digital Group; and Jake Sanders, Content Marketing Manager at Ninjacat: Here’s what we discussed.

Kelly Lindenau: Why does the customer lifecycle seem so siloed, in terms of one-off assets that are only applicable to one stage of the funnel as opposed to content that touches multiple stages?

Jake Sanders: I’ve been in marketing for more than a decade, and I came in thinking my only job was to just generate attention. But then I had people say, ‘What’s the point of these ideas?’ and tell me I needed to think of myself as a salesperson first.

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Once I heard it phrased in that way, I realized it made sense: Marketers bring the leads to sales and expect them to close, and then sales passes off closed-won deals to client success manager to keep them happy, and there’s no overlap.

Jen Spencer: A lot of the challenge also comes from somewhere above you in whatever role you’re in. How many times have our customer marketing initiatives been cut from the budget because those aren’t as valuable as net-new logos? So, that silo starts to happen in financial and budget planning to determine what’s important to the organization. As a marketer, you need to understand and articulate the value that every customer drives for your business. This includes understanding the basic mechanics of how your business makes money and loses money and requires you to change your marketing perspective about how much effort it takes to generate a lead and new customers, and then retain them.

Lindenau: Being that marketers never know where a prospect is going to enter their funnel, how can they create well-rounded content that’s tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey?

Dana Harder: We’ve all heard that the buyer’s journey isn’t linear anymore, and we also know that most companies are short on staff, time and budget. Content is expensive and time-consuming, which puts a different lens on the content we create when we don’t know where a customer is going to come from and where they are in their buying journey. And so, we start by creating an infographic or video at the top of the funnel, but you can’t really adjust that messaging if somebody comes in further down the line.

It requires more work on our part, because when we’re building a piece of content, we need to focus not only on our buyer but also on content that resonates throughout the funnel. For example, you can use CTAs at the end of content that’ll bring prospects or customers to another piece of content, or you link within the content to take them somewhere else to help pull them through.

Sanders: You also need to start thinking about way to distribute content that you’ve already completed and maybe didn’t perform so well. You might have put something on the site that didn’t do well, but did you include it in your newsletter? Did you create an infographic or blog out of it? A video supplement? Did you talk about it on your podcast and share, share, share?

A lot of people aren’t distributing their content: They publish it once and feel like they’ve done something, but people don’t catch everything every day. Don’t be afraid to re-share often.

DGR: How can marketers understand B2B buyers’ content consumption behaviors and tailor content accordingly?

Harder: We need to understand how buyers are consuming the content we put out — a lot of people are tired of E-books and even infographics; these days, they’re on TikTok or Instagram, or watching videos, or listening to podcasts. And while people say B2B is about five years behind B2C, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. We don’t consume content any differently in our business lives than we do in our personal lives, and it’s actually easier to create shorter content instead of committing to a 3,000-word white paper or E-book: You’re going to save time and money, and actually generate more engagement off of it. It’s about getting the right message to the right person at the right time in a way that they are going to see it, hear it and digest it.

Sanders: A lot of content creation always come down to messaging and branding, and the easiest way to determine what topics to cover is to talk to your customers. They’re going to give you beautiful taglines, already packaged and ready to go if you have an insightful conversation, and then that can bubble up into a blog or a podcast.

Spencer: I have a group of selected clients that meets every month to host a roundtable discussion to help everyone learn from each other and inspire each other. And from the questions I ask and the insights they share, we have a conversation that serves as the perfect content to harvest and use for other content initiatives.

Lindenau: With everything we discussed in mind, what do you think the biggest takeaway is?

Harder: We need to go back to the basics and understand who our buyers are and what keeps them up at night — what was keeping them up six months ago probably isn’t on their minds anymore. Our content needs to address this; we’ve been talking about it for years, but we’re still not seeing it in practice. You need to take a hard look at your content to determine if it’s answering the needs of your buyers’.

Spencer: Look at your content, conduct a proper audit and determine if you’re speaking to your customer at every stage of their journey. If you’re not, examine what you already have and how it can meet that need. It’s about how you can take everything just one step further and repurpose it for another part of the customer journey.

We couldn’t fit all the insights into this panel into one article, but don’t worry! We chatted with Sanders and Harder on the B2B Marketing Exchange Podcast. Both episodes will air within the next couple months, but we have a sneak preview of Harder’s session here.

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