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5 Customer Marketing Strategies Guaranteed to Grow Your Business

When we think about SaaS customer marketing, we often feel like we're on the climb of our lives. We're training, we’re pushing our limits, we're dodging roadblocks, we're falling down a lot. 

While it's thrilling, it's also incredibly difficult.

In this article, I’ll review the differences between customer marketing and acquisition marketing. Then I’ll dive into five keys to unlock growth strategies you can start using today to drive growth. 

The five keys are:

They are all applicable for every segment, SMB, agency mid-market, and worldwide enterprise.

What is Customer Marketing?

But first, let's get on the same page about customer marketing.

If you Google customer marketing, you won’t find much. If you are looking for strong KPIs or benchmarks, there’s nothing there. There truly is no road map for customer marketing, and many roles are yet to be defined. 

“Many organizations still haven’t clearly defined the role of the customer marketer. Rather than placing it at the forefront of their growth strategy, customer marketers are often left to their own devices.” - Influitive

So let’s step back for a moment and think about what marketing solves. If you are an acquisition marketer, you often think it’s about generating “demand.”

Marketing = Generating Demand

While driving revenue back to KPIs is essential, it’s your customer’s choice to buy from you at the end of the day. That is a choice you strive to earn every month or year, depending on your business.  

This is why you aren’t merely trying to generate demand, but trying to generate “value.”

Marketing = Generating Value 

Generating value is further emphasized when you execute marketing to activate, engage, and expand your customer base. 

A healthy SaaS business sees 70 to 95% of revenue coming from upsells and growth, where only 5 to 30% comes from the acquisition. 

The data shows we need to generate value to generate demand. 

Think about your own business and how you grow marketing strategies. The general principle is that acquiring a customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing customer. So your key to genuinely unlocking growth is by determining what the marketing side can do for the customer component. 

This leads us to the first key to unlock your framework for growth.

#1. Knowing Your Customers 

A critical common denominator for successful growth is knowing your customer and bringing a rich voice of insights into everything you do. 

How important is it?

The main impacts of customer research have been tied to:

  • A significant annual increase in annual company revenue.
  • A significant increase in customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Score (NPS).

And according to Google Survey, less than 40% of marketers are doing this research!

The impact of customer research

The best thing you can do to grow your company is to layer customer insights into everything you do and tie it back to value. This will always be your common denominator to growth. 

So, where do you start?

Customer research starts and ends with building and optimizing the customer journey. Without a proper understanding of what your customer’s journey looks like – broken down by milestones – your team doesn’t know what to prioritize to increase growth, along with how to decrease churn. 

The goal is to go from a customer journey that looks like this. 

messy customer journey

To a customer journey that looks more like this. 

optimized customer journey

The customer journey map in the image above lays out:

  • What the user is thinking.
  • What the user is feeling. 
  • What the user is doing at every different stage.
  • How they are engaging with your product. 

Organizing your customer journey is essential to discovering opportunities to focus your teams on prioritizing low-hanging fruit or long-term gains.

Through this foundation, you will start to understand the importance of qualitative insights. 

Qualitative Insights: How to get there

The first step in customer research is not necessarily understanding what users are doing but why they’re doing it. It’s a long process, which is why it’s essential to understand that you don’t have to do it all at once

So first, break the research into parts.

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Mining Data
  • Social Listening

If you have a lot of customers, start with your target market when doing interviews and surveys. Or even think up an annual survey or data from an NPS. 

Qualitative insights

If you’re still at the beginning of your business, go to online sources like:

These resources will provide rich customer insights and help you understand what your competitors are doing. 

Once you’ve mined and collected your data, look at your users and answer the following five questions:

  1. What was going on in the user's life that caused them to start looking for a solution?
  1. Once the user realized they had a problem, what did they do next?
  1. Before the user signed up, did they imagine what life would be like? What were they expecting?
  1. Now that the users are working XYZ, what’s the #1 thing they can do now that they couldn’t do before?
  1. If the user had a magic wand and could change anything in our software, what would that be?

By focusing on value and understanding your user’s differentiators, you will know what your user’s “Aha!” moment is. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Great customer knowledge is just as necessary as great product knowledge because it truly takes months to win a customer, but only seconds to lose one. 
  • Customer feedback to learn how to continuously improve makes up the backbone of learning how to scale.

 So make sure you have a feedback mechanism in place for everything you’re rolling out to continue meeting your users’ needs and expectations. 

#2. Scale Intentionally & Make Trade-Offs

Start with your customer journey to see where the most significant drop-offs are with your customers and the areas you need to solve to grow your teams. 

I’ve learned that most companies have a team of one to two customer marketers, and their job is usually doing everything, which means they spend their days trying to keep up instead of making an impact. 

As a result, small teams have limited insights into their KPIs. They’re executing low-impact tests or, in some cases, becoming the customer swag management department, making them ineffective.

As you dig, identify those drop-off points, then deprioritize and focus around them.

Then focus! 

There are hundreds of things you could be working on, but only a couple that matter. 

As you build your team, be ruthless at identifying what needs to be focused on and removing obstacles. Stay on track, stay focused on the areas that you know are critical, and execute them brilliantly. 

From there, you can start to scale out your team to grow specifically in the areas that are your biggest bets. 

How to Build Out Your Customer Marketing Team

When you think about building your customer marketing team, first look at the data. InsightSquared did a ton of research into how large your workforce should be on the marketing side based on the size of your business. 

On average, if you're less than 50 employees, marketing is typically around 5 to 6%. If you're over 50 employees, your marketing team is roughly about 7 to 8% of your team. Start considering the importance of retention and growth marketing and how much effort you put into that side of the business versus acquisition.  

When we started at both Sprout and now Teamwork, we only had one person in customer marketing. For both organizations, building our customer journey map and understanding those drop-off points was where we started. A.k.a onboarding. 

In activation, there is likely always a huge opportunity to scale up our onboarding program and create more marketing initiatives to onboard users at a faster velocity. As you build that out, you can then start to layer in the other areas where there is opportunity within your own journey. 

Fast forward to scaling, the image below is a glimpse into what a built out customer marketing or retention marketing team can look like.
 

building your customer marketing team

The most important thing to start is to know your KPIs, and what you need to drive growth across the board. 

Some of the biggest successes I’ve seen come from when you scale based on customer and business needs. 

This is how this looks from a KPI perspective. 

  1. As a team, focus on net dollar retention (NDR). Try to understand how your customers are growing and retracting. Then, work backward and build inputs on how you got there within your  KPIs. 
  1. Activation is focused on daily active users or weekly active users, product adoption, and logo retention.
  2. Adoption should focus on the core components of your product that drives customer health. This can often be measured by a health score in partnership with success and/or product. 
  1. On the experience side, you will want to focus on customer satisfaction, net promoter scores, customer engagement, and advocacy. 
  1. For growth, focus on hand-raisers, which are essentially leads but can also leverage a product qualified account  (PQA) model. 
  1. When looking at revenue, align numbers with those of the sales team, product-led or growth team, and business as a whole. And then look at how renewals play into those different areas. 

It’s important to understand that either growth nor customer expansion is generally linear. But having teams focused on singular goals will help you achieve the numbers that drive higher-level revenue and overall NDR. 

So when you think about building your own team, the first and most important thing to think about is the journey. Find those drop-off points and then prioritize ruthlessly. If you start with a one-person team, look for somebody that:

  • Has experience in SaaS. 
  • Is obsessed with customer feedback.
  • Knows enough about customer journey mapping to build a roadmap based on the biggest growth opportunities.

Then once you start to test and learn what those opportunities look like, you can invest more in where you specialize. 

Remember, it's much easier to scale a team showing impact, revenue, and ROI than to go off of gut. 

So focus on:

  • Figuring out your KPIs.
  • What’s important to the business?
  • How you want to measure what’s important.
  • And then how to consistently monitor and build data around what’s important.

#3. Build Strong Segmentation

The next area that we want to dig into is segmentation. At this stage in SaaS customer marketing, we all know that segmentation is critical. It’s a constant work-in-progress.

Taking a step back, let’s focus on the fact that our expectations truly have changed as consumers.

customer segmentation

Think of the most recent email you loved from a SaaS product you used? 

Now ask yourself, why did you love it? What stood out that made that email or communication more enticing? Was it an email that you wanted to respond to, or did you feel that need or that urge to forward it along? 

Chances are it stood out because it was talking to you directly in some way. 

When you think about your products, remember it’s way too easy to send a mass email. Humans, on the other end, are inundated with messages and end up mass deleting them. 

Communication is not just a lever for marketing when it comes to the customer. We use email across every department for various reasons, whether it's billing from the finance team or talking about security with our engineering team. 

When considering your customer experience, ensure that you aren’t bombarding them with your internal departmental communications. Instead, strip communications down and consider communication based on segmentation and context. 

There’s a ton of ways that you can build segmentation into your strategy. Some of the most popular are:

  • Jobs-to-be-done: Best for product-led.
  • Persona: Best for marketing-led. 
  • Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): Best for sales-led.

We use all of them for various reasons.

segmentation approaches

For this article, I’m going to focus specifically on leveraging jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) because it involves a lot of different product communications and ways to get customers to grow with the products and with themselves. 

The idea behind JTBD is that people don't buy products, and products don’t match people; they match problems. 

As a product, people hire you to solve the problem that exists. It’s essential to understand your users’:

  • Struggle
  • Motivation
  • Desired outcome

When you look at this from the customer stages, the image below provides a very basic example of our journey and the stages customers go through.

Customer stages

The line above represents a healthy customer. It shows how they go through activation to think through value realization. When we get them into a habit and start introducing new products, they go through various levels of each stage. 

The line below represents where customers are starting to see a decreased value. By focusing on where users experience a reduced weight in the first stage before they get to value discovery, you help reduce churn. This line below is important for growth. 

This also emphasizes the importance of onboarding. Across every SaaS business, 40 to 60% of trial users will log into your product once and never come back. And 75% of users are lost within their first week. 

Those are terrifying statistics when it comes to managing churn and ensuring that customers accomplish their unique aha and value-driven moments

One quick win you can run is to consider context and roll out a simple re-engagement campaign focused on different JTBD. 

The best way to do this is to build simple variants for this email depending on why users first sign up for your product in the first place (dependent on your own value-driven moments and prioritize your test to see what drives more customers back into the app.

You’ll quickly find that by adding these simple re-engagement campaign emails, will start logging back in. 

Segmentation context and content are critical. It speaks to more than understanding who your customers are, but also how you prioritize the communications across your entire business.  

Based on that segmentation, you're looking at those customer attributes and the value they're seeing in your product and reminding them of the value.

So a brief recap; marketing should:

  • help generate value
  • which helps create demand
  • and helps generate growth 

This leads us to the next strategy. 

#4. Educate Your Customers

Let's shift gears and talk about tactics to take your customers to their next level and stimulate growth. 

One of the most frustrating is for a user to leave because they didn't think your product could do something that it can. This happens more often than you think. On average, 61% of Marketing Tech users across products don't utilize the features available. 

Sometimes that number feels generous.

The more you learn how to scale our customer marketing or retention marketing team, the more you’ll realize the opportunity isn't necessarily in generating pipeline and demand. 

It's actually how we unlock the ability for our customers to understand the value that our product brings and know everything that we essentially could do for them as they start to grow in their trade.

It's really about meeting customers where they are at and then educating them on what they're missing. Your growth and demand will follow suit. 

Get Scrappy

As we talk about building an education program, I’ve always been a fan of minimum viable launches. A.K.A get scrappy.

In the early days at Sprou and currently at Teamwork, we did that by throwing up a landing page, creating webinars that essentially looked similar to what we did in the one-to-one success calls… and getting them live. 

That, of course, will scale into a more sophisticated onboarding learning program as you learn over time. However, starting scrappy is what helps yous truly scale an onboarding program without getting caught in the overwhelming nature that building this machine out can feel like 

You can do that too. 

Building this does not have to be a huge undertaking. When you start to solve this gap, uncover it through the voice of customer research. Focus on onboarding and thinking about how to get more users onboarded by leveraging a market-driven function. 

There are four different pillars of the education path that we drive to empower our users.

four pillars of education
  1. Live training and webinars.
  1. Self-guided within our academy or within a landing page.
  1. Communities.
  1. Product tours, as they can get users beyond onboarding and looking ahead to what the product can do for them. 

Each one of these has a KPI tied to them. When you think about customer satisfaction and net promoter scores, start thinking about content consumption, customer engagement, and satisfaction with the actual content you’re producing. 

Then ask users:

  • Are they getting what they need from education?
  • What else would they like to learn about?
  • What’s missing for them as they think about their social education?

These questions will provide a better idea of how to produce and prioritize content in the onboarding process. 

When you think about growth and upselling, a common denominator has been that great education always equates to great growth. 

Use customer feedback as the litmus test to understand the impact of the content we produce. 

customer education

Education is a must-have for your customers. 

Regardless of where it sits within your organization, producing content that aligns with your education strategy and can stand up in self-service motions is key to scale. 

For driving automated retention, education is your content marketing platform because it drives user interaction, in addition to helping users continuously realize the value of a product. 

Whether through an onboarding webinar, social sophistication, or strategy webinar, users are more likely to grow and have higher net dollar retention than users who aren't engaging. 

It’s about getting more users to engage with content that fuels value and drives growth. 

#5. Treat Every Customer as a VIP

It’s more important than ever to treat every interaction like it's our most important one. 

Ask yourselves the following questions:

  • What would we do differently if we treated every user as the only user?
  • What would we do differently if we treated each user like our success depended entirely on their experience? 
  • How would we build differently if our success depended entirely on the user's experience?
  • How would we communicate differently? 
  • How would you prepare for those interactions? 
  • And how would you react differently when a user is faced with a problem and needs your help? 

Now that most of the world is bombarded by social engagement, it's more important than ever to put humanity in everything you do

It’s also possible to build great experiences to help our customers feel like they're getting VIP treatment, and these experiences support everything we do. 

To figure out what our users want, we asked Twitter about their favorite customer experience. Of course, each experience had a level of personalization in them, from a personalized cake to paying off student loans to custom snacks and handwritten notes. 

Our main takeaway…..send food. People love food. Also, take the time to make your users feel special.

These experiences are easy to replicate, are not too expensive, but create loyal and raving fans. 

A place to start that’s notably scalable is the power of a thank you note. As a business, we put so much time and effort into custom welcome kits, but you can get the same power of customer feedback with thank you note campaigns. 

the power of thank you note

When surveyed, 64% of Americans prefer handwritten notes to electronic messages. They are opened 300% more than printed ones. 

When thinking of the impact of breaking through with things like email, don't undercut the value of a personal handwritten thank-you note. 

While it can be a challenge to churn out so many, there are ways to get around that – whether it's rallying an entire team or even hiring an agency to do some of the work for you. 

If you can't get to the custom thank you note, a personalized response is the next best thing. 

Every marketing campaign should come from a real person with an actual email address. Make it part of everybody's role to:

  • Respond to any questions that come in. 
  • Route questions to the appropriate team. 
  • Help find the information the customer's looking for. 
  • Make sure the data behind these questions is getting processed and analyzed to ensure user happiness. 

While this sounds like a ton of work…. it's not. 

It only takes a few minutes a day, and it makes a huge difference.  As you can see in the image below, it impacts how users perceive your company. 

Sample of personal email

Remember that as humans, we thrive on personal, meaningful connections. We want that connection between our products and users. 

Think from your perspective: “how would I want to be treated?” Don’t lose sight of that. Empathy is your secret weapon, especially on the user side. 

Wrapping It Up

To wrap it up: in the age of the customer, your competitive advantage comes from your ability to better connect with and serve your users. 

These are the five strategies we walked through today. 

  1. Know Your Customer
  2. Scale Intentionally
  3. Segment for Growth
  4. Invest in Education
  5. Every customer is a VIP
5 strategies to build playbook

This has become the foundation I’ve seen scale in several SaaS organizations and what sets you up to realize a successful retention marketing or customer marketing engine.  

Tara Robertson
Tara Robertson
Tara Robertson is the Chief Marketing Officer at Teamwork, previously Head of Customer Marketing at Sprout Social. She ​​has more than 20 years of global experience leading award-winning marketing and sales teams.
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