We all know what it’s like to be metaphorically wined and dined as an email marketing prospect, only to be completely forgotten about and neglected once we become a customer.
It’s disappointing to say the least. And, frankly, irresponsible.
Companies that spend most of their marketing and sales budget on pre-purchase, and little to none on post-purchase are leaving serious money on the table and can also lead to a lack of customer loyalty.
You might be thinking, "That’s not us. We allocate budget to retention." And that’s great—you’re part of the 18% of companies that claim to focus more on retention and customer loyalty than acquisition.
And yet, you still might be leaving money on the table for a stronger customer experience.
See, retention is important—it’s a necessary piece of building a profitable company. But if you engage your existing customer base effectively, you can further endear them to your brand and generate additional revenue.
Of course, engaging your existing customer base effectively during an email campaign, requires strategic content—something we’ll dig into shortly.
Meet the post-purchase stages of the customer journey.
There are many iterations of the customer journey, but this one from SmartBear breaks it down simply into pre- and post-purchase stages:
In this piece, we’ll focus on content for the post-purchase stages:
- Adoption: In this post-purchase stage the customer is getting up to speed with your product or service, and hopefully starting to see its value. It’s important in this stage that you deliver on the promises you made pre-purchase, otherwise your customer might experience buyer’s remorse.
- Retention: The retention stage is all about the customer achieving their goals with the help of your support and encouragement.
- Expansion: By the time your customer has reached the expansion post-purchase stage, you’ve built up some trust with them. This is the time when upselling and cross-selling is most effective, since you’ve effectively demonstrated the value of their initial purchase.
- Advocacy: The advocacy stage is what I like to call “peak customer.” By this point you’ve officially won them over, and they are likely to recommend your brand to others. Of course, just like in any relationship, this isn’t the time to pull out the sweatpants. Customers in the advocacy stage will still leave you during the post-purchase experience if you get lazy—not to mention your competitors are just waiting to swoop in and take them off your hands.
Content types for the post-purchase phases:
Okay, so you’ve successfully earned yourself a new customer—congrats!
Tempting as it may be to pat yourself on the back and move onto the next email marketing prospect, you might want to instead (or even in addition) focus on transforming that new customer relationship into something long-lasting and fruitful.
The way you do this is with content. Not necessarily blog posts, ebooks, and whitepapers—which we see a lot of in the pre-purchase stages—but with personalized content focused on adoption, retention, expansion, and advocacy.
Since reaching the adoption stage relies upon your customer understanding how to use your product or service and then actually using it, you need to provide them with the tools and resources necessary to do so quickly and easily.
Customer onboarding materials
In an ideal world your customers will intuitively know how to use your product or service, or will figure it out themselves with minimal friction. Realistically this is rarely the case, which is why a step-by-step process for adoption can help with a customer experience (a.k.a. onboarding).
Often onboarding consists of emails supplemented with documentation, how-tos, and other materials. It should focus on key milestones along the path to adoption while also addressing common barriers so you can help with the post-purchase experience.
The following email excerpt from all-in-one workspace Notion highlights some of the tool’s most basic features, and includes multiple calls to action (CTAs) throughout, which lead directly to the app.
You can’t tell since this is a screenshot, but each image in the email is actually a GIF, which clearly demonstrates how to complete each action.
Even the most intuitive products and services should have some degree of documentation to support with setup, usage, and basic troubleshooting.
According to Zapier, there are seven key tenets to keep in mind when creating effective documentation:
- Assume your customer has never used your product or service, and explain everything.
- Teach your customer with logical, step-by-step instructions.
- Include multimedia (videos, GIFs, pictures, and diagrams) whenever possible.
- Use plain, consistent language and tone throughout all documentation.
- Format documentation articles with titles, headers, bold text, and bullets, and link to relevant content whenever possible.
- Explain each feature only once, but link to it whenever it comes up.
- Identify the questions your support team gets most often, then create documentation to address them.
It’s great to consolidate your support documentation in a Help Center, but don’t forget to link out to it from other relevant content. Remember: every piece of content should have a logical next step, so if you direct someone to a landing page to learn more about a new feature, include a documentation link on that page so they can implement it right away.
How-to videos and tutorials
When it comes to adoption, showing your customers how to use your product or service will always be more effective than telling them, and showing them with video is better still.
Fitbit has an entire library of “short and sweet how-to videos,” demonstrating everything from getting started to charging to changing your accessory bands:
Each video lasts no longer than 2min 12s and features a combination of live-action and animated video, making setup and troubleshooting a breeze.
Customer retention content
The key to retention content is exclusivity. After all, everyone wants to feel special.
By offering your customers access to exclusive content or private communities, you build their sense of loyalty to your brand and remind them of what they’ll miss out on if they leave. In other words, this is when you make your customers feel like they can’t live without you.
Retention content can include educational content like courses and webinars as well as the following:
Whenever you release a new product or feature, your existing customers should know about it first. In fact, you might even consider giving them early access, or involving them in beta testing. (Exclusivity, remember?)
Let customers know via email, in-app message, or release notes, and be sure to point them somewhere to learn more should their interest be sufficiently piqued.
Messaging app Telegram does a super job of notifying users of updates and bug fixes. Instead of using an outside platform, they send you a message directly in the app and link out to the Telegram blog for more info.
Communities are all the rage right now, and it’s no surprise why. With more and more of our interactions becoming automated, communities offer a place to connect and find common ground.
Not only that, communities are actually good for business, with a whopping 49% of businesses with online communities reporting cost savings between 10% and 25% annually.
Take the LEGO Ideas Community, for example, which now has over 1 million members. Since its launch just over 10 years ago, it’s received over 26,000 ideas for the new LEGO products—23 of which have actually resulted in official LEGO sets.
They’ve managed to create a thriving platform where LEGO fans all over the world share their most creative ideas and vote on their favs. It’s just one of the reasons why LEGO remains one of the most iconic brands in the world.
Of course, this helped, too...
NBD, just Tegan and Sara and the Lonely Island performing “Everything is Awesome” from the animated film The Lego Movie at the 2015 Oscars.
Your customer is invested in your product or service by now, and they’re more likely to take you up on upsells and cross-sells—should you position your offer right.
Email still is the most effective marketing channel, with “an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.” Not only that, some sources report that more than 60% of consumers prefer to be contacted by brands via email.
For high-value upsells and cross-sells, email campaigns paired with landing pages are often effective, as seen in this excerpt from an email I received from Headspace leading up to Valentine’s Day:
When you click on “Learn more,” you’re directed to a landing page dedicated to upgrading customers to the family plan.
The landing page, while simple, includes all the necessary info, including plan specs, pricing, benefits, and a detailed FAQ section (not pictured) to counter any objections.
If you find some of your customers don’t open your first email, consider sending them a follow-up email a week or two later. If they don’t open that, you can send them another with a time-sensitive subject line, or target them via another channel like social or in-app.
Of course, you can do this on a customer-by-customer basis, but for efficiency’s sake you’re better off setting it all up in advance using a CRM or automation tool.
It’s official—your customer has reached “peak customer!”
They’re not only thrilled with your product or service, they’re also ready and willing to tell the world about it.
Customers in this stage are some of the best free avenues of customer marketing you’ll ever get, so it’s important to keep them engaged. At Unbounce, their “Experts” get early access to new features and products, access to a private Slack channel, and tickets to their annual conference.
On top of the perks, they also take part in user testing, campaign usability testing, and feedback sessions to help shape the future of the product.
A program like this goes beyond exclusivity, making members feel like they’re “part of the team” and an integral part of the business.
3 tips for creating post-purchase stage content:
When creating content for the post-purchase stage, there are three key things to remember:
Segment, segment, segment.
Presenting the right content at the right time to customers is going to have a huge impact on your campaign results and post-purchase behavior. For example, if your customer is still in the early stages of adoption, an upsell email might come off as pushy and presumptuous.
Being able to accurately segment your customers based on customer journey stage, behavior, usage, plan, and then trigger your content accordingly will result in better conversion rates.
Once a prospect becomes a customer, you have access to so much more information. Use that to your advantage! Research shows personalized emails result in six times higher transaction rates, so don’t hold back.
For example, if you’re running a monthly-to-annual campaign, include the customer’s name, their current plan and its cost, and the money they’ll save from switching to an annual plan. The more specific you can be, the less friction your customer will encounter, and the more they’ll feel you understand them and their needs.
Track your results.
Each stage in post-purchase will have key metrics associated with it. Take detailed sales notes, make sure you’ve determined what those are, and when you create content and run campaigns, track those metrics.
Create dashboards ahead of time so you can watch (in real-time) additional revenue generated, reduced churn, or whatever other metric you’re looking to impact.
Learn strategies to reduce churn and keep customers longer with this handbook.
Learn strategies to reduce churn and keep customers longer with this handbook.
Customers need lovin’ (and content) too.
So often, companies overlook the importance of post-purchase content in favor of pre-purchase content. Those top-of-funnel numbers can be so… alluring.
When creating content for the post-purchase stages of the customer journey, look to companies that are doing it well and don’t forget the three keys: segmentation, personalization, and tracking.
By deepening your relationships with your existing customers and improving post-purchase behavior, you’ll increase customer lifetime value, improve retention, and encourage customer advocates who will sing your company’s praises to anyone who’ll listen.
Best of all, you’ll foster a dialogue with your customer base, which can result in feedback and ideas you’d never have considered alone.