Customer Lifetime Experience is the New Marketing

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Neil Capel is the CEO & Founder of Sailthru. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Everyday, I hear three words on repeat from clients: experience, nurturing, retention. “Customer” being the keyword before each of them. Yet for many, customer nurturing isn’t a thought commonly associated with B2C marketing. If you’re an online retailer and call someone a “customer,” it’s implied that they’ve already transacted with you in some way. B2C marketers often talk in terms of customer lifetime value (CLV) and how to maximize it. Yet the concept of customer nurturing is really interesting when applied to today’s always-on B2C marketing that revolves around providing customers a whole “experience” with your brand.

In B2B marketing, one more succinctly nurtures a lead to close a deal. Those sales cycles can be intense – months to years – and the price tag is much larger than that of a t-shirt or magazine subscription. In our own business, I joke often with the sales team about the “ABCs” or Always Be Closing. But for our clients, if they’re giving customers the experience they want cross-channel, and on an ongoing basis (that sense of constant nurturing) they too will Always Be Closing. I mean that quite literally; they will always be closing, and closing and closing with many of the same consumers coming back time and again, and, if they’re doing it right, telling their friends!

The effect is therefore the same as improved CLV, their bottom line will benefit, but the mentality is different. It becomes more about transcending traditional brand and consumer roles to cultivate a never ending experience for your consumer to have alongside your brand. Just like in B2B marketing, the goal is staying top of mind. Why should that change just because the time to transaction is shorter and the closing more frequent?

The reality is, it shouldn’t.

A customer’s lifetime experience with a brand involves one part marketing, one part brand consistency, and one part omnipresence (cross-channel and at a considerable volume of content). Functionally, it adds up to a long-term relationship that is tended to on an ongoing basis. Owning as much of the customer experience (CX) as possible will be marketers’ golden ticket when it comes to budget allocation in the years ahead. We’re already seeing marketing dollars flying fast into content marketing, native ads, mobile ads, and more.

I think we can all agree what CX includes in broad strokes. It’s understanding the customer, their wants and their expectations, improved systems to manage that information, tailoring communications and offers based on the insights you gain, operating efficiently and accurately, understanding customer satisfaction levels, providing consistency and ultimately improving market share and revenue performance.

As Mark Hurd of Oracle aptly put it recently, we’re in the era of “customer-obsessed marketing.” The second tenet he outlined is particularly resonant for me, “It’s all about the data.” Operating under the truth that there’s no engagement without truly knowing your customers, that dogged focus on customer comprehension and insights via advanced analytics is the key to personalization. Perhaps brands should be less concerned with CLV and more thoughtful about Customer Lifetime Experience, I think many would agree that revenue follows engagement in large part. To quote Hurd, “It’s not so much about pitching and influencing anymore as it is about supporting a great customer experience. Make customers want to connect with you not as a vendor of products, but as a source of intelligent information that will help them succeed. Do right by your customers, and they’ll do right by you.”

Today, customers are informed in ways never before seen so to “do right by them” means putting enough information out there that they can educate themselves. At Sailthru, we see leads getting 70% of the ways towards a decision before they even talk to a sales rep. I’m realizing that B2B and B2C marketing has a lot of the same principles pulling through these days. The way to appeal to consumers is by managing the end-to-end customer experience from the moment they complete their first Google search to the second they Like your brand’s Facebook Page, Follow you on LinkedIn or walk into your brick and mortar store. From the first touchpoint to the initial conversion and every interaction thereafter consider yourself a nurturer of their entire Customer Lifetime Experience with the goal being to keep the closings coming over and over again.