As buyers become more fickle, and expectations are at an all- time high, businesses should consider how they can reformulate their marketing and sales efforts to focus on customer retention. When loyalty is hard fought and hard won and churn is a dirty word, businesses can look to deploy product-led marketing initiatives as a way to increase retention, and improve overall marketing return on investment.
What is product-led marketing?
Let’s start at the beginning. Product-led marketing can be defined as a “go-to-market strategy that relies on using your product as the main vehicle to acquire, activate, and retain customers.” Think use cases, tutorials, product demos, and the like for marketing and sales tools. While much of content marketing and lead generation is about being helpful and providing expertise that is not necessarily product related, your overall strategy should incorporate ways in which you can demonstrate what your product is, how it works , and why your prospects can’t live without it.
But where product-led marketing tends to really shine, is in the customer success/experience department. Whether you are a technology company, manufacturer, hardware or software producer, you can leverage the users of your products, how they use your products, and the potential future use of your products to motivate repeat purchases, or even upsells. By providing context to what your products are and how to best use them, you are more likely to generate trust and confidence that can lead both potential and existing customers to buy.
When it comes to marketing spend, there is little disagreement about evergreen content as potentially having a better ROI over time than short, niched campaigns. Product-based collateral can often be that evergreen content that can be utilized over a longer period of time, and for a wider variety of uses. Combine this with customer data, and you have a winning product-led marketing formula.
Good product-led marketing isn’t achievable without data
While product- based content can likely benefit your marketing and sales efforts by itself, utilizing existing customer data, such as CRM properties and product usage data can really boost the effects - particularly when it comes to your customer experience and retention.
Knowing and keeping track of details such as your customers’ lifecycle status, became a customer date, contract length and value (if you have a recurring revenue model) or average product lifetime before repurchase is needed, can help you predict needs and service customers in a way that keeps them engaged and returning.
If you have software, software-enabled or “connected” products, you should be utilizing actual usage data to understand how often and how much your customers are actually using your products. You may be able to spot underperforming customers who are at risk of churning, or where there may be opportunities to upsell add-ons, extra features, or extended services that may appropriately accompany the products already purchased.
Usage data is also a great way to identify your most valuable customers, who you can then turn around and utilize as case study and testimonial subjects - further strengthening your product-led marketing content library.
Important KPIs for product-led marketing ROI
As with any kind of proof for ROI, product-led marketing ROI focuses on tracking a few key metrics. While each organization may have their own indicators of success and specific milestones depending on size, age and type of company, there are a few numbers that all teams should be keeping an eye on.
Cost to acquire a customer, or CAC, is a crucial KPI for any business. Typically, when CAC goes up, ROI goes down. That’s because when customers are more expensive to get, you either have a smaller return, or you wind up increasing spend - but it’s likely both. Getting CAC down is an art and a science and something all businesses typically strive for.
By leveraging Product-led marketing, you can reduce your CAC. Think about how you identify qualified leads; it’s likely a combination of properties about the customer profile, paired with activities rated from low to high purchase intent. Offering product-specific content and experiences such as trial environments and demos means that you can more accurately identify prospects when they are sales qualified. Keep an eye on your conversion rates to identify how many leads go from a product demo to purchase. If you can work to improve that conversion rate, you can likely refine your process for pre-qualifying and disqualifying leads before they get to the decision stage. This will greatly reduce the amount of time your team spends chasing prospects that are less likely to buy, which can also increase your overall CAC.
Customer lifetime value (CLV) on the other hand, can be drastically improved by focusing on retention. If you are neglecting your existing customers and do not have customer experience and support strategies and functions in place, you will likely have a higher churn rate, which will kill your CLV. But focusing on retention rather than solely on new sales can actually greatly improve your overall marketing and sales ROI. When you have a captive audience, such as with an existing customer, you actually can spend less time and money just to keep them happy than you would if you had to drive demand, which often requires volume.
Going back to the above- mentioned concepts about data, if you are keeping an up-to-date CRM and ensuring you have a handle on your customers’ lifecycles, product lifetimes , and contract values, for example, can ensure that you can focus on nurturing customers for repurchase or contract extension at the right times.
While not a specific metric per-se, attribution is important for understanding the effectiveness of your different marketing activities when it comes to impacting your ROI. There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to attribution, with first-touch attribution often getting a lot of attention. However, thanks to marketing automation and new marketing tools, we can be better about identifying and weighing the impact of each activity on the decision to buy.
Especially when it comes to product-led marketing, you really want to focus on how effective your last touch efforts are. Going back to the ideas about conversion rates, identify the percentage of your pipeline that reaches those product-specific activities and start to measure the rate at which leads make a final purchase. You can refine your materials and strategy over time by attributing credit to those activities that are most impactful and have higher conversion rates.
Product-led marketing is a strategy that any company can easily deploy by focusing on evergreen product-related content and experiences. Ensure that you retain customers by leveraging existing product purchases to motivate additional sales, and focus on customer success. You’ll find that product-led marketing can have a dramatic impact on your overall marketing and sales return on investment.