B2B customer marketing: a quick start guide

When a new customer signs on the dotted line, it’s cause for celebration. In the past, it was often also the point at which marketing efforts stopped.

But this is rapidly changing as businesses increasingly recognise the value of marketing to and with their customer communities. In fact, 98% of executives say customer marketing is either very important or important to the overall success of their organisation.

But what does best practice customer marketing look like? How can hard-pressed marketing teams see the best results? This blog post draws on our experience of working with B2B technology businesses to explore what B2B customer marketing is and why it is so important. It also looks at the challenges and opportunities of creating custom content for customers and offers actionable insights for success.

What is customer marketing?

Customer marketing is an integral part of an exceptional customer experience. It is marketing content and campaigns specifically geared towards your existing customers rather than your prospects.

In our opinion, it has three aims, all of which add value to the bottom line:

  • To market additional products to increase customer lifetime value
  • To foster customer loyalty to drive customer retention
  • To turn customers into advocates who will attract new customers

Why market to customers?

Quite simply, because customer marketing works.

Research shows 62% of organisations say their customer marketing efforts have resulted in moderate or significant revenue gains over the past year. (For context, 33% didn’t know, and only 4% said it had resulted in no revenue gains.)

It works because of two well-established marketing facts. Firstly, existing customers are more likely to buy from you than new customers, so they’re easier to sell to.  The probability of success in selling to an existing customer is 60-70% vs. 5-20% for new customers. Secondly, it costs at least 5x more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, so you get a better return on investment for your efforts.

These facts are particularly pertinent for SaaS marketers because of the importance of recurring revenue in the business model. Your biggest and best revenue opportunity is in selling to your existing customer base, whether it’s via renewals, scaling out or cross- or up-selling. In short, using customer marketing as part of a proactive customer experience fosters positive feelings that help you minimise churn and maximise customer lifetime value.

What’s the difference between customer marketing and customer advocacy?

You may have come across the term ‘customer advocacy’ and wondered how it differs from ‘customer marketing’.

You can think of customer advocacy as an element of prospect marketing activity. Essentially, customer marketing is all about marketing to your customer base and customer advocacy is marketing with them.

Customer advocates:

  • Give validation and are the subjects of success stories that act as vital social proof in your demand generation activities
  • Sing the praises of your business and bring new customers to you
  • Share insights that will help you refine your target customer personas and add value to R&D activity

Customer marketing represents an opportunity for growth in its own right. Effective customer marketing helps you create customers who are:

  • Ready to renew with minimum persuasion or inducement
  • Receptive to conversations about expanding their relationship with you
  • Keen to explore how to introduce you to other areas of their business

Despite the difference, both customer advocacy and customer marketing are firmly intertwined, and their success depends on being part of an exceptional overall customer experience. Quite simply, happy customers are more willing to stay with you and more willing to advocate on your behalf.

The role of communities in customer marketing

The topic of communities in customer marketing is a huge one – worthy of tackling in its own right.

Many communities spring up around customers supporting other customers by answering queries or helping to troubleshoot. While sites such as Stack Overflow offer an independent forum, there is a lot to be gained from bringing things in-house. To use an example from one of our customers, the SAP Concur Community allows users of SAP Concur solutions to connect with their peers, learn from experts and get answers to their SAP Concur questions.

Communities like this bring huge advantages. They are invaluable for product management and development, offering an inside track into what users want and need. You gain access to fantastic insights to inspire genuinely valuable user-focused content such as how to guides, information videos, explainer blogs and more.

When you have a ‘village square’ in the form of a customer community you have a clearly defined place to shape and share customer-focused content. You can see your most active users – and, by extension, your least active users, so you can target your marketing activities more effectively. Many businesses see success with gamification techniques such as points or other reward programmes.

The customer marketing pitfalls to avoid

As with any type of marketing, there are some well-established dos and don’ts.

The number one rule is, of course, don’t ignore them. As we’ve seen, your customers are too important and too valuable for that.

Beyond that, the dos and don’ts of customer marketing share many similarities with prospect marketing. Essentially, the key is being clear and focused.

  • Don’t use the same content for customers as you use for prospects without proper thought. Your messaging will come across as too salesy or simply irrelevant. The result will leave your customers feeling exploited or undervalued. Instead, do focus on providing support and value.
  • Don’t try to upsell straight away. Do nurture customers in the same way as you’d nurture prospects. Going in too soon comes across as pushy.
  • Don’t forget that a ‘customer’ isn’t a single entity. In the same way as you have distinct messaging and activity for finance directors and IT directors in your prospect marketing, so you need distinct messaging and activity for these groups and persona in your customer marketing.
  • Don’t forget that just as there are different stages in the buying lifecycle, there are different stages in the customer lifecycle. There are different needs at each stage, and it is important to have the relevant messaging and approach for each of them. We’ll explore options for doing this next.

The role of content in customer marketing

Content marketing is an indispensable part of customer marketing in the same way as it is an essential part of prospect marketing.

The similarities don’t stop there.

You create different types of content for each stage of the buying cycle (Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Purchase). You also need to create different types of content for each of the stages in the post-purchase buying cycle (Pilot, Rollout, Consume/Activate, Expand, Advocate).

When you get it right, it’s highly effective: 78% of B2B content marketing top performers say they successfully use content marketing to build loyalty with existing customers, whereas only 34% of the least successful do.

Content marketing ideas for each customer marketing lifecycle stage

So, what types of content work best at each stage of the post-purchase buying cycle? Let’s take a look.


At the pilot stage, communication is effectively one to one. There will be the core members of the project team in your customer’s business and a customer service representative (or similar) at your end.

The focus is on conversion, so think quick wins that will highlight rapid return on investments and proof points that will reassure them they’ve made the right choice.

In terms of content ideas, here are some things to consider:

  • A welcome pack that facilitates a smooth transition from prospect to customer. It should reinforce the wisdom of their buying decision and signpost them to useful assets. As well as providing valuable content, it should also be visually appealing – something they can keep to hand to refer back to as they start their journey with you.
  • An onboarding guide or guides that focus on a key area or areas. Keep guides simple and straightforward and don’t overwhelm readers with more information than they need at this stage. Instead, signpost them to sources of further information if they need it.
  • Simple, short how-to videos explaining how to do common tasks. As with the onboarding guides, take inspiration from customer input – focus on the features customers need to know, not the features you want to tell them about.
  • Personalised benchmark reports that capture their ‘as is’ position. This will give them something to measure their own progress against – and equip renewal teams with valuable collateral they can use at the appropriate time.


At the rollout stage, your audience massively increases. Your focus should be on gaining traction in your customer’s business and supporting the product champions or administrators in troubleshooting, tackling objections and more.

In terms of content ideas, consider:

  • Toolkits that educate and enable key users. You should also consider making them persona-specific. Busy people will appreciate a guide that focuses on their needs rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ guide they need to wade through to find the answer they are looking for.
  • Mobile-optimised webinars and training videos available on demand are great ways to introduce your product to its new audience, especially Generation Z employees who prefer these types of media to longer-form written content.
  • Template awareness campaigns and communications packs help product champions or administrators pull together the information they need to build buy-in from their users.

For each of these, consider making them white labelled (or at least brandable) to encourage users to see the solutions as theirs rather than belonging to a third party.


At this stage, the focus should be on driving adoption to maximise your customer’s return on investment (and therefore the chance of renewal). This can include incentives and offers if appropriate.

You could try:

  • Success playbooks that offer guidelines on getting the best from their investment. Customer success stories also help to remind them of the value your solution can deliver.
  • A welcome pack or new starter guide which minimises the training your customer has to deliver to new starters – and ensures that adoption doesn’t decline or stall as a result of employee turnover.
  • Taking things a stage further, communities, user groups and customer events provide opportunities to meet like-minded customers and provide great value in terms of sharing experiences.


At this stage, the focus is on securing the renewal and raising awareness of other solutions or opportunities in your portfolio.

Some actions to take:

  • Make use of nurture programmes to start to raise awareness of the wider capabilities of your solution.
  • Revisit the benchmarking report to demonstrate how far they’ve come and the opportunities they can still realise.
  • Actively invite key users to community events and explore opportunities to expand your reach within their organisation.
  • Show the value that testimonials or involvement in customer success stories (written and/or video) can offer to help them achieve their personal and business goals.
  • Create content that internal champions can use to educate and inform other personas in the business (in other words, land and expand).


Your focus at this stage is on identifying and leveraging the customers who will become active advocates of your product both internally and externally.

Some suggestions are:

  • Recognition in the form of gifts or rewards as this enhances a sense of belonging. If you have an online community, consider highlighting the most active members with badges to highlight their special status.
  • Equip product champions and administrators with the tools they need to build your product’s standing within their organisation.
  • Round table events and activities foster a sense of community – and provide incredible insight to help refine marketing, sales, support and product development.
  • The most loyal and valuable customers could receive privileged access to your team members so they get personal rather than self-serve support.
  • You might like to consider a specific customer advocate programme with different membership levels, benefits and so on.

Conclusion – the guiding principles of effective customer marketing

Effective customer marketing is an indispensable part of creating an exceptional customer experience. It’s why, in most cases, the content you create should be about making customers’ lives easier rather than ‘selling’ your product.

Here are the golden rules.

Take time to understand your customers’ goals and the reasons they need your solution, so you can create content that is focused on them. Consider how your customers’ needs change over the lifecycle and create appropriate content for each stage. Treat customers as special – make them feel they have privileged access and are part of an exclusive ‘club’. Enable easy self-service – customers increasingly want to educate themselves.

At the same time, be realistic about the resources that are available to you. Start small and think strategically – develop modular content that can be reused and personalised rather than bespoke content each time.

But most important of all? Just do it.

Keen to explore customer content marketing in more detail? Register your interest for our virtual workshop, Cracking the Customer Marketing Code. In this free session you’ll discover how to supercharge your strategy to boost customer retention, engagement and growth. Places are limited for maximum value, interaction and meaningful networking.

Register your interest