Is Post-Sale Support the Last Great Marketing Differentiator?

July 18, 2019

Is Post-Sale Support the Last Great Marketing Differentiator?

A marketer’s primary focus has always been getting people through the door so that sales can eventually close a deal. But in today’s dynamic and competitive buyer landscape, the customer experience, particularly that which occurs post-sale, is vital to maintaining customer success, upselling, cross-selling and driving long-term ROI. 

Being that marketers are guardians of brand, it is important they also take ownership over multiple touch-points along the lifecycle of a sale. This is crucial to ensure that customers experiences are valuable and consistent, regardless if they are new or existing. 

Expectations for quality support and service are higher than ever, considering that:

LinkedIn’s latest research on the Enlightened Technology Buyer reinforces the omnipresence of peer feedback on new business technology investments, with 70% of decision-makers specifically discussing solutions and vendors with their peers on and offline. This ensures that potential customers will hear about their experiences and use this information, good or bad, to vet and consider existing or new vendors. 

Despite the heightened importance of quality outcomes across the modern buyer journey — from initial awareness to post-sale maintenance and renewal — tech companies in particular continue to miss opportunities when it comes to post-sale support.

Examine this spotlight from our report: 

During the needs phase, when companies are determining requirements, 72% of buyers and decision-makers report engaging with a vendor over the last three months. That number plummets to 34% during management and only ticks up 2% during renewal.

It’s tempting to look at this pattern as the natural petering off a relationship when the project comes to fruition, but the canyon between pre- and post-sale is clear: Your customers hear from you much more before they become your customers than after — and the implication becomes that they are more important as prospects than as customers.

Forrester’s annual CX report found there are no brands leading this space for the third year in a row. The message is clear: If you can execute your post-sales strategy well, there’s a clear opportunity to differentiate from the competition.

Marketing and Sales Should Take an Active Role in Post-Sale Support

In the past, marketing and sales have typically handed customers to separate teams or customer service representatives after a sale has closed. But changing customer demands for a seamless, service-oriented experience, the post-sale offerings provided by marketing and sales have never played a more crucial role. 

Self-guided post-sale support:  Much of today’s customer journey is self-directed. Technology buyers want answers to questions easily without having to contact anyone. Our research says 44% turn to vendor websites to troubleshoot. Ideally, this information is interactive, complete with how-to videos and easy to navigate forums or Q&As offering a deep well of information for prospective and current customers. Take enterprise data storage system Qumulo’s website for example. Their Qumulo Care portal gives customers access to important resources, a forum of other professionals and an opportunity to open a support ticket, all in one place.

And if your site isn’t enabled with chat, you’re already behind: More customers prefer to chat than any other communication avenue. Increasingly sophisticated chatbots can help alleviate some of the contact volume customer service handles while providing better CX when done correctly.

Ongoing sales enablement and engagement: Are you arming the sales team with relevant content to share with customers? Marketing-supported sales enablement is essential to closing the deal, but it’s also essential to maintaining it. The relationship between a sales representative and a customer is already established and, we assume, a good one: 74% of buyers work with the first salesperson to add value and insight, but only 20% are seen as helpful post-sale.

If sales can continuously add value, they are more likely to build positive momentum. Think: Are there new product features available? Has one of the features become relevant to new industry trends? Is one customer using your product to achieve great results in a way that can be replicated and shared through a mini-case study? Offer a spin on the same kind of thought leadership you use in your pre-sale marketing content strategy. 

Creating a feedback loop with customer service: Your customer support team has a wealth of insight that you can’t get anywhere else. Design a feedback loop so that activities are constantly shared and used to inform anything from marketing strategy to future product development. This also helps marketing with content production: Happy customers can offer testimonials or participate in case studies. Marketing can offer their own intel about promotions, campaigns and brand awareness activities and can add their own value to customer support with FAQs, Q&As, and scripts that align the brand experience across every touchpoint.

Further opportunities may bring the two teams working together and implementing a strategy for categorizing and funneling customers through a scorecard, ranking system or other engagement process.

Consistent brand experience that delivers on every promise: Through the feedback loop with customer service and marketing-sales alignment, marketing can ensure that the company is not over-promising and under-delivering. As your customer service team uncovers gaps between promise and delivery, those should be communicated back to marketing and sales and acted upon quickly. Marketing has the opportunity to set clear expectations with customers, both in terms of what they should expect from the product/service but also what they can expect from support, from the start. 

Customer renewal marketing: When customers are engaged post-sale and gathering metrics on how to engage with your brand, you can more easily funnel them into the right place for delivering personalized content. Sixty-three percent of consumers expect personalization as a standard of service and feel they are recognized as an individual when sent special offers. By making your post-sale marketing personalized, you can offer specified products and services that compound success and content that speaks to past purchases. Continuously adding value also increases the chance of renewal.

Building A Comprehensive, Cross-Departmental Post-Sale Strategy

In this landscape, post-sales support should be the rule, not the exception. So the first question you need to ask is: Can your company culture support this effort? Buyers are thirsty for relationships with the companies they do business with, and that relationship must be consistent across every channel and interaction. Customer experience and nurturing, then, has to be everyone’s responsibility. 

This requires tearing down silos across departments. You have to do the hard cultural and process work of setting up those pipelines, with processes that are regular, re-occurring and productive. As part of this integration initiative, review and build out your current protocols: What are your internal customer service policies? What are your customer-facing policies like shipping or returns, satisfaction guarantees, data privacy, etc? Are they customer friendly? Do they promote effective and impressive post-sales support?

Finally, make sure you actually tell your customers how you support them. Give them that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you’re there. Let them know how and when they can reach you. Ensure they are aware of all the self-guided resources they can access at any time online or in support forums or groups.

This will mean shifting time and resources to post-sale activities which may not pay immediate dividends in the way straightforward lead gen would. But these efforts will pay off over the long-term as investments in customer lifetime value. Interested in more findings from our new research on technology purchasing?

Check out “The Enlightened Tech Buyer: Enlightened Technology Buying: Powering Customer Decisions from Acquisition to Renewal.”