A Marketing Term You Should Know
Five years ago, I proposed that marketers add the term value nurturing to their vocabularies and their marketing plans.
Value nurturing is nothing more than enhancing the customer’s experience of value, after the conversion or the sale. It’s a critical marketing practice today because more businesses are basing their success on ongoing customer relations and subscriptions.
Defining a new term is a foolhardy task; no one wants to learn new vocabulary, much less take on new marketing tasks. But it was important enough that I gave it a shot, and for some people it has, indeed, stuck.
The book Subscription Marketing compiles a large number of value nurturing tactics and ideas that businesses of all types can employ. That book is now in its third edition. Value nurturing is taking hold, slowly, in the marketing mindset.
What follows is an excerpt from the chapter in that book defining value nurturing.
Beginning golfers are taught to work on their entire swing, including the follow-through. The follow-through on a golf swing affects where the ball goes once you hit it.
Value nurturing is like the follow-through for marketing and sales, ensuring that customers continue on the course you want them to travel.
Before the initial sale, you find prospects through thought leadership and lead generation. Lead-nurturing activities convince prospects of the potential value they can get from your solution. If you succeed, the prospect becomes a customer.
Value nurturing is the marketing follow-through for that activity.
Value nurturing is the act of supporting the customer’s experience of value.
Once the sale is complete, other parts of the organization come into play, but marketing still plays a significant role. Marketing can set customers on the path to achieving the functional or financial results they expected from signing up. Marketing can gently nudge customers to recognize that they are succeeding. And creative marketers add value outside the solution, through content, community, additional services, or the quality of the relationship experienced by the customer.
Value nurturing turns customers into loyal or repeat customers, and successful customers into advocates.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the idea of marketing to current customers. You might think that I’m stating the obvious. But in observing the practices of many businesses, I often feel that customers are neglected. Some marketing organizations treat “customer marketing” as a backwater, not where the creative and visible campaigns happen. This mindset must change.
Subscription customers deserve renewed marketing attention. For that reason, I suggest creating a new label—value nurturing—that identifies marketing activities after the sale as being of equal importance to generating and nurturing new leads.
Many business activities belong under the value-nurturing umbrella:
- Customer success management: Today this term is associated with a function that lives either in support or sales, but rarely in marketing. Yet to scale up customer success efforts across tens of thousands of customers, you have to deploy marketing campaigns. Value nurturing is customer success executed at scale.
- Customer retention: Most customer retention efforts focus on finding customers at risk of leaving and convincing them to stay. The term typically applies to solving problems rather than creating value.
- Upselling and cross-selling: These are important results of successful value nurturing, but never mistake selling for creating value.
Value nurturing takes place after lead generation, lead nurturing, and customer conversion. It is the next logical step in marketing for a subscription-based business.
The word value has inherent ambiguity, which works well for our purposes. Consider common meanings of the word:
- Value (verb): to consider something or someone as important or useful. (Shakespeare: “I was too young that time to value her, but now I know her.”)
- Value (noun): a relative assessment of worth or importance. (“What’s the value of this painting?”)
- Value (noun): a principle or standard of behavior. (Gandhi: “Your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”)
Value nurturing can confirm the customer’s belief that the ongoing subscription is a smart economic decision. Marketing can also increase the customer’s perception of the relative value of a solution over time. These activities reinforce the first two definitions of value.
Last but not least, marketing may also align the solution with the customer’s personal values (definition #3). Many people are interested in doing business with organizations that share their core beliefs. This fact is spurring a growth in purpose-driven marketing related to social or environmental issues.
This third meaning, the alignment of principles or ideals, carries particular weight in the Subscription Economy because the customer maintains an ongoing relationship with the business, and shared values strengthen relationships.
Whose Value Is It, Anyway?
It’s tempting to associate value nurturing with monetary metrics such as customer lifetime value. How much money does the customer contribute to the business during their relationship? How can you optimize that?
Revenue growth is, of course, your objective. But if you approach value nurturing purely with the thought of getting more money from existing customers, you’re likely to get it wrong. We’ve all experienced a poorly executed upsell at least once in our lives and realize that it damages the customer relationship.
Your customers can tell when you’re interested in them only for the money, not the relationship.
Value nurturing is about increasing the customer’s perceived value from the solution, not wringing every dollar out of the customer. The better you are at making your customers successful, the more successful your business will be over the long run.
Revenue growth is the natural result of value nurturing done well.
For more on value nurturing and a large list of examples, see the 3rd edition of Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn.