By Kath Walters

Content marketing, or blogging, is a fabulous tool for attracting new customers. But it takes time to convert readers into customers. Just like dating, no one gets married the first time they meet!

That’s a bit of a problem, isn‘t it? You need results right now. As business leaders, we must keep the money flowing in. As marketing directors, we must deliver results to get bigger content marketing budgets.

And then there is the matter of measurement. How can we show our blog is delivering a return on investment?

A simple measure

Here’s a simple measure: customer loyalty.

The roadside-assist company, NRMA, was of the first big companies to take up content marketing.

For over 90 years, the NRMA has published a print magazine called Open Road, and still does, for its 2.4 million-plus members.

Back in 2013, I spoke to NRMA’s head of publishing, Emma Cornwell. Members under 40 years old were not reading Open Road. Cornwell built an online magazine called Live4, which remains one of the most successful blogs in Australia, to cater for them (and win new members).

Customer loyalty: The hidden value

Content marketing had its roots in custom publishing, which is a customer loyalty strategy.

Today, the value of content marketing as a customer loyalty strategy is underestimated. Yet customer loyalty is a valuable and instantaneous result of your blogging project.

Blogging is a branding tool. Lost customers are a branding disaster.

There’s a truism that it costs five times as much to win a customer as to retain one. There’s a bit of debate about whether this is true. The numbers are less relevant than the underlying point: loyalty is important.

Wronged customers share their problems with up to 16 people, and 95% will never buy from you again, according to American data.

And anyway, we love our customers, don’t we? We want them to be happy and see the value of our offer.

How your blog keeps customers loyal

We cannot assume that our blog will appeal to our customers, and keep them loyal. We have to consciously include them among our audiences.

I tell my clients to identify three audiences for their blogs. The first is their customers. The second is their ideal new customer. This third one is a matter of choice. It might be prospective employees or peers who will share and comment on their blogs.

Understand them

Write a buyer persona for your customers that takes you deep into their heads. What are their personal and professional ambitions and struggles? These will be different from your prospects who are often not aware of the problems you can solve for them.

Be especially nice to them

Offer your customers special deals, too; discounts, e-books, online courses. Invite them to special events. Have a members-only segment of your website.

Have you noticed how often companies advertise a great discount and then add “present customers excluded”? Hello! Why don’t just ring me up and tell me you don’t give a damn about me?

Write about what they need now

Your customers are up with you; they have your product or have tried your services. You can provide the most value if you write about their next step – their evolution to the next stage.

Invite your customers to help your research and development. What do they see as the next step for their business? What problems still bother them; what new ones have arrived? Encourage your clients to comment and give you feedback. Offer them rewards to do so. A trip for two to Uluru is a low cost when you consider the R&D value of customer feedback.

Customer loyalty is measurable fast

Measure customer “churn” – how many you lose as well as how many you gain from the minute you start blogging. NRMA’s Emma Cornwell did.

Within a year, the content marketing program had increased customer retention by 5%. This added $3.6 million in revenue.