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Relationship Marketing 201: Customer Retention Tips

by: Stephen Dumas (@IBMforMarketing)
28 December 2015

Retention marketing is a complicated endeavor. Even if you have a cohesive retention marketing strategy in place that includes a loyalty program, a customer may still disengage from your brand for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with your direct marketing tactics.

Leadership needs to ask, “What are my customers doing when they aren’t buying from us? In many cases, they may be looking at your competition because your brand is focused too much on selling and not enough on relationships.

The solution is to stop thinking about retention as simply a digital marketing team versus sales team challenge, but rather as an omni-channel strategy with its own set of budgetary and resource needs. The good news is that marketing technology solutions have advanced enough to provide much more agile connections among previously disparate areas of the business.

Here are some more ways marketing leaders can think outside the marketing silo to improve their own retention rates.

Staying Ahead of Customer Expectations

In the frenzy to meet revenue goals, we often default to emphasizing acquisition/conversion. What if while you were acquiring new customers or driving rebuy rates, you were also planting the seed for long-term relationships? Here are some tips for doing just that:

1) Use the marketing solutions you already have: Leveraging email, push notifications, SMS and social media as customer service tools can reinforce brand value and tie together seemingly disparate engagement strategies. For example, retailers might use SMS or push notifications for shipping/delivery notifications or customer service reminders, particularly if product care and follow-up is important. The point is that you have the tools, you simply need to realign your strategic goals to incorporate retention marketing earlier in the customer journey.

2) Take an integrated approach: Finding the right mix of selling and service will help you build relationships. For example, emails are a mainstay of revenue generation for marketers, but these messages could be also be used to mitigate customer service challenges through inserting service-specific content, particularly after a customer has made a purchase. Try sprinkling service messages in with selling messages, and don’t bury this helpful content in the email footer. Dynamic content will be a big help in executing this approach.

3) Use digital ads for customer service: Even Web personalization tools can display onsite messages that provide customers with directional ads that point to product care instructions specific to the last product they purchased or showed an interest in. Imagine customers returning to your site for your design expertise time and again. When they are ready to buy again, you’ve reinforced their trust in your brand. More advanced tools that bring data together with other digital channels are necessary to perform this level of marketing orchestration, but there are many solutions that solve for this.

Prevent “Email Fatigue”

Most marketers are familiar with “email fatigue,” but today fatigue can occur across channels, and it often happens sooner in the buying process because of the number of marketing messages delivered through multiple channels. Here are a couple ways you can reduce the risk of marketing fatigue.

1) Display personalized offers: For years marketers have been told to have a consistent message, look and feel across channels. But with the addition of mobile capabilities and the different approaches each channel offers, consistency can sometimes work against the marketer. For example, having the same promotional offer in all channels may drive up fatigue. To combat this, try displaying personalized promotional offers, which will require having insight into your customers and the ability to market based on behaviors, preferred devices and channels that most interest them.

2) Manage message frequency across channels: In addition, marketers might look to manage the frequency and types of messages their customers receive. For example, if contacts are receiving triggered emails, consider controlling the number of broadcast emails they are receiving. Or, if customers are receiving both email and SMS messages, you might not want to send them the regular number of emails and SMS messages. In another words, track the number of marketing messages individuals are receiving and adjust accordingly. To achieve this, marketers need 360-degree views of customer behavior and the ability to collaborate across marketing channels.

For more on relationship marketing and customer retention, please check out the video and resources below.

Related Resources:

1) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue

2) Blog: “Relationship Marketing 101: Nurturing Your Contacts (Video)

3) Tip Sheet: “5 Challenges to Building a Loyalty Program – and How to Overcome Them


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