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3 Steps to Build Customer Relationships

Here's an article I wrote for Multichannel Merchant:

As brand marketers place more time and effort into making their email marketing communications more effective, the importance of getting as close as possible to a 1:1 connection with consumers becomes readily apparent. The key to establishing what I like to refer to as a “real” connection with your consumer goes beyond indiscriminately dropping your consumer lists into existing marketing campaigns.

In order for connections with consumer audiences to be effective, these connections have to be viewed as relationships.  These relationships have to be nurtured and constantly developed over a period of time.  The best way to establish a strong relationship with consumers is through a brand’s lifecycle messaging.  Lifecycle messaging at its core is more digestible when broken up into a phased approach, knowing that over the course of a member’s journey with your brand your members and brand advocates go through varying life stages.  In this piece, we dive into how exactly to get there – appropriately.

The one critical moment that a brand has to establish or create a lasting impression, develop a strong brand identity, and create awareness about their brand with the consumer starts at the very beginning: with the first message.  That first message should in fact be the Welcome message.  This is a phase that I aptly refer to as the courtship.  Using email as one of the most intimate touch points of customer interaction, let’s outline some steps in cultivating a successful welcome experience.

Step 1 – Identify the Challenge
Maybe your email marketing program has a welcome message.  Maybe it doesn’t.  In the event your program does in fact include a welcome program, examine just how effective it is.  Does that program only consist of one message before then folding your program’s recipients into the remainder of your marketing messages?

Step 2 – Create a Solution
When developing your welcome program, be sure consider the following advice:

ü  Treat Your Welcome Program as an Onboarding Process

Retailers that don’t make the assumption that their audience knows everything about their brand and offerings tend to have better performing welcome programs.

ü  Develop a Series of Messages

Create a culture of learning by developing a series of messages that specifically caters to new customers. A series of succinct messaging can be very powerful in reinforcing a brand’s unique value proposition.  It can also help establish and educate those members of the audience who will ultimately grow to become loyalists or brand advocates.

ü  Seize the Opportunity to Reinforce Your Branding

A welcome message is an excellent way to emphasize your product offerings and cross-promote your family of brands.  When a member signs up for your loyalty rewards program or requests additional information, take the extra step to ensure that the overall messaging reflects where the recipient likely discovered your brand.  A hotel chain could easily accomplish this by adding its property’s brand logo in a prominent area of the message.  By doing this, you’re not just welcoming the member to your loyalty program – you’re reinforcing and cross-promoting visibility of a property that is familiar to the recipient.  As a retailer, this is easily done by incorporating your family of brand logos in the messaging, keeping in mind the varying or tiered price-point offerings,  e.g. Banana Republic, The Gap and Old Navy (all within one family of brands, offering like quality products).

Step 3 – Acknowledge the Results
Understand and treat your metrics from these types of communications with the same level of weight and importance as you would with any other messages in your marketing program’s portfolio.  Scrutinize and proactively test those items that correlate to your program’s performance and deliverability.  Proactively think of ways that your team can ultimately promote cross-channel marketing for new members based on your retail brand’s visibility in different channels.

As stated at the beginning, the beauty of the courtship lies within the nurturing of the consumer relationship with your retail brand.  By going the extra mile and making an effort in positioning and proactively exposing your brand’s unique value proposition, you open the door to not only creating a great experience for your new member audience – you create a lasting impression by cultivating a culture of learning and a strong brand identity.  It’s a win-win.  Doing some or all of these things will take the level of your programs up a notch and also create new advocates who will be invaluable in extending your brand to new audiences.

Posted by: Jai Williams at 12:15 AM
Categories: email, email marketing, customer relationships

Learning From 'The Break-Up': 4 Steps to Better Customer Relationships

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

I wonder how many marketers have ever heard of or come across "The Break-Up." If you're reading this and immediately associating the title with that of the Jennifer Anniston/Vince Vaughn romantic comedy, entitled with a similar name, you would be mistaken. I'm referring to a very witty two-minute YouTube clip developed approximately five years ago that does a great job of putting a consumer's frustrations with an advertiser into real-world context that is still being echoed among many of us today.

Just to give even more context, the clip opens with both consumer and advertiser regrouping over lunch. The conversation is very matter-of-fact with the consumer laying her cards on the table with an advertiser with whom she's placed a level of trust in - to represent her (voice or brand) appropriately - not to mention the advertiser's banter is just genius. The consumer does an excellent job of conveying some very specific points of contention with the advertiser in question:

- We don't talk anymore

- One-sided conversations aren't a dialogue

- You speaking for me is not genuine

- I've changed

- You're not listening (to me)

I'm actually encouraging everyone to take two minutes and watch this clip. It undeniably resonates and echoes the sentiments of all consumers at some point within the customer lifecycle. If you get nothing from this clip other than the last two points the consumer is trying to make - "I've changed" and "You're not listening" - then you have done yourself a great justice in arming yourself to market and speak to your audiences better already. Even with the advertiser in this scenario reveling at the fact that he knows X, Y, and Z about his customer, he isn't taking the appropriate measures to use the information to the best of his abilities.

4 Steps to Getting It Right

1. Score. Set up data rules and begin scoring your data appropriately.

2. Segment. Easily made possible by step number one, go beyond labeling someone as registered, non-registered, lapsed, dormant, inactive, purchaser, or non-purchaser.

3. Version. Different iterations of messaging are needed to speak uniquely and explicitly to various individuals or groups - no two will ever be quite alike, and likely shouldn't be spoken or communicated to as such.

4. Rinse and repeat. Learn and adapt, allowing for data-driven logic to drive decisioning.

The latest buzzword in the industry is "big data," but I prefer the term "actionable data." I say this because of the simple fact that the beauty about data (whether it's acted upon or not) is that it's one of the few things that we'll each tend to come across that's truly black and white. After all, it is what it is, and if data is anything, it's a story. Like every story told, we get many different interpretations out of them. But if we're not listening to the story being told, then our programs fall flat and victim to things like testing for the sake of testing - and that never gets us anywhere, does it?

Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 10:35 AM
Categories: email, email marketing, customer relationships