Building loyalty on a busted budget in 2009

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Today's marketers know that retaining existing customers is less expensive than obtaining new ones, so building loyalty in an era of squeezed budgets is essential. Four experts discuss how to boost your efforts

Angie Hirata
Worldwide director of marketing and business development, Maximizer Software

The key to developing brand loyalists is reviewing all of your customer touch-points to create experiences that “wow” your customers. Loyalty cards and points programs may encourage some repeat purchases, but they don't breed emotional brand commitments. Creating a loyalist that drives repeat business and long-term allegiance to your brand requires an experi­ence that goes beyond the expectations of your customer.

Consider all areas where your customer interacts with you. Is your phone system friendly and accessible? Do your invoices and renewal notices look professional and provide additional information for your customers to easily contact you? Is your welcome/getting started information pack­age for new customers easily understood, and is it delivered in multiple formats to address different customer preferences? How do you greet repeat customers the next time they call or visit?

To assess your customer's experience, make use of a “secret shopper” that will go through the experience of buying from you and using your product or service. If you are on a tight budget, it can be as easy as get­ting some friends to help you. If the person finds the purchasing experience satisfactory, that's great, but consider what happens after they buy the product — particularly if you have a complex product that requires some instructions to follow before using it. People today have short attention spans, so if next steps are not laid out in simple-to-follow instructions, you risk losing them to your competitors at the most critical point in their experience with you.

When they call or visit you again, is your staff equipped with the information it needs to keep building an emotional loyalty to your brand through a trusted relation­ship? This means greeting customers and thanking them for calling or visiting again, showing them you know their product pref­erences, and delivering on it before they have to ask for it.

Marketing resources have long been focused on acquiring new customers, but keeping existing customers in this economy is what will get many companies through the deepest trenches. Review your marketing resource and budget allocation and assign more to loyalty initiatives. Make 2009 the year you wowed your customers.

THE TAKEAWAY
Consider all customer touchpoints when devising a long-term loyalty strategy


Michael Zirngibl
President and CEO, Angel.com

Customer loyalty is determined by how you service your customer through all your touchpoints, but the phone is many custom­ers' main — or sometimes only — point of contact with a company. Too often, compa­nies are doing little to foster loyalty through this channel.

Think of a phone customer as if they were your best customer walking through the front door of your business. What would you do to make sure that their experience matched their expectations for your brand? You would greet them in a personalized manner. You would make sure that they were served by their favorite employee. You would also give them special deals and rewards just for being a loyal customer. So why do companies not apply these same rules to their most important customers over the phone?

A well-designed interactive voice response (IVR) lets you create a virtual customer front door to your business. The first step is to understand why customers call you. Once you have a clear picture of how call­ers use your phone system, you can iden­tify common questions and requests for information that can be accommodated through your IVR system. After inputting minimal information, customers can get an individualized greeting and be routed to the correct representative if the automated system cannot address their concern.

To really demonstrate customer knowl­edge and make your IVR system a valu­able resource, you can personalize caller interactions by integrating your IVR with customer databases. Today's CRM tools exist solely to build connections between company and caller.

On-demand IVR services that integrate with CRM systems can personalize the caller experience by instantly recognizing the caller's phone number and tailoring menu options based on additional customer data, such as purchase history or recent transactions. So instead of hearing, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed,” callers may hear “Hello John! Would you like an update on your cus­tomer rewards program status?” Most callers will appreciate the individualized customer service.

By integrating your phone system with your CRM system and applying proven marketing strategies, you can keep your customers coming back through your vir­tual customer front door.

THE TAKEAWAY
Create a virtual front door to your business through your phone system


Rick Ferguson
Editorial director, Colloquy

The speed and scale of today's connected world differs vastly from the broadcast world of yesterday. Consumers now have more avenues to share product and brand opinions than ever before, and those opinions can be shared instantly with thousands of other consumers. Shoppers no longer need to rely on product advice from friends or family, an army of diligent online reviewers are more than willing to share their thoughts about the products they purchase. The ability for even a single blogger to drive or derail a brand's reputation has never been greater.

To the loyalty marketer, word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing plays a very specific role. Loyalty marketers have long suspected that many program members carry special affinity for the brand. In fact, Colloquy's research shows reward program members are 70% more likely to be WOM champions — customers who are “actively recommend­ing” a product, service or brand — than the general population. Fifty-five percent of reward program members are self-described WOM champions, while only 32% of non-reward program members describe them­selves as such.

WOM champions are talking, so make sure that they're spreading the good word about your products and services instead of lodging complaints. Invest in the tracking of individual behavior that uncovers the champions within your membership base, and implement dialogue that helps nurture their relationship with your brand.

If your only goal is to measure the ROI of an individual WOM campaign, then there are many tools available to marketers. If your goal is to cultivate and encourage ongoing, profitable customer WOM activ­ity, however, then all of the tools required to do so exist within the loyalty marketing database. Loyalty marketers should find the champions buried within their program memberships, and build relationships with them that reward positive WOM.

Without diligent efforts to uncover these consumers, potential WOM benefits go unrealized. Surveys can help, but actual tracking and measurement of WOM behav­ior is more meaningful. All loyalty market­ers should design, enable, operate and track specific WOM behavior mechanisms within their customer databases. Few, if any, are doing this today. Tomorrow, such activity will be a prerequisite to success.

THE TAKEAWAY
Cultivate relationships with and pay attention to word-of-mouth promoters


Lee Gallagher
Manager of direct marketing solutions, InfoPrint

In 2008, CMOs were challenged with growing customer insight and conversations in a world that bombards the consumer with irrelevant advertisements and messaging. Now in 2009, marketers are surrounded by economic uncertainty and shrinking budgets. Savvy marketers must implement programs that realize revenue from dormant custom­ers while activating loyalty from existing customers by using personalized commu­nications as the conversation starter to cut through the clutter.

A recent survey conducted by The Mar­keting Executives Networking Group high­lighted customer retention and satisfaction are top of mind with marketers.

One buzz-worthy retention marketing technique is transpromo, which is the com­bination of must-read documents with per­sonalized, relevant promotional materials. Transpromo offers marketers a new route with which to engage their customers in targeted communications. These encourage brand loyalty by leveraging existing data to predict future buying patterns.

There are three key techniques that ensure relevance for each customer. These techniques are data analytics, integration and personalized URLs (PURLs).

Data analytics monitor customer behav­ior to ensure that marketers can remain relevant. By knowing what customers are buying each month, brands can easily pro­mote targeted, customized content and spe­cial offers to their customers.

Integration requires the proper implemen­tation of transpromo. Marketers need to find more sophisticated ways to cross- and up-sell on vehicles that customers already trust, without causing too much confu­sion on the statement itself. Working with experienced professional services teams to create a powerful document is an extremely important step of this process.

Customer loyalty needs to be reinforced beyond a simple printed statement or bill — many customers are now receiving these important documents via e-mail. Using PURLs in transaction e-mails really proves to customers that you know who they are.

Transpromo is the “must do” strategy for building loyalty in 2009. While the forecast for the economic future remains gloomy, transpromo offers a new route to increas­ing revenue by engaging your customers in relevant, targeted and timely conversations which cut through the clutter and drive customers to action — affordably.

THE TAKEAWAY
Look to transpromo as a low-cost, targeted way to cut through the marketing clutter

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