So what if I don’t want to engage?

In customer retention and loyalty marketing, the buzz phrase of the moment is “engagement market­ing.” While a vital piece of any acquisition program, its use in the retention segment has recently morphed from engaging customers via dialogue and personalized communications, to inviting them to actively participate with brands, via interactive blogs, viral video contests and social networking sites.

The question I’ve been pondering is this: What if I’m a loyal customer and I don’t want to interact with the brand? The fact is, for every rabid Apple, Jet Blue and Toyota Prius customer who wants to engage, there are other customers enjoying the same products or services who don’t want to interact. And, for low involvement categories — think life insurance or gas stations — there may be little to no customers who want to actively engage with you.

So while it may make perfect marketing sense to launch a corporate blog, put a page up on MySpace or release the world’s coolest widget, it would be a mistake to forget the basics of customer retention — the “blocking and tackling” that should be a part of every loyalty program.

Most successful loyalty programs have always been comprised of two key elements: rewards and recogni­tion. Rewards are the tangible stuff — the free flights, hotel nights, etc. But equally important is the recognition — the intangible thank-you messages and soft benefits like invi­tations to VIP customer-only events that show your best customers you truly care.

In the rush to jump onto the Web 2.0 bandwagon, let’s not forget the basics. It’s still far more effective to send a personalized, relevant e-mail to a valued customer than a come-on to become a Facebook friend.

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