Common Sense Steps To Protect Yourself From Customer Attrition

Wednesday, Dec 10 2008

Brunner and a lot of other savvy Direct Marketers have always known it’s all about building and maintaining a strong customer base. And during this particularly challenging economy, it’s even more important to protect core customer relationships.

A healthy customer database sustains core revenue streams; can provide organic growth through up sell and cross sell opportunities; existing customers can easily become a new acquisition source through referrals and very importantly - intelligence gleaned from your customer segments can help you be much smarter in targeting, attracting and keeping new customers.

Attrition happens regardless of the economy. New brands pique interest and command attention. Tastes change and/or people leave the category. And in lean times, price does matter. Discretionary or frivolous purchases tend to move to the “back burner.”

The typical hierarchy in most of the marketing plans we’ve seen over the years is acquisition initiatives first and retention/reactivation strategies are most always listed as a contingency and sometimes even an afterthought. Brunner’s philosophy is that Retention Marketing should move up the marketing ladder to share the same wrung as Acquisition. One fuels the other.

Here are a few things to consider:

First and foremost, take a hard look at your customer database. Allocate budget and make the time to fully understand who they are and what they want from you. As consumers, we universally want the companies we associate with to know us and value our business.

Embrace the credo and understand the value of “one customer at a time.” Consumers expect transparency today - and a dialogue. These are two primary key elements of any retention program and certainly vital steps in building loyalty.

Recognize high-value, “best customers” and share some of your success with them. The power of saying “thank you” can have an amazing effect on your loyalty rating. If you subscribe to the 80/20 rule - you know these customers are more than likely responsible for the lion share of your revenue. And because they are (or have the potential to be) Ambassadors for your brand, they are more likely to continue spending during a down economy. They also have the power to fill a new acquisition channel with personal referrals.

Deliver engaging content and develop relevant programs tailored around your customer segments - on and off-line. This is particularly important when it comes to maintaining long-term relationships. Additionally, based on the point above that customers expect dialogue - this content should have the flexibility to morph into two-way conversations.

Practice your own version of Brand Direct. Link the perception-shaping power of Brand to continually reinforce core offerings with the personal, one-to-one motivational power of Direct. In basic terms, you can create and/or change behaviors outside of the most popular traditional Direct Marketing medium - direct mail. For example, this could be as simple as including a compelling offer and strong and call-to-action in a banner, print ad, FSI, radio tag, etc.

Don’t be afraid to look outside your marketing “comfort zone.” Follow the rush towards social media. Its “free” and connects in real-time. Marketers should apply the same planning approach to social media that they do to their other more general and/or direct-related efforts.

And finally, learn something from every touch point; program and communication. You can turn those insights into actionable steps to ultimately improve existing customer relationships as well as better understand the kinds of prospects you should be targeting.

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