Understanding the Five Customer Relationship Stages to Full Engagement With Your Brand

by MarthaBush on October 25, 2010

Martha Bush, SVP Strategy & Solutions at SIGMA Marketing Group

Martha Bush

We’ve been talking a lot at SIGMA Marketing Group recently about the end benefit we deliver to our clients.  For years, we’ve described what we do as a means to improve the marketing ROI for our clients.  As our clients juggle new channels, new technology and new media, we realize that their relationships with their customers and prospects have to be 24/7 and “always on.” How we help them with analytics, strategy and marketing technology today really goes beyond just the marketing process, helping them deliver a consistent and relevant brand experience across the entire consumer relationship.

Stages of an Always on Brand RelationshipOur paradigm has shifted from just acquisition and retention.  Today we need to think about every stage of the customer relationship and how we can coordinate and optimize each to improve the overall value of the customer. The methodology is the same – analyze the customer, use insights to fine tune strategy and then use technology to automate and streamline the interactions any way we can. We just have to cover off on more stages in the relationship.  A little simplification certainly helps – while there are unlimited steps in each individual customer’s multichannel interactions with your brand, moving to five stages in your planning makes this “always on” relationship a bit more manageable. Below are some questions you’ll want answers to as you build out that 24/7 relationship.”

1. Share. Before your prospects ever make a purchase, they are probably talking about you with their friends or researching your products online.  Understanding who your customer evangelists are is the first line of offense – they are probably the group that will be sought out with questions by prospects.  Consider Evangelists as a special target audience that should have all the most up-to-the-minute information about your products and services so they can give the right advice before you ever have the chance to talk to a prospect.  Start experimenting with Social Listening platforms to find out what kind of conversations are happening online where your brand is mentioned.  Consider a strategy where your outbound contact centers reach out proactively wherever your brand is mentioned to make sure bloggers or detractors have information from your point of view.

2. Attract. Understand where visitors are coming from online and offline!  How customers heard about you and what drove them to your brand is far more important than “nice to know.” Just as traditional direct response marketers always evaluate the source of a customer, marketers should try to identify the source and maintain that information on the database because it will illuminate the vast differences between attraction strategies.  Bring online and offline data together to try to evaluate both the overall value of the source and the different value of the customers who are attracted from each.

3. Convert. How does the conversion to a sale happen, and when does it fall apart?  You should know the cost of the sale and the lost opportunity when prospects fall out of your pipeline, shopping cart or walk out of the store without finding what they were looking for. Be ready with automated messaging and outbound support as soon as those events happen.  Finding your conversion problems and fixing them with automated communications can often deliver an excellent return on investment.

4. Retain. It’s amazing how many sophisticated marketers don’t really understand how many customers they lose on a regular basis.  Really understanding your retention or attrition rates can be the highest revenue generating research you can do.  Play around with retention scenarios and see how much you can gain by reducing attrition by just 1% – it’s usually a very large revenue number. And remember to think about retention in terms of cohorts – many companies lose first year customers at much higher rates than customers who have stuck around for longer. The average retention rate across all customers is usually a very misleading number. Some membership organizations say they have 80% retention, but they lose over 95% of first-year customers.  If you understand what the triggers are in the first year, you can make much better decisions about what it’s worth investing in to turn a 1-year customer into a 2-year customer.

5. Grow. Some of your customers will happily grow their relationship with you and others will deliver less opportunity.  Use the same kind of analytics to find growth opportunity as you do to find the initial sales opportunity; the payback may be much higher.

Each of these five stages deserves smart, targeted and personalized strategies that will help deliver a more consistent, satisfying relationship for your customers.   If we  want to truly create an always on relationship, we need to stop focusing just on acquisition and retention and discover the terrific return on investment opportunity across the relationship stages.

About the Author:

Martha Bush is SVP of Strategy & Solutions at SIGMA Marketing Group.  Follow Martha on  or connect with her on .

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