3 Benefits to Building Your Brand for Your Customer Lifecycle Marketing program

Many folks think of logos, marketing collateral, advertising, and other imagery as their brand. They lump in patents, copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property; domain names, slogans, jingles, and other components. And they are partially correct. But a brand is so much more than that.

A brand is the promise you make to your customers. It is the experience your customers expect to take away each and every time they interact with your brand.

And your brand is an important component to a successful Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) program. According to BrandZ, “On average worldwide, only 7 percent of consumers buy on price alone, down from 20 percent ten years ago. In contrast, 81 percent regard brand as an important consideration. (“BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands”, published by Millward Brown, 2010). So it is in your best interest to build the best brand you can build to ensure CLM success.

1) Preserve your Corporate Identity

Brands build their reputations in a painstaking manner. Great brands like Starbucks have managed to construct a unique global reputation based on the provision and service of high quality products. They offer a consistent and unique experience for patrons, not replicated by competitors. And they incorporate a consistent approach to corporate social responsibility.

And that identity is permeated at every customer touch point, so entering a Starbucks in Boston feels very much like entering a Starbucks in Bloomington, MN and/or Boise. You experience that same identity online at starbucks.com or on their Facebook page. And every piece of collateral, from the cups to the napkins, to the cup holders, to the POP displays, signs, CDs, local and national ads in one store or locale looks exactly like its counterpart in another.

2) Maintain your Competitive Advantage

A top brand retains competitive advantage in the marketplace because it is easily identified and stands apart. The brand is presented in a consistent manner and the customer experiences the brand in the same way no matter where they are.

Starbucks, Apple, Nordstrom, Wal-Mart, Disney and Sub-Zero are all brands with advantages over the competition in terms of unaided recall. They each own advantages in product design, ease of use, customer service, or cost (or maybe on multiple dimensions). Because they deliver a competitive advantage, they retain customers better than the competition and perform well when it comes to loyalty and referral. This makes it difficult for a competitor to come in and steal market share.

Perhaps the competition can come in and undercut your brand based on price, but they can only employ that strategy for so long before eroding margins have a long-term financial impact. And if you attract shoppers based on price today, you will likely lose them down the road when another competitor beats you on price.

3) Helps You To Grow Revenue

When you have a strong brand identity and distinct, recognized advantage, customers can more easily see the perceived value your brand brings. Your lifecycle marketing campaigns benefit too, as they will be more visible, recognizable, and more likely to be responded to. Campaigns help Marketers to grow revenue. Campaigns can drive revenue from new customer acquisition, whereby you leverage mailings or social media posting and other promotions to your prospect list. Or you can run retention campaigns to keep those at risk of attriting from leaving you. Campaigns can drive incremental purchases later in the year from your core customer base or they can increase the amount of items typically purchased in one shopping session from a particular segment.

In our businesses, regardless of our function, we want to see our customers’ needs met by our brand. We want our brand to deliver on the promise that our Sales and Marketing teams (and all of our employees) make. Accomplishing this ensures our Customer Lifecycle Marketing programs meet their objectives and enhance value to the brand.

Customer Loyalty Needs to Benefit the Customer

Recently I was asked how do customers benefit from being loyal to a company. Let’s explore some here.

Typically you would offer your best clients access to improved levels of service. One of my favorite examples is how companies will utilize their telephony software to move their best customers up in a phone queue, so the most loyal (and highest value) customers get preference to be served on the phone first. For those considering this option, you have to analyze the benefit of keeping these customers loyal versus filling the new customer pipeline.

Of course, there was a time airlines provided first class upgrades for free to their best customers; just one of the many loyalty benefits that have seemed to erode in that industry. Is it because someone did the analysis and found it not to be beneficial (if you have insight please leave a comment)? A good reminder for us to always review our loyalty programs and do the analysis.

Insurance companies (like Progressive, Nationwide, Allstate and Liberty Mutual) offer disappearing deductibles to clients who stay with them longer, saving the clients (and likely the insurance companies in the form of reduced marketing expense) money. Disappearing deductibles used to be a fairly exclusive benefit a number of years ago, but seem to have become table stakes in the business. I suppose it is still a benefit to a loyal customer. As a business owner you need to understand if your customer truly perceive it as a benefit before you position it as such.

Costco and REI, among others, offer dividends to their loyalty card shoppers. So in the case of Costco, not only do customers receive credits when they use the card, but they may accrue deeper credits/dividends when they use the card at Costco outlets or with Costco partners. Real great example of the benefit of loyalty.

Many lodging companies offer a deeper discount to repeat guests than to new guests. They will likely provide free upgrades to better rooms if there is availability. No need leaving a premium room vacant. And there is a certain amount of benefit to surprise and delight when it comes to value perception and customer satisfaction.

I love surprise and delight as a concept. I recently stayed with my vegetarian wife at a great hotel known for their chocolate chip cookies and mentioned to the concierge that she would appreciate vegan chocolate chippers (which they did not have on their menu). And oh, by the way, it was to be a little extra gift from me for her birthday. I was expecting to be charged. So I was a little surprised that they did not charge me for the generous plate they brought to my room. But what was even more surprising was the free 30 minute free copper tub soak the concierge provided as her own birthday gift for us. Will I be staying there again next time I go skiing in Beaver Creek? Absolutely. Did I tell all of my friends and coworkers? You bet!

Surprise and delight works on a deeper psychological level. Most people enjoy a surprise. And those who have been surprised (whether positively or negatively) are going to tell someone. And we often remember the surprises in life. So it makes sense to create surprise and delight moments for your customers, and ensure your best customers are relaying a greater share of positive stories. And likely recommending your business in the process.

I can go on and on. In each case the consumer benefits from the loyalty initiative first, with the benefits accruing to the bottom line of the company employing the tactic. But in all cases a business should test these loyalty initiatives to determine incremental impact on retention before investing in them for the long-term. The firm also needs to weigh the investment against other investments that may be available to the business at the time. And they must balance benefits against investment and impact to customers. You want to be careful when favoring one group because that could impact how you service another group or how the other group or segment perceives your company.

Before embarking on loyalty initiatives, be sure to think about the customer. What will your best customers really value? Are there some benefits that may be more important to some customer segments than others? Talk to a few customers from different customer segments (focus groups may work best, or even approaching them in store) to get their perspective. Be sure you consider how a loyalty program aligns with your brand? Are there components of a loyalty program that may be a better fit with your brand than another? What are your objectives and how will a loyalty program help you to meet (or exceed them)?

What are some of your thoughts? What loyalty benefits have you seen for your customers that have been real winners in terms of driving even more loyalty?

And as always thanks for reading and commenting.
Steve

CLM Defined

The first question most people ask me is what is CLM? CLM stands for Customer Lifecycle Management. A CLM approach transcends traditional marketing, which tends to focus on the execution of cyclical campaigns and lead acquisition. With CLM, the focus is on the individual in true 1:1 fashion across the entire life of the consumer with the business or brand.

CLM takes advantage of data in our CRM system and enables us to communicate in real-time (or near real-time) to our customers, qualified leads (prospects), and non-qualified leads (suspects). Every customer communication strives to advance people through the lifecycle, deepening their engagement with and loyalty to your firm. With deepening engagement and loyalty, you not only grow your existing customer relationships and retain better, but you convert prospects better. And that means more revenue. CLM requires a planned approach to managing your customer through all phases of their relationship with you.

Typically a CLM approach can cover these phases of the Customer Lifecycle.

  • Awareness
  • Acquisition
  • Engagement
  • Retention
  • Growth
  • Recapture
  • Reengagement

CLM should also ensure that you are targeting the right customers with the right message at the right time. Do we need to send everyone the “Spring into Savings” promo? No there are folks that are likely to buy anyway and there are some that are not Spring-time buyers, or there may be folks that are retention risks for whom we need to focus a more retention-based message or surprise and delight instead of our scheduled promotion. If we are doing it right, we are being more efficient, which makes an investment in the approach a moneymaker over the long-term, providing real return on our budget dollars.

Eventually on this blog I will go into each one of the above phases with ideas and examples for how you can successfully take a CLM approach. I also plan to cover typical CLM-based objectives and strategies you can employ. I also plan to write about the customer-centric approach that a successful CLM program offers. I will also cover topics relevant to CRM since a good CLM approach requires the attention to process and technology that a good CRM program  requires- and goodness knows there are too many people struggling with CRM in the real world. Finally, thanks to 20 years of developing and executing on direct (direct mail, telemarketing, transpromotional messaging, DRTV, etc.) and digital (SEO/PPC, display, email, SMS, social media, mobile, etc.) marketing strategy across a number of verticals (financial services, insurance, credit unions, durables, apparel, CPG, and hospitality/entertainment), I will cover topics in these areas too.

So thanks for coming on this journey with me. And let me know if there are any topics that are of particular interest to you. After all I am privileged to have you visit my blog. The least I can do is make it relevant for you.

Thanks!

Steve