Time to Protect Your Best Customers


marketing2_small.jpgADOTAS — Studies of recessions dating to the 1920’s prove that marketing aggressively in a down economy can increase market share substantially more than during good times.

A top best practice in tough times is fiercely protecting your loyal customers, making Customer Retention Marketing more important today than ever. Put your customers at the heart of your business, and you build a competitive advantage that continues to grow after the economy recovers. Unfortunately, many marketers limit themselves to an outdated, simplistic, and less effective CRM approach. It’s time to usher in a 21st Century CRM that utilizes the most powerful strategies and tools available, and achieves great success in a weak marketplace.

Out with the Old CRM Approach

Too often CRM programs consist only of outbound e-mail or direct mail. As more consumers become engaged with alternative communication channels, and less with e-mail, now is the time to upgrade CRM. For example, young people seldom use e-mail unless they have to, instead relying on social media (e.g., Facebook), text messaging or IM. (“You sent me an e-mail? I never check my e-mail,” say my teenage and college-age daughters.)

Keep the CRM mainstays — e-mail and direct mail — that have worked well, but augment your efforts by exploiting digital and social marketing opportunities, like digital tools (IM, widgets, etc.), mobile, and social media. The new CRM mix has many concurrent elements, such as social communities needing an e-mail blast to update members, or some e-mail requiring a social media approach that engages more personally.
Welcome to 21st Century CRM

Here are 7 ways to seize the tremendous opportunity of 21st century CRM:

Think CMR. The term “Customer Managed Relationships (CMR)” was coined to recognize that consumers exercise more control of marketing interactions. Studies indicate the more control you cede — letting consumers select their preferred communication channels, content they want, how frequently they hear from you — the more likely they will opt in, interact, engage, etc.
Example: Centrum Healthy Habits lets consumers select the frequency of communications they receive.

Detach & distribute. Don’t limit consumer interaction with your brand to one channel. Provide portable content, tools and experiences that are multi-channel and travel with consumers wherever they go (e.g., mobile). Place your content and tools on 3rd party sites. Develop communications across e-mail, mobile, social, etc. that let consumers subscribe in multiple ways.
Example: Kraft Foods’ iPhone application provides mobile recipes and tips.

Practice “Marketing as Service”.  Deliver content and tools that consumers see as providing real value and relevance. Communicate with a helpful, customer-centric voice to deliver content or tools that deeply engage, provide a tangible value-add, and build an ongoing relationship.
Example: Hallmark Crown Rewards offers calendar reminders for most occasions.

Be “social,” a “community organizer”. Create community areas on your site and on social media destinations (e.g., Facebook) where your target congregates, to facilitate connections sharing with one another. Actively participate through community content and interactions, like engaging customers in product discussions. Enrich the experience by creating a dialogue inviting feedback or input.

Example: Nestle Very Best Baking allows bakers to share recipes.

Measure more than 1 to 1. Continue comparing sales of a control group of customers that don’t receive your CRM program with those who do to quantify the incremental value of the program. But also track the Word of Mouth, Viral and Advocacy effect, through quantitative social media measurement tools and qualitative surveys.

Example: Nuts Online tracked the impact of a 2007 viral campaign that saved the CBS Show Jericho.

Beyond Customers. Expand CRM to incorporate key constituencies — employees, distributors, retailers, professional gatekeepers (e.g., physicians for pharma). Create programs that build stronger relationships with your organization’s important groups, and link them to increase CRM’s performance, such as when a retail consumer receives your CRM and subsequently sees a related in-store display.

Example: Royal Caribbean offers programs to both travel agents and consumers.

Identify Advocacy Potential. Identify your most valuable and loyal customers via your database or during opt-in registration. Treat your most valuable customers like VIPs. Invite loyals to be advocates or ask their propensity for word-of-mouth. Identify influentials in social media discussions and empower them as potential advocates, too. Time your CRM contacts for when customers are most passionate about your products.

Example: Karmaloop enlisted customers in its “Street Team” with unique rep codes to pass along to friends — the customer got a discount, the rep a commission, and the company over $700M in sales.

In this challenging marketing environment, these 7 opportunities will elevate your CRM to a 21st Century caliber, and ensure you achieve the best results possible.

Expresss your opinion, comment below.


  1. I tend to agree with you that protecting your customers is a good strategy in tough times and that Marketing as Service is a smart way to do this. That said, Hallmark’s calendar is an okay example but unfortunately it doesn’t integrate with existing calendar apps like Outlook or Social Calendar for Facebook. For better examples of Marketing as Service, visit http://www.MarketingAsService.com.


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