To quickly recap Part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed the importance of leveraging the Customer Life Cycle in your brand’s long-term, strategic marketing efforts. This phased approach to planning ensures that you design marketing tactics and craft messages to reach your target in the right ways at the right times. Although all marketing messages should be entertaining, helpful, and educational, the tone and vehicle should probably differ depending on the phase of the cycle.
At our agency, the four stages of the life cycle include: Attract, Convert, Retain and Engage. Each stage has its own specific purpose and my first article outlined the requirements for effective communication in these initial phases:
Once you’ve earned your audience’s attention and obtained the first transaction, your marketing efforts should focus on retention and engagement.
ATTRACT (designed to garner attention) — creative messages should be welcoming, arresting and easy to digest. The best vehicles include broad-reaching media outlets like television, radio, out-of-home, newspaper, PR, social media, and word-of-mouth.
CONVERT (aimed at driving the first transaction) — the tone in these “ads” should be motivating and informative. The channels best suited for this stage are those that can be moderately targeted, like direct mail, email, telemarketing, search engine marketing, online and mobile advertising, and promotions offers.
Oftentimes, this stage is where brands stumble. They think that since prospects are already aware of their brand and have made a transaction, the rest is easy. That’s hardly the case. Driving subsequent and repeat transactions can be tough, unless your tactics are designed and executed properly.
The nature of messages found within the retention phase must be appreciative (show customers that you value their business) and relevant (provide meaningful and timely information). Customers want to know that you “know” them. You don’t want to come across as superficial or creepy (knowing too much about them), but your audience should get the feeling that you understand their demographic profile as well as their lifestyle preferences and previous behavior.
Marketing vehicles that are best designed to retain qualified prospects or existing customers should be highly targetable. Of course, the best way to hone in on these folks is to use their contact information and your own brand properties. This includes things like: direct mail, email, telemarketing, messages on your website, retargeting, in-store signage, social media and text messaging.
One of the best tactical retention examples is the packet of drink coupons that Southwest Airlines sends to its loyal customers. Members of the Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program (who are 21 and over) can earn vouchers for free alcoholic beverages on Southwest flights for making various transactions with the airline. This simple act of mailing a coupon booklet to frequent flyers not only rewards them for previous behavior, but also persuades them to book their next flight with the airline.
Once you’ve driven customers to make multiple transactions with your brand, it’s time to focus on truly engaging and involving them. This is the point in the life cycle where you start to learn more about your customer base as people (not just as numbers). For example, what are their beliefs? Their wants and needs? Their perceptions of the world around them?
With the advent of social media, it is much easier to truly engage with devout customers on an individual level. You can start to have a dialog and gather their feedback on your brand. They may even be a source for new ideas, which is the reason behind My Starbucks Idea. The awe-inspiring coffee brand set up a website where loyalists can offer up new ideas to the company.
Another important aspect of this stage is encouraging brand fans to become brand evangelists and speak out about you. Whether you make a conscious effort to do this or it just happens organically, winning over fans by making them feel loved and special is crucial to expanding your customer base. The tone of your efforts in this phase should be conversational and in addition to social media, your front-line people and your location are the other top “media” vehicles.
By deliberately considering each stage of the customer life cycle — Attract, Convert, Retain and Engage — you can create more effective interactions between your brand and the customer. So, there is no need to dig out those old marketing textbooks from college for a quick refresher course. You can simply print these two articles.
Emily K. Howard, a marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.