Customer Retention? I Think You Mean Community Retention
There's a lot of talk around customer retention lately. Marketers talk about the data, churn and identifying the ideal customer based on past purchase behavior. They look at channels, attribution and how they can optimize campaign return on investment. In an entirely separate conversation, they talk about social networks and how to monetize them. Marketers need to take a step back, look at the whole picture and realize that the effort they put towards retaining customers — who only become customers by definition post-purchase after interacting with their brands pre-purchase — is needed in their virtual and real-life communities. Too often retention tactics are applied post first purchase.
There's a fundamental overlap between acquisition and community retention. For B-to-B marketers it's called lead nurturing. B-to-B marketers justify the time spent in lead nurturing with the end goal of "closing the deal." Oftentimes it's a more personal process, picking up the phone to call a lead directly. They give a free trial, access to research or some information that influences the lead to spend money with them.
Can you imagine if B-to-B marketers only put effort into their clients after they had already spent money with them? The same concept can apply. Yes, coupons are great and can help you acquire bargain shoppers, one-time buyers and "sometimes" customers who convert to brand loyalists. But what if you treated potential retail customers a little more like B-to-B marketers treat their leads?
Customer retention starts before they become a customer
On average, how many times does a customer interact with your brand before that first purchase? Do you even know? We do know that consumers are inundated with information and advertising throughout the day, every day. It's on our cereal boxes in the morning, on buses, trains, radios, podcasts, magazines and billboards on our way to work; it's on every web page and in product placements in our entertainment. Like it or not, your prospects are interacting with your brand as well as your competitors’ and you don't have control of it. You can take some control over their experience if you aim to retain your community, not just existing customers.
Who is in your community?
When I talk about marketing to your community, you have to address the consumers you have access to. This includes your customers as well as:
- newsletter subscribers;
- Twitter followers;
- Facebook fans;
- Pinterest product pinners and board followers;
- product reviewers;
- website members; and
- anyone who interacts with your brand online or in person.
Oftentimes when marketers talk about customer retention they talk about email marketing. There are plenty of resources on how to curate content and foster engagement via social networks exclusively. I'm going to concentrate on email marketing and the cross-channel approach to community retention with email.