Cover Story: The Big Qs of 2011
However, there has been payoff for hard work. "For marketers who are in tune with their customer base, the recession has actually presented new opportunities, says Laben. "The sheer volume of customer data and one-to-one contact [gathered through that engagement] gives us extraordinary opportunities to learn, optimize and market in real-time. Plus, with tons of legacy data, marrying the 'long view' with real time insights is the goal."
The recession forced many marketers to focus on retention in ways that will have long-lasting effects.
"Our clients have learned a very important lesson; customers have great value and are expensive to replace," says Roman of ERDM. "Marketers are working to earn the renewal from the moment of acquisition. For example, they warmly welcome the customer and acknowledge their value. They offer education and needs assessments to provide proactive value. They deploy opt-in based communications throughout the year which are based on the individual preferences of customers. ... When it comes time to renew, the marketers have already proved their worth. Clients who have implemented these proactive relationship strategies have increased retention rates 25 percent to 40 percent."
"There are no guarantees when it comes to customer loyalty," notes McGrew of Eastman Kodak Co. "When household income is at risk, customers use their wallets to tell the market what works and what doesn't. But it isn't only end consumers, it's also in B-to-B relationships. Every supplier relationship is being subject to scrutiny. Just because you've done business in the past doesn't mean you'll have wallet share or market share going forward."
B-to-B marketers like Kodak are increasingly shifting their focus away from their products and onto the solutions they provide. As Goodman of Modern Postcard put it, top direct marketers are "focusing on their customers results vs. selling products."