Powering lifetime connections Stage II: Creating a plan for ongoing dialogue

In my recent article, I introduced the concept of powering lifetime connections and shared the first of three stages – getting to know the customer. Here, I’ll discuss the second stage: creating a plan for ongoing dialogue. Marketers are often laser-focused on acquiring and onboarding new customers. While intentions are to communicate to them on a regular cadence throughout the customer lifecycle, oftentimes, marketers don’t establish a plan or follow-through on the plan that was created.

Creating a plan for ongoing dialogue

You’ve invested resources into getting to know your customers, now you need to keep the relationship active and alive through personalized communications. Consumers that read welcome messages engage with more than 40% of that brand’s messages during the following 180 days.

So, don’t stop at the welcome. Consider these tactics when developing your communication plan:

Be consistent: Create a baseline communication plan for all customers and build in the flexibility to add communications along the way. The baseline is the set of typical lifecycle communications for the customer and the additional communications (think of them as additional layers) include the unique messages you may generate throughout the lifecycle as opportunities present themselves. Typical lifecycle messages might include a welcome message, first purchase or redemption communication. The goal is to schedule service communications based on anticipated events in the typical member’s lifecycle. The first 90 days is tremendously important as you’re focused on cementing customer engagement and reinforcing the value of your program.

Create a variety of communications: Within your communication plan, it’s important to create a variety of communications that keep customers engaged across channels. These are the additional layers. When was the last time you received a hand written thank you note? It’s important to bring simplicity in to the complex world of loyalty and get back to the basics at times. When developing your additional communication layers, segment them into categories. For example, when a member contacts your customer service center, follow up and make sure the member is satisfied. When customers provide you with additional information about themselves, create a holiday or celebration segment and include birthdays, anniversaries, or other milestone events. And add an element of fun – who doesn’t like a surprise and delight and hearing from you ‘out of the blue’ or a little gamification to ‘turn up the competitive dial?’ Call this your delight segment. And what about all of the life stages? – Getting married, having a baby, moving to a new home and so on. Create communication segments that best meet your marketing objectives. After all, you know your customer the best.

Be Nimble: Remember, your customers’ needs change. When you’re developing your communication segments, you need to be flexible and adapt to the current needs of your customers. You need to be reactive to anticipated communications in real time. Capturing the moments in which the customer is coming to you is essential. And be nimble within all channels in which you market to. The online aspect is very interesting and adds a layer of marketing intelligence. Understand that your customer is going to interact in multiple channels, and that it’s your job as a marketer to be nimble, follow them in each channel to truly get to know them and focus on engagement. Having the ability to respond in real time to online browsing behavior is critical with today’s “always-on” consumers.

It’s important for marketers to understand how and why they should adjust their communications along the customer journey. The needs/wants of customers’ change. It’s important to develop a communication strategy that adjusts to these ever changing needs. In my next article, I’ll discuss this in more detail.

This article originally appeared on Loyalty360 on April 2, 2018.