• How to be Spontaneous with Automated Content Marketing

    Two unrelated personal events recently got me thinking about the value of customer loyalty and what, as BtoB marketers, we can do to drive deeper connections from customers. One answer, which deserves more thought, is to occasionally forego our automated, scheduled content marketing to be more spontaneous.

    The first thought-provoking event relates to a looming milestone birthday. The actual age is irrelevant – let’s just say I’ve had plenty of opportunities to evaluate how companies deal with pending customer events. The second event surrounds a personal switch of service providers – in this case TV/Internet.

    What links the two is the idea of spontaneity – and what one organization did right and the other wrong, and the outcome.

    Special Experience

    First, the positive. While I fully expect to receive numerous birthday wishes, e-cards, and messages over the next week (some triggered, of course, by the date of birth field entered into a form at some past time), when I entered my debit card into my bank’s ATM over the weekend, I was met with a large on-screen “Happy Birthday” message before the screen even asked for my pin.

    There was no additional incentive message to consider long-term planning, refinance agreements, or additional credit cards, just a simple “Happy Birthday.” At least for a minute, the unexpected nature of this made me feel a little special – and a bit better about my bank.

    Not So Special Experience

    Now, the latter. Switching TV/Internet service providers is a task most look forward to about as much as a root canal. For me, after months of increasing costs without accompanying additional value (maybe there’s a value message buried in here as well), I made the painful decision to switch.

    When I informed my current provider of my decision, I was, of course, sent to the “customer salvation” department where I was offered a number of incentives if I reconsidered. When I asked why these weren’t offered before I had made the decision to leave, the rep dutifully responded with something like, “Well if you had told us you were thinking of leaving, maybe we would have offered you…”

    And there’s the insight. I get the concept of market-driven incentives to new customers as lures to attract new revenue. And, as a marketer, I also know that no company can offer these extreme incentives across the board and survive. But that doesn’t prevent a company from making a spontaneous gesture – one that doesn’t negatively impact bottom-line performance to say “thanks” and build loyalty.

    For example, if my cable company had occasionally sent me a note offering a free movie download or small reduction on a month’s bill when I hit the five year anniversary, would I have been more likely to stick with them? Maybe. Would it have cost them a lot to make the offer? Nope.

    The Marketing Lesson

    We’ve all read the statistics that it takes five times the effort to land a new customer than to maintain an existing customer, or that 91 percent of unhappy customers will NEVER willingly do business with your company again. But did you know that reducing customer churn by just 5 percent can lead to as much as a 25-125 percent increase in profits over time? Or that one of the most common reasons customers stop doing business with a company is that they only hear from the business when money or sales is directly involved?

    As marketers, in an era where technology-based automated engagements are the norm, maybe we should take a step back and evaluate what things we can do on a more personal level to acknowledge loyalty. In the BtoB space, post-sale customer interaction is often left to the Sales or support team, and then typically only when a customer raises their hand with a problem.

    What if marketing, armed with all of our new-found big data profiles and customer knowledge, took a time-out from pitching the latest white paper and designed an outreach campaign that essentially just said “Thanks” for being a customer and maybe offered something a little more personally appropriate than a generic infographic. Sending out an email that just says “Thanks” without adding links to a purchase page or latest product upgrade can mean a lot. Offering a discount on maintenance or some other low-cost item to select customers as a loyalty reward can produce a good balance to the ongoing “buy more, upgrade now” messages we typically send through drip programs.

    I know there’s an irony about using an automated tool to send a personal message, but at least it shows some willingness to treat customers as more than a revenue stream. Even an automated, orchestrated “spontaneous” gesture can pay off if executed with an undercurrent of legitimate gratitude.  

    This post first appeared on DM Confidential.

    Micky Long is Vice President at Arketi Group, an integrated marketing consultancy that helps business-to-business organizations generate revenue and accelerate growth through intelligent strategy, branding, marketing and public relations. To view all company blogs go to Arketi Group blog site.

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