Hanifin Loyalty chose 3 words to help focus our efforts towards a successful 2015. We landed on:
Today, we go deeper on word #2
If you’re familiar with the shooting sports, you’ll know that to hit a target you have to aim for where it “will be”, not “where it is”. If you buy-in to the evolution in human behaviors that we talked about in word #1, Re-Evaluate, then you should easily embrace a big challenge for this year – to go beyond adapting to changes that have taken place and are widely recognized, and to re-position your customer marketing strategies to serve customers as they continue to evolve.
Marketers can make a best-efforts attempt to predict what the evolved customer might look like, but have to accept that predictions can be made with only limited certainty. People are, after all, people. They often say one thing and do another. That alone is reason enough to continue to invest in data-driven marketing in 2015 and beyond. It’s also a reason to consider how you can connect the online profiles of your loyalty program members to their behavioral data to better understand how customer preferences might evolve.
Another way to define Re-position is to think about Shift. Brands cannot fool customers anymore. There is no amount of loyalty currency that will consistently entice consumers to buy your product online or frequent your stores if the experience interacting with your brand is sub-par. Brands need to Re-Position (or Shift) their thinking to invest first in their own employees and create a cooperative and reasonably happy culture that will foster supportive communications to customers and improve customer experience.
We have long advocated for more attention to be given to employee / associate training as a critical step in the path towards building customer loyalty. We recently witnessed first-hand the impact on loyalty program members as result of their interactions with store associates in a grocery environment. The differences were astounding, even one check-out lane apart.
One grocery we know launched a loyalty program and in the first few weeks, the feedback from customers towards the program varied widely depending on which cashier they encountered. The immediate cure was to double up on training, with the goal to reinforce the core brand messages and value proposition represented by the program. The grocer is making progress, but it’s a work in process.
To capture a leadership position in customer marketing during 2015, you’ll also need to Re-Position (or Shift) the language used to describe your customers and the marketing efforts you undertake. Instead of “targeting customers” and “incentivizing them to convert their shopping”, you might want to substitute “encouraging them to engage” with your brand and to frame your communications with program members to create a culture of “honor and respect”. No, this is not a loyalty marketing version of a Jerry Maguire speech, nor is the recommendation as soft as it sounds. The takeaway here is to understand the importance of maintaining a crystal clear focus on your business objectives, staying on top of your quantitative game while remembering, as we said above, that customers are humans.
When we continually talk about “targeting the high value cell” in our value cube, we can overlook that the offer made to the customer could miss the mark, be less than relevant, or flat out not be good for the customer. When your team gathers in front of the white-board, think about framing the discussion to “engage, encourage, challenge and delight” your customers.
Think about the importance of belonging to the human being and ask your customers to become part of something that links their interests with your brand. Take them on a journey that makes that relationship special. Along the way, tease them, motivate them, and help them achieve what they want. In the process, you will build trust and create a mutual respect between their “brand” and yours.
As you pursue this refreshed view of your customer base, you may also have to Re-Position the technology and operating solutions that support your loyalty programs. Be sure your suppliers are operating with a model that supports customer strategies that have social connections, can talk with customers at the point-of-sale, and aren’t tied to fulfillment and breakage to make their numbers.
Having some form of currency in a customer loyalty program remains a best practice, but there are new ways to create a value proposition that includes both published and un-published reward structures. Marketers are wise to evaluate whether their supplier business model is tied principally to selling a hard currency and enjoying the benefits of the inevitable breakage that results.
Embrace new approaches to building customer loyalty by mixing published and un-published reward structures.
Experiment with a new vocabulary to describe your customer base and define the character of the customer growth strategies you put into play this year.
Find an operating partner that shares your “loyalty world view” and is nimble enough to deliver solutions that put your brand needs ahead of their proprietary business models.
Quote: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”