Over the past decade, a big part of our consulting practice has been helping companies determine how to improve customer retention.
A recent series of requests for contributions to a marketing blog on LinkedIn led us to develop this article. Below are eight digital marketing technologies marketers can use to help improve customer retention and grow revenue.
(Please note that while we provide vendor names, the list of software providers mentioned under each category is not exhaustive. New technology vendors emerge almost monthly, so please search for and compare competitors of the software vendors listed to find the right one for your company.)
Email Marketing Software. Email marketing is first on our list of customer retention technologies. Why? With email, a business can regularly touch its customers by sending information and messaging that's relevant to customer interests. The critical adjective here is relevant! The most effective emails are personalized based on valid segmentation schemes. They are consistent in branding and well-timed. They are carefully tested. The test data should show that they will reliably resonate with your customers. Retention emails bring customers back by speaking with your brand voice and offering incentives, discounts, special offers, or unique experiences otherwise unavailable to noncustomers. Email is a powerful tool. But use your email list carefully. Please don't abuse it, or your list of receptive customers will quickly dwindle. Tools for email marketing include Vertical Response, Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and HubSpot. For more on this topic, check out our blog article with eight examples of companies that do retention email well.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Marketers use CRMs to store customer data like email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and communication preferences. They also use CRMs to track marketing interactions with current and potential customers. Leverage CRM data to discern customer behavior. Use it to understand individual preferences and track purchase history. If you sell shoes, for example, does this customer buy when shoes are on discount, or is their purchasing more fashion-conscious? Is it event-related (i.e., snow boots after a major snowstorm) or seasonal (summer, winter, fall, and spring collection purchases)?
With some imagination and elbow grease, CRM data can give us the information we need to reach these conclusions. It allows marketers to create personalized, high-converting marketing campaigns and ensures that customers who bought from us before keep buying. Integrate your CRM with Marketing Automation (see below) to improve your communication with customers and prospects. Use this integration to build repeat sales funnels with existing customers, driving repeat purchases and improving retention. CRM software providers include Salesforce, Zoho CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics. For more on CRM and its uses, see our blog article on how CRM can help improve conversion and retention.
Social Media Management Tools. Social media has become an integral part of any retention strategy. Use social media to provide brand updates and inform your customers of reasons to maintain a relationship with you. Hoot Suite or Buffer are two examples of software enabling marketers to schedule social media updates and track social activity across platforms. Social media can increase customer engagement and maintain customers' interest in your brand. See also our blog article on Social Media Marketing for 24 examples of ways you can use Social Media to increase sales, improve customer retention, and support your brand.
Marketing Automation Platforms. Marketing automation platforms provide tools for automatically triggering marketing execution, including email campaigns, social media posts, remarketing campaigns, and more. If properly configured, marketing automation can track and manage lead generation from all your customer touchpoints and automate follow-up throughout the customer life cycle. Marketing automation systems allow retention marketers to personalize emails for post-purchase follow-ups, upsells, and cross-sells. It can trigger social media posts, offer targeted promotions, and send follow-up requests to salespeople or customer service representatives. Think of these tools as brilliant conductors in your brand marketing symphony. Research and map your online marketing funnel activities to see what works now, then automate it! These tools can save e-marketers time and effort while ensuring consistent, branded customer retention follow-up and communications. Popular options include Keap, Marketo, Pardot, Drip, and Eloqua.
Remarketing Tools. Another favorite way of turning suspects into prospects and customers into return customers is remarketing. With remarketing, a website visit can trigger a series of personalized advertisements on platforms like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Marketers can design experiences around the web content visited by linking a website product page to a particular advertisement on Google or a social media platform. These tools are especially useful in marketing luxury or high-involvement products or services because they direct advertising toward people who have already shown purchase intent. While generally reserved for new product sales, we have also seen this technology used successfully to grow revenue from service or parts upsell to customers who have visited company websites related to after-sale subjects. For more on this topic, check out our blog article on Big Data.
Customer Feedback Software. We all think we listen to our customers. But do you systematically keep track of their feedback and then take action to address their concerns? Those two final steps are crucial for improving customer retention. Verint, SurveyMonkey, and Qualtrics are software vendors that sell technologies that gather valuable customer insights and allow users to aggregate the information to identify actionable trends. Use that information to tease out customer service needs, gaps in your product and service offerings, complaint trends, and brand challenges. Use these technologies to develop systematic ways to leverage customer feedback and improve. See our blog article on customer complaints for more on this topic.
Personalization. Personalization is another meaningful way of retaining customers, making them feel valued by the brand. Personalization tools such as Optimizely or Adobe Target are software designed to permit marketers to create customized experiences. Design individualized experiences or offers for each customer persona based on their segment's preferences and behavior. Build customer experiences that make their lives easier. See our article on buying preference for more on this topic.
Loyalty Program Software. Ever since a coffee shop figured out how to offer punch cards to give loyal customers a tenth coffee free, loyalty programs have become a time-honored way to drive customer retention. Reward customers for their continued business. As with everything, software now exists to track and manage this activity. Loyalty program software vendors include Smile.io or LoyaltyLion. Both can help create and manage new loyalty programs and make starting a program more manageable. Create incentives and rewards for customers, and design programs that encourage them to return. Then, watch retention numbers improve. See our blog on Customer Lifetime Value for more on how companies manage customer loyalty.
Integration and Reporting. Before pulling the trigger on any software purchase, carefully examine how well these systems integrate with your existing marketing infrastructure. Pay special attention to reporting, scalability, and customer support capabilities (and support cost). Many of the leading vendors in each category above offer capabilities in other categories. For example, many marketing automation providers also provide CRM capabilities.
Also, make sure that the reporting system for the software can exactly replicate what you are currently providing to senior management. Senior leaders want what they want, and if the new software can only provide a slightly different report from what leadership likes, you may spend the next couple of years downloading and formatting data to meet their needs.
For more on integration and marketing, see our blog article about integration as the modern marketing superpower.
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