An old saying goes: ‘new friends are silver, but old friends are gold.’ This is as true for brand/customer relationships as it is for interpersonal ones. Hitting it off with a new acquaintance or customer might give you a warm and fuzzy feeling in the moment, but there are many potential bumps in the road before both parties can deliver long-lasting value for one another.

There is a lesson for marketers here. Many are far too focused on the short-term. For instance, the success of a digital campaign is often judged on the number of opt-ins secured, rather than the often more significant KPI of reducing opt-outs. These misplaced priorities can have a significant impact on revenue, profitability and overall growth. So how can marketers get the balance right between welcoming new faces and maintaining a bond with their nearest and dearest?

Rethink the destination

Too often, securing opt-ins or the first sale is treated as an end in itself. But if a potential customer’s subscription to a communication, product, or service is short lived, neither they nor the organisation is getting much out of the interaction, and a lot of potential value is left on the table. A better measurement of campaign success would be ensuring that new sign-ups don’t opt-out and that they continue to buy after a defined period.

What’s the best way to approach this? Let’s address the elephant in the room first. Most customers opt in to marketing communications either by default or in response to an initial incentive such as lead magnet content, free trial, or a discount. And those who sign up to receive something often have a premeditated intention to opt out again at the first opportunity – cutting the value exchange short on both sides.

Marketers should aim to give themselves the best possible chance of winning over these cynical opt-ins. Providing dual incentives is one option. The first offer is redeemable immediately but a second (higher value) reward is unlocked after a defined period of time. This would create a window of opportunity for marketers to convince new sign-ups that they have something of value to offer long term.

After all, you wouldn’t expect to win over a first date with just a ‘hello’ – you’d want the opportunity to share your interests and hear more about them before either party decides whether it’s a match. Why should building customer relationships be any different?

Value exchange is key to comms planning

Long-term growth is reliant on building lasting customer relationships, so marketers need to focus right away on convincing new opt-ins that brand content is both relevant to the individual and adds value. Carefully considered communications tailored to audiences segmented by contextual factors such as location, life stage, purchase history and more is key to serving up genuinely useful content.

But marketers may not immediately have access to all of the customer data they need to create such a narrow segmentation based on sign-up information alone. Often, they have just a name and company email address as a starting point. 

That’s why the value exchange must be an ongoing process. Marketers need to provide potential customers with ongoing, incremental reasons to share their data in return for increasingly valuable content that builds trust. Just like a blossoming friendship, as each party feels more comfortable sharing their story with one another, stronger bonds are formed.

Everyone should manage data

While the underlying principles are fairly simple, making data-led comms strategies work isn’t easy – especially when particular customer data is held by different internal and/or external teams. However, data-related challenges are less specific to marketers and the communications and propositions they create. Rather, they are operational issues that must be addressed by the organisation as a whole.

Data can remain siloed in many companies, often due to misplaced concerns about safeguarding and/or gatekeeping by individuals for misguided status and hierarchical motivations. It is only by breaking down these silos and democratising data across the organisation that information can be put to use where it will have the biggest impact. Building and communicating successful case studies across departments is one way to make headway in fostering a culture around data sharing in the business. 

As with personal relationships, building customer loyalty doesn’t happen overnight. But by approaching interactions in good faith and with mutually beneficial outcomes at heart, marketers stand the best chance of creating trust and keeping in touch with opt-ins both old and new.

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