EXPERT ADVICE

Boosting Customer Loyalty With Transition Marketing

Transition marketing is an often-overlooked but extremely powerful online marketing strategy that welcomes prospects and optimizes their conversion to customers while increasing the likelihood of a lifetime relationship. By creating a transition window comprising a set period of time and a program of strategically designed transition messages, companies can optimize the return on their acquisition budget, as well as collect data that will ensure long-term results and define the value of acquisition programs and sources. Companies can take this process and made it a smooth and integral part of their total strategy and e-technology solutions.

Why worry about transitioning customers? Well, let’s face it: E-marketing companies spend a significant amount of money acquiring new online leads and customers. They do it through multiple channels: search, list append, advertising, co-registration and list buys; yet once acquired, the value of these leads is not maximized.

Many leads are lost because of how they are treated. Channeled into a common database with all the company’s other customers, they receive the same emails as everyone else on the company’s list and are not given a sense that the company appreciates them. A more strategic program could both save money and convert leads into customers.

Roll Out the Welcome Mat

So, how does it work? As new prospects and customers are acquired, they are placed into a strategically designed transition program, typically lasting two to four weeks. If applied correctly, technology can enable the program to be easily implemented and executed, with ROI results tracked to the source.

This program begins with specially designed mailings that introduce customers to the company, give them a sense of who the company is and how it does business, make sure that customers know how to access more information, etc. Prospects and customers are also offered special benefits: a new-members-only sale, for example, or a series of coupons or special discounts for new members. The emphasis is on making these prospects and customers feel special and appreciated so that they value the company and are ready to be taken to the next level.

Transition marketing is a win-win endeavor from both sides of the e-marketing equation.

The prospect/customer gains a strong sense of being welcomed, of feeling valued, and, in turn, of valuing a company that offers such a program. The customer also gets substantial knowledge of the company’s products or services and understands how to access them.

On the company side, customer participation in the offers and response to the mailings allows for excellent segmentation data to be entered into the “regular” database as the new customers are transitioned into it.

Tied into transition marketing is something we might call “recency marketing.”You have a responsive email list, send out welcoming messages to new customers, and get solid results on your targeted campaigns. Your e-marketing strategy is working — as far as it goes. But it could go further.

What are you missing?

Be Responsive to Customer Actions

Successful transition email strategies combine two initiatives: recency and frequency. You probably already think about frequency quite a lot; you want to send emails as frequently as makes sense for your business, but not so frequently as to annoy your customers (which you determine by monitoring response rates — opens, clicks, sign-ups, purchases, unsubscribes and complaint rates).

Recency is another way of looking at communicating with your customers. It refers to communicating with a customer as quickly as possible in response to an action taken by that customer. The impetus doesn’t come from you; it comes from the customer, and responding to that customer’s action can make all the difference in driving revenue and loyalty.

Recency is most powerful — and most successful — when connected to a freewill action by the customer:

  • When a new customer comes on board: Your welcome email and offer sequence need to immediately follow the signup to drive optimum revenue.
  • When customers visit your Web site: Re-engagement technology enables you to send additional emails to customers who leave the site without making a purchase (even before filling a shopping cart!). These emails drive up to 10 times the revenue of your standard email campaigns. In addition, they generate open rates in excess of 50 percent.
  • When customers contact your sales or service departments: This is a great time to send a thank-you email and reaffirm immediately how much you appreciate their business — always remembering to include an offer. Again, time here is of the essence.

Additional recency opportunities exist that are less powerful but also provide a significant revenue boost over standard email:

  • When customers open emails and then take no further action: A quick followup offer expanding upon the offer in the original email can drive strong sales.
  • When customers receive offline media, for example catalogs or other direct mail pieces: Coordinate your email to arrive just after these offline initiatives to keep your brand in the customer’s mind.

A well-defined and executed recency strategy is a must-have part of any email strategy — as important as your testing strategy, segmentation strategy, landing page strategy, and creative strategy — and it costs almost nothing to implement.

“Marketers are thinking more broadly about the challenges customers face, rather than narrowly about what they can be sold. The concept is to make their lives easier before and after the product is purchased,” notes a study by Omega Point Marketing. Transition marketing fits this paradigm: it helps accumulate data about customer responses and cuts down on after-sale support.

A carefully devised and implemented transition strategy immediately improves customer relations as well as a company’s bottom line — and that’s good news for any marketer!


Neil M. Rosen is founder, president, and CEO of eWayDirect, provider of an integrated e-marketing platform.

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