That is… Permission from consumers to market to them.

Recent stories in the news regarding data privacy and social media have added to consumers’ concerns about data privacy and targeting. Facebook recently responded to these concerns by removing functionality available to marketers, including the end of its Partner Categories  program in Facebook (which utilized 3rd party data to enhance targeting) and the overnight throttling back of its Instagram API. These changes in functionality and policy are designed to scale back consumer information available to marketers, creating uncertainty in the future effectiveness of social platforms as marketing tools. Adding to the uncertainty is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent appearance before the US Congress for two days of questioning.

During the Congressional Q & A sessions, some members of Congress suggested the United States adopt legislation similar to the European Union General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), which goes into effect on May 25, 2018 and replaces the earlier Data Protection Directive. The GDPR will expand the definition of personal data to include location data and IP addresses. Additionally, these rules will strengthen the regulations around permission and consent, requiring organizations have terms and conditions that are easily expressed and understood.Organizations must explain how personal data will be collected, what the data will be used for, and where and how that data may be transferred. Specific consumer consent to collect personal data must be obtained. This regulation is backed up by a healthy fine—up to approximately $24 million (USD) or 4% of the organization’s worldwide revenue (whichever is larger).

While Mr. Zuckerberg seemed agreeable to implementing these controls outside of the European Union, when pressed for more detail he was somewhat vague  as to how far Facebook was willing to go with regards to non-EU markets. The next stop on Mr. Zuckerberg’s world tour is a meeting with the head of the EU’s digital policy. While it is unknown what the result of these hearings and meetings will have on marketing policy and practice in the United States, it does provide an opportunity for marketers to reflect on their current relationship marketing practices and methods. What are responsible marketers to do in this environment of increasing consumer distrust and potential regulation of social platforms?

The best way forward is to embrace permission-based relationship marketing. By doing this, you will be communicating directly with consumers who want to receive your messages and you will deepen the connection between your brand and these consumers.

You need to own the relationship with the consumer, which means the approach to social platforms might change. While social media targeting tools can help identify consumers for acquisition, downstream social media efforts should drive interested consumers to provide permission for additional communications across multiple channels. This will allow you continue to develop the brand-to-consumer relationship in meaningful ways beyond clicks and likes.

When you ask interested consumers for additional contact information, and permission to continue the conversation, you are creating a value exchange with the consumer. The consumers provide personal information on their end of the value exchange. Your end of the value exchange is to use their information and permission responsibly by providing relevant communications and offers while maintaining their trust that you will protect their information.

To accomplish this, you need a consumer data management solution that helps you unify and protect your consumer’s data across all communication channels. The solution should allow you to manage the accurate inflow and outflow of consumer interaction information across marketing channels. While you might outsource the delivery of channel specific communications, you should maintain the records of who you are communicating with, what you are communicating, and when those communications are sent. It is critical to maintain records of consumer permissions across channels, provide accessible methods for consumers to opt out, and immediately act on those requests to opt out. Careful and accurate consumer campaign and response data management will enable you to protect your brand, and more importantly, the trust of your valued consumers.

There are many tools on the market that provide data management solutions (like EnvoyPro) BUT they are not all created equal. As mentioned in a previous post, you can even start with a simple database in Excel. If you decide to use a pre-packaged solution, be cautious and critical in your selection. Ask questions to make sure it captures all the necessary information for your category and the types of communications you envision using. Make sure it is easy to use and doesn’t take a manual or a background in SQL to understand what to do or additional plugins for functionality. It should be simple enough that interns can easily pick it up. And please understand how it captures and maintains different levels of consumer permissions.


Start with a Relationship Marketing Plan

In a previous post, we talked about the 5 steps to effectively building consumer relationships. Now, let’s talk more about the marketing tools. Before we design any marketing programs, we start with a goal. An easy place is to start with a welcome program. Avoid the tendency to start by saying “I need a welcome email”. Rather, commit to the idea that I should have a welcome message with a goal. Let’s say that the goal of the welcome message is to get consumers to try the product. Let’s be bold and say we want a 30% order rate.

Now we can start thinking about what offers to create that might entice the consumer to try. Is cents off the right offer and what is the optimum value? Maybe offering a premium with purchase is the way to go? Remember your goal and create compelling offers!

Next, start thinking about how many messages are needed to reach the goal. Is five the right number of touches to explain the product or proposition? Can it be done in three? At a minimum it should be two: the initial welcome and a reminder because consumers open marketing messages and intend to participate but then get sidetracked. Sending a reminder allows those consumers another chance to engage.

Notice, we’ve avoided saying email, direct mail, text message so far. The channel we use to deliver the message should ideally be dictated by the consumer. You can start with the contact variables you have the most complete. No sense in designing an SMS program if you have no mobile numbers.

Also, some channels are better for delivering some messages. Maybe a mix of emails followed up with a direct mail piece that drives them to retail is the best way to go? Maybe a social media message is the right way to start a conversation and follow up with an email offer?

Create Compelling Conversion Programs

For most companies, getting the consumer to purchase the product the first time is just the start. We need consumers to purchase our product regularly instead of our competitors. To do this we need to understand how consumers form preferences for brands. Is it solely a functional benefit of the product or service? Or does using a particular brand say something about who I am and how I want to be perceived? There is no right or wrong answer here. Pick one. Then decide what a loyal consumer looks like.

Next, set a goal. Why not 30% conversion rate? Not high enough? Make it 50%.

Now you are ready to build a conversion program. Reinforce at least four to five purchase decisions. The frequency of purchase decisions determines the length of the program and the time between messages. One great message isn’t enough. You need steady reinforcement. Think about telling a story with several chapters. Establish the characters at first by focusing on product benefits. Next move on to how this product is better for the environment or better for the consumer. Next talk about developing a community by showing that we are listening. Talk about how we developed our latest line extension after learning something from our customers.

Every communication should have ways for consumer to engage. After all, this is a relationship and good relationships are based on listening and understanding.

Again, notice that we’ve avoided specific tactics and channels and are focused on messaging. Think about making the earlier offers more lucrative and the later ones more relational. Once you’ve designed what you want to say and what offers you want to present, then you are ready to overlay the right channels and tactics to optimize the conversion.

Hold On To Your Loyal Consumers

Most brands lose money trying to attract new consumers and make money on their existing customers. But let’s not forget that it is much more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep one you already have.

The keys to retaining your loyal consumers are:

· make sure that you are truly dedicated to a quality product (or service),

· back up your products or service with great support

· look for opportunities to show your appreciation

With our clients, we have been able to prove that investing wisely in customer retention programs reduces the defection rate dramatically.

Having great products is obviously most important. If your offering exceeds customer’s expectations you will continue to build brand equity with each interaction.

When we talk about providing great support we mean having easy ways for customers to reach you (800 numbers, customer service email, text support). It also means have people managing those contacts with the purpose of addressing customer issues and not committed to getting off the phone as quickly as possible. It also means admitting when you’ve done something wrong and committing to making it right.

The best way to show appreciation is to periodically thank customers for their loyalty and encourage them to share their ideas on how to make the product better. Sending thanks with a token offer is also a great idea on birthdays, first purchase anniversaries, holidays or whatever works with the personality of your brand. You don’t have to spend much, but what you spend here keeps loyal folks purchasing.

Check out  this post  to learn more about the 5 Steps to Build Consumer Relationships.