[Posted by Dave Frankland]
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While Ben Bernanke has been raising our hopes that the recession is "very likely over", we're noticing a change in the conversations that we're having with marketers and vendors alike. These conversations seem to reflect that the economy is getting stronger, purse strings are loosening, there's greater talk of RFPs and vendor evaluations – this week alone, our team had inquiries about vendor selection with marketers in insurance, retail (and it's almost Q4!), travel, pharmaceutical, and telecom.
So, while we're delighted that the rebound might be real, we also hope that marketers pay attention to the lessons from a little over a year ago. While it's easy to point the finger at the Wall Street rogues, plenty of firms took on too much risk or paid more attention to acquiring new customers than focusing on the ones they had.
As marketers, we can learn from the past year and do our part to help ensure that the turnaround sticks. How?
- Don't abandon the focus on customer retention and loyalty. When times are tough, and new customers are few and far between, it's hard not to focus on your existing customer. We would anticipate that the pendulum will swing back someway towards prospecting and acquisition, but would counsel firms to continue to focus on retention — who knows, your customer might have liked all that attention and may well have come to expect it.
- Don't value customers as though they are uniform. Not all customers are created equal. Don't treat them as such. Focus on segmenting your customers by value and showing the love to those that deserve it. While you're at it, why not leverage that insight into your acquisition efforts – wouldn't it be beneficial to focus your acquisition efforts on higher potential value customers?
- Use customer intelligence to drive your budget allocation strategy. Leverage the knowledge you have about your customers to allocate your media dollars. Start, once again, from a position of customer value – what media do your most valuable customers consume. Is that where your budget is weighted today? If not, why not?
- Build on your voice of the customer investment. We saw a lot of heat in the market around Listening. We hope it's because firms recognize the importance of having a listening post for their organizations and not because it was a relatively inexpensive investment at a time of tight budgets. As listening platforms begin to mature, voice of the customer and listening initiatives should be as hot as ever – now is the time to add to your listening activities, not cut them back.
- Get ready to experiment. Innovation often comes out of an economic downturn. Watch for emerging companies that may be ahead of the curve and be prepared for what might be bubbling under the surface that might be worthy of experimentation. Who knows what the next Wave might be…?