Friday, October 31, 2008

Performance Insider: Now Is The Time To Build Relationships With Your Customers

Now Is The Time To Build Relationships With Your Customers

CONSUMERS AND BUSINESSES ARE TIGHTENING their belts and their budgets, but brand marketers need to look at today's recession economy as an opportunity. Now is the ideal time to ramp up your marketing efforts and build stronger relationships with your customers.

Direct marketing approaches have proved highly effective in all kinds of economies -- but especially during a recession. A recent BusinessWeek article provides examples of some of the most successful brand campaigns in the past sixty years -- all of them conducted in a down economy. Also, during economic downturns consumers are more likely to forego brand loyalty for cost or value savings. That gives you two more good reasons to market more aggressively. First, protect your brand and hold onto your existing customers by letting them know you value them and you offer the best value. Secondly, entice customers to change from competitors to your brand and products just when the competition is cutting back and going quiet on customer retention and loyalty efforts.

So instead of hunkering down and slashing marketing budgets, brand marketers should jump on the opportunity to build and strengthen their online relationships with consumers. Many brand marketers are doing this through online lead generation and email marketing

Online lead generation can help consumer brand marketers reach the right consumers wherever they may be online -- whether on a news site, a health and nutrition portal, or an online community for new and expectant parents -- and begin the process of opting-in to an advertisers in-house email list. Building and maintaining a strong in-house list of qualified consumers who request to be marketed to, and sending these consumers relevant email campaigns, is the most effective marketing tactic to reach your customers. Research shows that consumers want information, ads and offers from their favorite brands and products, and they will respond to them

As consumers do more research online during tough economic times, they also spend more time researching and comparing brands and prices. In a Prospectiv poll conducted earlier this year, 84% said they had changed their shopping habits due to concerns about recession. In further clues to consumer behavior in this economic downturn:

· 66% are logging more hours online researching and comparing brands and prices

· 74% would welcome more online offers, coupons and e-newsletters from their favorite brands and products

· 60% are more likely to sign up/join a Web site or online community that offers recipes, healthy meal ideas, cooking tips and savings they can use at home

Another consumer poll reveals that even with the recent decline in fuel prices, consumers are still concerned about the economy and are increasing their use of coupons -- especially for savings on everyday grocery products.

Seventy-two percent surveyed say they are using more coupons to make their money go further than they did six months ago (since March 2008). The majority polled (75%) said that economic concerns are their main reason for using more coupons. Eighty-one percent said they are most interested in coupons for grocery items (food and household products).

Not only are consumers under financial pressure doing more research online, comparing brands and prices and using more coupons, consumers are also considering switching from favored brands to generics to save money. Brand marketers must find ways to engage consumers online, using direct-response interactive marketing to reinforce the value of brand.

Marketers should consider countering the effects of the downturn by stepping up programs that build strong relationships with consumers who have exhibited interest in their goods and services. For instance, an in-house opt-in email newsletter list. The most important ingredients of effective email campaigns to your in-house email list are quality and relevance. Consumers under financial pressure are focused on purchasing the necessities, and relevance is key. Lead-generation campaigns that build your own opt-in email lists and produce consumers who are interested in your product and brand are particularly useful because they can collect data points about consumers that make it easy for marketers to ensure relevance. Ask consumers what they want and have them give you important information about themselves that will allow you to email them content that is relevant.

Lead-generation best practices also need to be a focus for brand marketers in a down economy. Best practices ensure high quality leads and maintain a respectful relationship with consumers to build trust and discourage abuse of consumer privacy.

The economy may be down but now is not the time to sit back and wait for things to improve. Marketers need to seize the opportunity to build their brands and strengthen their relationships with consumers. A best practices online lead generation program is one of the most effective ways to get a leg up on the competition, especially during an economic downturn.

Doyle is President & CEO of Prospectiv, a provider of online customer acquisition solutions. He can be reached at

Performance Insider for Friday, October 31, 2008:

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