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Strong Customer Relationships Go Deeper than Loyalty Cards

There was a day when a loyalty program might have represented the lion’s share of your effort to develop long-term relationships with your customers. These days, loyalty cards are more like expected commodities to which customers react with a collective “meh.” Demonstrating your loyalty is a good start, but successful marketing executives know that long-lasting customer relationships take root in a place deeper inside the corporate domain where valuable data lives and breathes. Lots of it.

Too many companies today use data pulled from the moment of transaction only to optimize their sales funnels. A purchase is an important milestone, but it should also be the beginning of an open-ended relationship. So the first and perhaps most important step to developing longer-lasting customer relationships is to recognize that your job must now go beyond the checkout line.

Know your customers as individuals.

Broadly applied, data from the point of purchase should also be used to find out more about your customers as individuals and kick-start a longer-term relationship. Use it to see what actions you can take right away to add value to their purchases. Mine the data beyond the point of purchase to see what it reveals about customers’ interests or desires. What do they like or dislike about your products, or your competitors’ products? How do your customers actually use your products or services? You might find answers that are filled with opportunities.

Reach through the channels.

Thanks to an ever-widening variety of digital channels, it’s possible to stay connected to your customers through every important part of their lifecycles. But it takes diligence. Keep an eye on social networks, blogs, and reviews—anywhere you find customer-generated content—and look for opportunities to join the conversation and add value. Work the channels to help your customers find new ways to use your products or services, and to talk about them. Do you have new products in development? Seek input from your customers in that process, make them a partner, and let them know that their insight is important. Address your customers on a personal basis. Make sure the pathway toward future purchases is ever-present and simple to follow. Be there for them when they need you, and bring value to their lives when they don’t. Either way, they’ll reward you with more than just a purchase; they will gladly extend a commitment to your brand and then share their delight with family and friends. A returning customer is nice to have; a brand advocate is even better.

Transparency is a good thing.

There are two other entities living and breathing deeper in the corporate domain that are important to many customers: Brand values and corporate culture—both of which have become increasingly transparent thanks to a proliferation of digital channels. But that’s a good thing. Those same digital channels can be effective tools used for expressing company values and sharing corporate culture, two powerful hooks for like-minded customers.

Before you put those tools to work, however, make sure everybody on staff is on board with the effort and on the same page with the message. Get down to HR. Expression of the corporate culture and brand values can’t be solely the function of human resources. Work with your peers in HR to help them understand that everyone in the company plays an important part in representing the corporate brand and facilitating the customer experience that goes with it. Then make sure you have the right tools. At GLG, we’ve helped some of the world’s most recognizable brands foster long-lasting customer relationships. We do it by crafting content that adds value at the right time, and matching it with digital technology that delivers it to the right place. It all comes together in a package of services and technology we call CSUITE™.