By Liz McLemore
Question: would you rather go on a date with someone who is simply tolerating you, or a person who really wants to be there? Someone who is interested in developing and maintaining a relationship with another person is usually pretty tuned in and actively engaged with that other person, right? All too often, however, brands that claim they want to build ongoing relationships with their customers aren’t very deliberate about it. They tend to treat all customers the same, regardless of how they respond (or don’t). The challenge for marketers constantly thinking of ways not to turn customers off, is to figure out how to turn them on, and really LOVE them.
Let’s start with what we know, in a broad sense. One biggie: despite the discount-heavy environment we are in, not all customers are price conscious. Some are brand loyalists, while others seek out convenience and speed and yet another group is focused on quality. We also know that when we don’t identify these subsets of our audience properly and send them all the same offer, we run the risk of giving away money and damaging our brand reputation. There are tactical ways of identifying these types of customers within an audience, but the tricky part is: how do we speak to them?
Enter the Five Love Languages. You may have heard of, read or employed some of the tactics in the famous book of the same name. If you haven’t, the basic premise is this: we receive love differently, within five categories: acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch and gifts. Here’s the important part: your significant other may have a different love language, and you cannot assume that they receive love the way you do. Often, partners are frustrated when their loved one doesn’t respond as they would like, leading to a less than optimal or mutually beneficial relationship. As you’re putting the final bow on your holiday preparations, please keep the long-term relationship with your customer at the top of your mind. While we are talking about holiday planning, here are some tips from a couple of my colleagues to help with any last minute decisions!
We stumble when we forget that our consumers are people too, and not just inboxes or transactions – the present and future of successful marketers is a customer-centric focus. Once we understand that fully, we are prepared to devote time and effort (and resources) to love them in their particular love language. Let’s take a look at the ways we can make that happen:
Acts of service
Offer free shipping and free returns during critical times like end of the year, and during “surprise and delight” moments as well (perhaps those seasonal lulls?) If applicable, emphasize services like personal styling/shopping, tailoring, buy online, pick-up in store, curbside pick-up, etc., benefits that come with being an account holder/loyalty member and more (bonus suggestion: weave these elements into the main message of the email, in addition to including them as regular fixtures in the header or footer, like the Neiman Marcus example below).
Offer gifts with purchase or other exclusive items, in explicit appreciation of their loyalty. Extend discounts (wisely), and invite them to in-store appreciation events (enable your local store managers to create and host functions for customers – it’s a great way to build a local relationship with an actual human being and create opportunities for them to spend money through sales rep upsell efforts vs. online). Bonus suggestion: if you’re using email or other channels to promote the event, be sure to have them print or bring in the email or other communication so you can tie attendance to your promotional efforts.
This one might be a little difficult because you can’t literally reach out and touch all your customers. For a multi-channel retailer, your challenge is to “touch them” when they are in a physical store with that cross-channel experience. Give them that consistency, and make sure the in-store shopping and checkout process is as seamless as an online purchase and vice versa.
Words of affirmation
Remember, people are reading your messages, not bots (well, maybe there are a few bots…). Make them feel special and introduce exclusivity on a simple level by using words like “yours” and “you” (some clients have seen a lift of 10-12% with just this change), and then step your game up by emphasizing how much they have saved, how smart they are to be shopping with you, how many perks and benefits there are just for them, how important they are to you and so on.
Macy’s Star Rewards Intro Video
During all encounters, show your customers that you value their time – how can you make your engagement with them worth their time? Here’s an easy win: if you feature a product, ensure the click takes them to that specific product, and not a broad category page. The concept of quality time can extend to other channels, as you respond in a timely fashion on social media, and empower your reps to be thorough with customers who reach out via chat, phone, etc.
So how do you get started? With these three words: test, test, test. Here’s a sample testing strategy:
- Audience selection – Find a random audience to test. A basic testing tenet is that we don’t want to tip the scales in any direction by focusing on a specific segment. Let the data tell us the truth.
- Develop creative to test with specific and distinct elements – Similar to a subject line test, be clear about what it is you’re testing. You can also include several clickable/trackable elements in one email (to monitor click distribution), or split creatives that are focused on each love language to your randomly selected audience (one email with words of affirmation messaging, a second with gift and so on).
- Deploy and analyze – Ensure that your test runs long enough, and maintains those distinct elements (using a recurring message like a welcome/onboarding series could prove helpful).
Remember this is about discovering your customers’ love language, and giving them love in the way they want, not the way YOU want to love them. Follow your customers’ love language right to their hearts and wallets, and a long-term devoted relationship.