A Casket Salesman’s Lesson on Infrequent Customer Loyalty

by | Jun 3, 2011 | Best Practices, Blog, Blog Archive, Multi-Channel Marketing | 0 comments

Brand marketers invest billions creating an emotional connection between their brand and prospective or current customers. In fast food, packaged goods, entertainment, fashion, automotive marketing and many other industries, brand loyalty is the Holy Grail for marketing.

For any distributed marketing organization – companies who rely on franchise networks, VARs, dealers, agents, or chain store marketers to take the brand’s corporate messages to the local level – loyalty among every link in the chain between the brand and the buyer is vital.

In a conversation overheard while standing in line at the multiplex last weekend, two friends were comparing their marketing jobs. One was talking about the difficulty of maintaining brand loyalty in a highly price competitive market, and the other one stopped the conversation cold by observing, “Well, at least you sell to people who buy your products more than once. I sell caskets.  There are no repeat customers for my product — but I still have a loyalty program.”

It’s true that the ultimate user of a casket company’s product will only use it once – but the mortuaries that resell the product are also part of the marketing mix, and they will decide whether to try to sell it — or another brand — every single day. So there’s a place for loyalty marketing in even the most rarely purchased product.  That’s an important lesson for those of us who sell almost anything that could be considered a “once in a lifetime” purchase — or even something that’s only purchased once every few years.

Distributed marketing organizations have plenty of help in creating customer loyalty, thanks to an army of brand ambassadors who are ready, willing, and able to help deliver and manage marketing messages at the local level.  The key is to get the right message to the sales person in a format where it’s easy for them to personalize and customize the message – without wasting time when they could be selling.

Here are the four most important factors in harnessing the power of local marketers to create loyalty among infrequent customers:

1. Message Consistency

2. Multi-channel Delivery

3. Customer Management

4. Frequent Communication Within the Sales Organization

Message consistency means more than just repeating the same words and phrases over and over. It means adapting the message to make it relevant to the target audience. One of the best ways to do this is to let corporate marketing create the messages – and empower  local or field marketing can adapt it within brand standards for the local market.  Automation tools that allow you to create templates where some content is fixed and unchangeable, and other content can be modified or adapted by sales reps, insure compliance while encouraging local personalization and customization that drive revenue.

Multi-channel delivery means providing information where customers will be able to find it. Whether the target audience is a business buyer or consumer, today’s customer usually starts the buying process with a search for information – they aren’t waiting around for you to sell them something.

Customer management starts with knowing who the customers are, and it continues through creating a positive experience that the customer or prospect has throughout the buying cycle. This positive experience means every interaction between the brand and the customer from Web to retail through customer service or technical support to the product’s performance. Not all of these touch points are within a marketer’s control, but they need to be considered when the marketing communications cycle is created. Often, adding the last few steps and training local marketers in how to handle customers makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of the campaign.  A social CRM program that automates and streamlines your social media outreach and response is also a valuable tool.

Frequent communication within the channel is the point that’s most often overlooked by corporate marketing. It’s vital to maintain an open dialogue with your sales, service, and delivery channels. You can’t over communicate with them – but you can easily overwhelm them by bombarding them with one-way messages exhorting them to sell more, send more messages, or use the latest marketing tool.  Technology can help by automating the reporting and analysis process, so you know instantly what tools and messages are working (and which are not). 

Your distributed marketing platform should tell you quickly how local sales modifies collateral, what marketing messages are chosen, combined, or ignored and how internal and external audiences are responding to corporate marketing’s messages.  And don’t over look the opportunity to use your automation tools — surveys, email campaigns, newsletters — to communicate with your sales channel.

Photo credit:  Photographer Ben Dibble made this photo, taken during a tour of a casket manufacturing company, available on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.