By Jake Meador | 27 May 2020
Recently I was doing a home repair project that required sawing a large number of fence pickets down to a shorter size. I don’t own any power saws and so my plan had been to hand saw them. Then a friend of mine mentioned that he had a miter saw and we could likely do the job with that in a fraction of the time. So he brought the saw over and we knocked out the whole project in probably 45 minutes—and without all the arm pain and hand cramping I would have had if I had tried to hand saw all those picketts on my own.
A large part of working intelligently is recognizing what tools to use for a given job. And this applies to marketing as much as it does home repair projects.
Obviously when we talk about customer loyalty programs, we’re talking about targeted marketing channels. So we are not talking about Google Ads, SEO, radio ads, TV ads, social media ads, etc. With marketing for customer loyalty programs you’re sending messages directly to actual customers.
This means we’re talking about three channels, ultimately:
Of the three, direct mail is in most ways that matter the clear loser. It’s expensive—you not only have to cover shipping, but also the production costs of whatever you’re sending, which can add up in a hurry—and you can’t track it easily to see if it is actually producing results.
That leaves email and texting. This is where you might expect us, a company that sells text messaging software, to tell you that texting is always superior. But we’re not going to do that.
As far as managing a customer loyalty program goes, both texting and email can be powerful options depending on your use case.
Texting is a more ephemeral medium than email—people glance at a text and then move on usually—so if the kind of pitch you’re making is relatively basic, texting can be a great tool. You get your message across. The loyal customer receives it and then can go about their day, ready to act on that message when the time is right.
So, for example, if you’re a small business, restaurant, retailer, or something similar to that, texting is a great option.
Simple, to the point, and it helps them know about a valuable benefit.
On the other hand, some businesses have a longer sales cycle, more complicated product, more expensive product, or some other factor that complicates the sales process for them. In this case, your focus with customer loyalty is trying to deepen that commitment the customer has to your business and to continue building trust with them. Texting may work for this in certain circumstances. But generally this kind of communication will work better in a medium that allows for longer-form messaging. And this is where email can really shine.
Suppose you’re a car dealership: It would seem very awkward to a customer to get a random text encouraging them to come back in and purchase another vehicle. Even if you had a smarter use case, such as texting someone who bought a car from you five years ago to see if they are on the market again, that’s still somewhat clunky. People don’t associate the enormously consequential decision of buying a car with the relative informality of text messaging.
The key thing is to understand your product, your customers, and the particular appeal your product has as well as the fears your customer might have. If you know all of those things, then you can think seriously about what marketing channels to use as part of a loyalty program with past customers. If buying from you is a relative low-risk decision for customers, texting can be the nudge that helps move them closer to returning to your store to make another purchase. On the other hand, if purchases are costly or highly risky, you will likely want a longer form channel that gives you the time and space needed to overcome the more complex objections people are likely to raise when asked to buy from you. As always, marketing decisions follow from a thorough knowledge of your product and your customer. If you know your product and your customer, then you have what you need to make smart decisions about your marketing channels.