All businesses want to amass a loyal following of customers who eventually turn into brand advocates. But, it takes one step at a time, and the customer life cycle begins with acquisition. Employing the right customer acquisition strategies can set the stage for a long-term relationship.

Ted Speers, vice president of marketing and business development at Entertainment®, said that improving engagement at every stage of a customer relationship is important. Offering targeted, high-value savings on lots of merchant brands complementary to a brand being marketed helps improve the overall value perception of that featured brand.

When it comes to acquiring customers, complementary marketing and retail discounts can help a promoted brand stand out.

“From a customer acquisition standpoint, where we really see a change is when we create a point of differentiation that will improve engagement,” Speers said. “We highlight the core value and savings upfront, which helps capture customer attention and drive customer conquest.”

Entertainment®, the largest provider of merchant discounts in North America, helps acquire new customers and sets the stage for brand loyalty in the long run for those that use their discounts to engage with their customers. But utilizing these coupons and savings packages to initiate a customer relationship must be approached the right way in order to achieve desired results.

Speers said that when he works with clients to determine appropriate engagement, retention, or up-sell programs, relevancy is of utmost importance. According to a recent survey, only 32% of consumers receive what they perceive to be relevant offers and promotions, while 34% abandon the brand because of perceived irrelevance.

In addition, ancillary merchant discount offers used to enhance another brand’s value must be consistent with the promoted brand’s overall experience, and Speers said that about 90% of Entertainment® programs are customized based on client brand objectives.

“The incentives should be customized to the clients and to the individual customer based on what the client’s brand stands for and demographic and geographic location of their customers and products,” he said. “We deliver via digital or print formats which can be customized by each individual customer and according to geography.”

Speers explained that his clients focusing on customer acquisition include any direct marketer, but the key industries are energy, telecommunications, and anything membership- or subscription-based. For these clients, Entertainment® may use a variety of discount products to attract attention and drive customer value perception.

One example is virtual currency, which highlights and tracks a set dollar amount a customer can save when purchasing products or services from a group of preselected merchants. The customer is directed to a website and gains access with a unique code. This access provides discounts on purchases of dining, travel, and shopping that add up to the amount of savings the client stipulates. This level of savings is based on their customer acquisition strategies and objectives.

Speers said a major energy company successfully used this virtual currency approach when trying to sell home-warranty products to their target audience. The customers were offered $50 in dining, travel and shopping savings to sign up for the warranty, which was tracked as virtual currency. Similarly, Speers cited the example of incentivizing a $19.99/month warranty on a home furnace or dishwasher with a dining discount worth $100 when customers sign up. This $100 savings adds up in virtual currency as the dining discounts are used so customers can see their savings over time.

Success of these savings strategies is measured by response rates, and according to Speers, many of his clients have seen an incremental increase in response by 10%–16%.

“The positioning approach of providing our merchant discounts to a brand should be viewed in terms of an ongoing, long-term engagement strategy rather than a quick hit at the front of the customer life cycle,” he said. “Our retail discounts reinforce the value of the brands we help promote, strengthening the short- and long-term relationships between those brands and their customers.”

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