By Gary Druckenmiller, Jr., co-founder, TheOpenSea.com – In marine marketing, retaining loyal customers has always been a hard thing to do. And in the age of media fragmentation — as hundreds of technologies and thousands of Web sites compete for audience attention — the traditional siege-mentality approach to marketing is giving way to a new paradigm known as “engagement.” This approach uses technology as the centerpiece to establishing and maintaining continual connections and conversations with key customers.
The difference between traditional campaign-based marketing and engagement marketing is the difference between selling a boating product or service and making a customer believe in it; between a one-off transaction and long-term loyalty; between shortsightedness and sustainability. We define engagement as “repeated, satisfied interactions that strengthen the emotional connection a customer has with your business.” Engagement can be broken down into four “degrees.”
Low: Adding to a marine group; bookmarking a site; tagging a boating keyword
Medium: Rating a boat product; voting; commenting on a site; endorsing a technician
High: Blogging; podcasting; uploading maintenance videos; joining a community
Highest: Networking; adding friends and marine professionals; building a community
For example, let’s say Smith Cove Boat Sales wants to engage more with customers and prospects, get in their face a little bit. They’re looking to offer up yearly maintenance programs, discounts on products, etc., throughout the rest of 2010. Smith Cove will not just send an e-mail and be done. Or mail a flyer and be done. Or worse yet, wait for their customer to come onto the floor to find out for themselves. Then they’d really be done. Smith Cove Boat Sales wants to engage over the long term. Here is how they executed a three-month summer engagement campaign:
E-mail: First off, Smith Cove made sure they got the e-mail address of every customer they owned and every prospect they wanted to own [who wanted to hear from them (opt-in)]. From there, Smith Cove sends a promotional e-mail every one to two weeks to this audience during the busy season (three to four weeks if it’s winter). Consider this the minimum.
Blog: Whether you’re actively engaged in your own or commenting on others, blogging is a huge component of how people communicate today. Smith Cove blogs every day. They post at least two or three times a day on their own blog and comment on about three or four others. They also post the same amount to Twitter. Again, all in one day.
Video: Video is exploding, and Smith Cove is in a great spot. Smith Cove has a fair amount of videos that they’re uploading to YouTube and sharing with other customers via e-mail and syndication services. And they’re taking more continuously. They upload at least one- to three-minute video about their business every two weeks and sometimes more.
Networks: Smith Cove is actively engaged in all of the pertinent social and professional networks. They have built groups within those networks and invited all of their customers to engage with each other. It’s their own little community or family. Engagement in networks is a daily event, including group posts, forum responses and status updates.
As we can see from this example, engagement for Smith Cove Boat Sales is a multi-faceted and evolving communication approach. It’s not just Twitter or e-mail or blogs. It is a customized, multi-touch communications portfolio that encompasses all these things and more over a long period of time. That’s how you build loyalty.