Category Archives: Brand Management

Use Discounts for Customer Retention? (Incremental Sales / Subsidy Costs)

The following is from the March 2009 Drilling Down Newsletter.  Got a question about Customer Measurement, Management, Valuation, Retention, Loyalty, Defection?  Just ask your question.  Also, feel free to leave a comment.

Want to see the answers to previous questions?  Here’s the blog archive; the pre-blog newsletter archives are here.

Q:  Most CRM experts agree that discount is a terrible way to attract new customers.  They seem to all agree that these “transaction buyers” are money-losing customers and have no loyalty.

A:  I think using discounts profitably for customer acquisition depends a lot on your “Brand Personality” and your business model.  That said, often people screw this up and attract the wrong kind of customer.

Q:  But, I have seen a  lot of different opinions on the use of discounts to increase loyalty and retention among current customers.  I have seen experts contradicting themselves on this subject saying that discount is a terrible way to reward gold customers or to move up customers to a “better segment” and after some time they contradict themselves mentioning a successful discount case study (points are a common method used).  Jim, what is your opinion about using discounts as a weapon in a retention program?

A:  First, we have to define “discount”.  Price discounts have the effect of reducing margins, but so do “better service” ideas like “VIP phone lines” and loyalty programs.  So you can take your discount on the top line or the operational line, the fact is it costs money to provide good service to best customers in hopes of keeping them.  I mean, what’s the $10 million you spent on a CRM system?  Choose your poison, it costs money to retain customers.

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Off the Marketing Richter Scale

Man, what a month in Marketing land.

First, you have one of the largest Ad Agencies in the world admitting their business model is broken, because agencies are not in charge of the fundamentals of Branding – service, innovation, engagement, and execution.  I would add the same thing could often be said of the client side; MarCom people spend way too much time on “Com” and not enough on “Mar” – is it time for a realignment?

Then, in an even more spectacularly unexpected move, you have C-Level folks at 2 gargantuan Advertising Agencies (though both part of WPP) co-writing an article declaring that Brand and Response are the Same.  Here’s the opener: “the value that brands bring to a company’s total business value is exaggerated.”

Holy Branding Batman, that’s one heck of a thing to say for an Ad Agency, know what I mean?  But they are absolutely right, the nature of a Brand has changed, this ain’t the 1960’s.

This is how they get to “the singularity”:

“What was once sales is now enhancing the brand expe­rience, because through direct marketing technology and strategies, a brand can reinforce its ability to listen, customize and learn from the consumer. This is not just direct marketing, its direct engagement with every potential customer, sometimes at the moment they’re introduced to the brand.  In fact, in a world of compressed consumer decision-making, direct response is now a potent form of brand­ing.”

I love it when you talk that way.

Let’s be clear on this.

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