Driving net new sales and acquiring new customers is often the primary KPI for any given marketing campaign, leaving little to no resources devoted to the actual key business driver: repeat customer acquisition and lifetime value (LTV). Whether they’re selling to consumers, businesses or even nonprofit organizations, businesses that have stood the test of time have successfully been able to not only understand but also drive better customer lifetime value through carefully crafting long-term connections.

It takes time and a holistic view of your customer, coupled with quality data to understand your buyer and their engagement with your business. From there, you’re tasked with developing that relationship in a meaningful and scalable way.

Businesses are forced to focus on a steady state of customer acquisition, competing in environments that are strategically designed to obscure the differentiation they aim to create in the hearts and minds of consumers. It’s no surprise therefore that direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) businesses have stolen the spotlight in recent years. They’ve understood how to capture a direct customer relationship, circumvent these walled gardens, and ultimately are not reliant on third-party marketplaces.  Given that consumers spend on average 8.8 hours per day engaging with digital content, now more than ever it’s crucial for businesses to leverage direct customer connection in order to stay afloat and ideally thrive in an over saturated market.

Here are three thoughts on when and how to make the most of it.

How to Make It Work Connecting with Customers

The businesses that make it work are the ones that are transforming their websites and marketing campaigns into connected experiences that extend beyond digital and into offline experiences, creating the types of direct relationships that customers crave.  You can create your own magazine and blog for example. This how you can bring a brand to life simply by being relevant to consumers’ lifestyles.

The key factor in creating the success is authenticity. If your brand is going to stand up for something, it should be as embedded into the fabric of your business and culture.

Sixty percent of Millennials tend to gravitate towards purchases that are an expression of their personality, enabling them to feel like they’re participating in the lifestyle these items represent. With this, it’s important for brands to evolve their thinking on how to measure success and for what they’re solving. It’s not just about having the right data, it’s about knowing what to do with it and how to analyze it to understand why your customers think and behave the way that they do. Create smarter segments that enable you to introduce more relevant, personalized experiences, content, products, services and, ultimately, longer-term relationships. Digital may have changed how we define relationships, but it hasn’t taken away the need for meaningful connection.

Implement an Effective Retention Program

If you have repeat customers, it’s important to understand why you won that customer in the first place. The key is to be seen as more than a commodity, whether that’s physical or digital. It’s important to establish differentiation in a way that connects with a customer and makes you a part of their everyday life.

There are various steps you need to take in order to implement an effective retention program. The foundation starts with giving your marketing a personal touch and optimizing your customer lifetime value. In fact, 51 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase if content is personalized. Tailored messaging is everything; it all starts and ends with how well you understand your customers.

Evolving Customer Lifetime Value

Customer lifetime value is created from loyal customers who feel as though they have a personal relationship with a brand. While many think straightforward sales are more important, sales are short-lived if the customer isn’t given a personalized experience. Focus on customer lifetime value and repeat business or loyalty programs. Invest in these with proper solutions for data management, insights, personalization tools and measurement. Your goal should be to develop a holistic, all-encompassing, 360-degree view of your marketing strategy, beyond a single campaign or channel. If you’re going to grow and build brand recognition, customer loyalty is the foundation of everything.

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