by Michael Greenberg
If there is one point that we make over and over again talking to prospects, new clients, and existing clients, it's the importance of building flexibility into a program from the very beginning. No program can work on its own without any sort of change, iteration, or contact strategy. Programs are living things-they must adapt to changes in the customer base and the business environment. What does this mean? Effective change is driven by three sources. Surprise.
Customers should be surprised often. You would think that every relationship marketer knows this in their bones, but we continue to see the need to remind people of this over and over. Predictability in programs is good, because customers look forward to future interactions, but there still is a role for some form of surprise to keep a program entertaining. Engagement.
There many ways that customers will engage with you and your program. It is hard to predict all the ways this will manifest. Ideally, you can build a framework for capturing activity data and have robust mechanisms for responding to those activities. Automation is crucial, but you should not take a "fire and forget" point of view on automation. You still need to incorporate a human view, changing up your responses, interactions, and channels so that when customers interact with you it's still fresh, new, and interesting every time. Analysis.
Analyzing program performance entails thinking on two levels. At the macro level, you should be examining your overall program objectives, and watching metrics that point towards meeting those objectives. In the early stages of your program, enrollment, growth of enrollment, and engagement of any type are good measures. As a program matures, you should be looking for sources of lift, that is, places where you're generating positive return on investment. Whether you take a step back every month, every three months, or every six months, taking the time to take stock and look at what parts of your program are performing is a crucial component of long-term program success. On a micro level, looking at specific campaigns, channels, engagement activities, or other basic components of your program will force you to continuously evaluate specific tactics and seek improvements, leading to ongoing changes (and freshness). Incorporating surprise, focusing on engagement, and leveraging analysis results are all foundations to a successful and dynamic program. Whether you accomplish this through technology, personnel, or (ideally) a combination of the two; maintaining a vibrant, changing, and interesting program leads to long-term success.