Here’s Why Opting-In No Longer Just Refers to a Consumer in Your CRM
In previous posts, we’ve discussed the essence of relationship marketing: it is not about selling or convincing consumers why your product is better than others – it involves partnering, collaborating and actively building value together with your customer (as perceived by the customer). We’ve taken you through key components of successful relationship marketing, such as customer engagement and customer experience. You can see our most recent post on segmentation and customization here.
This week, Elaine explains why rethinking the definition of opting-in and best practices in engaging with and activating these consumers is imperative.
A key enabler of collaboration and building value with your customers is the process of allowing them to opt-in. For marketing purposes, opting-in refers to strategic relationship building vs. operational or compliance considerations.
As we consider relationship marketing principles, it is easy to see why a critical resource for collaboration and building value together with your customers is opt-in. Opt-in is often defined solely in an operational sense and from the marketer’s point of view: capturing email addresses or mobile numbers for building and executing to a customer list.
Consumer Centricity is Key for Successful Opt-In Strategies
I will take this a step further with a more customer-centric definition of opt-in:
Opt-In is a customer granting permission for marketing directly to them via email, mobile or other personalized vehicles, and in doing so, demonstrating confidence and trust that a marketer will understand, respect and respond to his/her preferences.
Digital technology has made it easier than ever to target customers without opt-in based on their online behaviors. With this in mind, some have asked: “is actual opt-in really needed anymore?” With this approach, marketers believe they are practicing relationship marketing… We believe the answer is no.
When looking at opt-in as the process of gaining a consumer’s email address, it becomes purely operationally driven and passive, which is not the same as expressed customer consent. If the individual has not granted permission, you could actually risk creating a negative customer interaction, experience or perception of your brand, which defeats your purpose.
However, when looking at opt-in in a customer-centric way, you are able to create hand-raisers – an audience that has actively granted permission for your message and invited it; therefore, they are inherently more engaged in receiving and acting on your messages. In my experience, a hand-raiser audience responds to digital marketing as much as 70% higher than non-hand raisers. This is an attractive test and learn opportunity, among others, for marketing teams.
The essence of relationship marketing is two-way engagement. The reliance on more passive operational insight is potentially more one-way than two-way because the customer did not actively grant consent to you.
Opt-in, while definitely not a new concept, continues to be a jewel for building relationships:
– It is an indication the customer believes in you and demonstrates some level of trust – with this foundation, you can have less focus on selling (which we avoid in relationship marketing) and more on validating why the customer has made a great decision to engage with you and/or use your product (and should continue to do so). This usually has fewer hurdles for a marketer in generating incremental revenue.
– Building value together with your customer starts with hearing their voice that they wish to partner with you (potentially appearing more collaborative, as viewed by the customer).
Opt-In Comes With its Challenges
Opt-in is a simple concept for relationship marketing. It is not new, yet marketers often get it wrong:
– Once a person opts- in, marketers fail to follow up and immediately validate why the customer made a great decision to opt-in. It is critical for the customer to immediately understand the value of their opt-in decision. This can be an offer or your promise for what they can expect. A customer should not opt-in, then wait an extended period of time before they actually hear from you (beyond the confirmation of opt-in, or fulfilling an operational requirement). Additionally, opt-ins are an elite group – differentiated offers, services, or customer experience (i.e. service, etc.) should be developed for this group.
– When a person opts-in, marketers pull the trigger on endless emails/messages, many of which may not be directly related to the customer’s interest or context in which they opted in. Avoid bait-and-switch with the customer – a promise of opt-in delivering value for them when in fact it does not (and hence, results in opt-outs).
– Marketers fail to assess preferences over time and how they change for an opt-in audience. An understanding of how opt-in customers migrate in preferences (stated and potential) will enable teams to drive the most customer satisfaction and business return from an opt-in relationship. While this should be standard practice for any target audience, it should be an even stronger priority for an opt-in audience –this group is potentially higher in response and business value over time vs. non-opt-ins.
– Opt-in is often used purely for the sale; it should also be leveraged to assess the pulse of your opt-in community, gather feedback and conduct satisfaction assessment. Learn together with your opt-in community. This is the essence of relationship marketing.
– Digital may be the way the customer opted in; however, it may be just one part of how a customer makes the purchase decision. Understand the role of digital in the opt-in customer’s decision-making framework/journey. Digital may be an awareness tool, but a follow up in person/live experience may close the sale, depending on the audience.
Opt-in can bring tremendous value to your relationship marketing program when used properly. It is our jewel, a gateway to bringing true customer value.