A Marketers Approach to Retention: Part 2

February 20, 2012

By Lorrie Henry – Strategic Marketing and Retention Consultant – led marketing and/or retention efforts at three of the top five national banks after an earlier career path at three leading consumer package goods (CPG) marketing companies.

Last entry I talked at a high level about my experiences with the different approaches to marketing and retention in financial services and consumer package goods companies.  This time, I’d like to talk about using best practices from CPG marketing to inspire taking a holistic approach to retention and build a successful retention program.

Mission 2 – The Holistic View

 As a marketer who “came up” in product marketing management bastions (Quaker Oats, Pepsi, Ciba Consumer Pharmaceuticals) I learned to focus on customer needs.  I positioned products based on those needs and followed that positioning through all the elements of the marketing mix.   My job wasn’t limited to advertising and promotions.  I was required to be the hub of the wheel, the leader responsible for the entire business, not the biggest kernel/Colonel in the silo.  This inspired development of my holistic view of retention, an integrated, marketer’s approach.

 Success Factor #1 – Build a holistic team

I was lucky enough to have and be able to hire and build an outstanding team: project managers, direct marketing professionals, a business analyst and a call center team of retention operations professionals.  Having a “holistic team” who support the vision and are willing and able to take on tough tasks is as important as the approach of the team lead.

 Success Factor #2 – Be proactive and intentional

Often retention is thought of as a salvage or “win back” operation.  We didn’t think of it that way.  We didn’t just wait until the customer left and then go to extraordinary measures to woo them.  We didn’t haphazardly send out disconnected pieces of mail with generic “great rate” and “buy now” messages.

Retention had to start at the beginning and continue throughout the relationship, creating a logic and flow.  The  messaging had to make sense to the customer.  Communications had to be proactive and reactive to their individual needs at the time they were needed.  And in CPG and now bank marketing fashion, integrated marketing techniques made sure direct mail, various messaging and sales and customer service efforts were coordinated and timed properly to maximize customer awareness and retention results.

 Success Factor #3 – Draw the big picture

In order to help my team explain our mission and approach to the organization, I laid out a diagram that showed this holistic view.  It seemed surprising.  Why, for example, were we doing usage programs?  The diagram helped it make sense and get the organization on board.

So how did we put these factors into practice?

Step 1 – Get the customer into the right product first

The holistic view started with advocating the importance of placing the customer in the right product and terms for their needs the first time out.  This required sales and call center training as well as customer-focused and retention-focused incentives.  We needed to use data-backed influence and negotiations to make these changes happen, as other teams managed these areas.

Step 2 – Educate the customer

We got customers to understand and use what they bought through welcome and usage programs.  This promoted customer engagement and profitability.

 Step 3 – Focus your retention efforts

We targeted proactive retention programs strategically and efficiently to those customers most likely to leave, working closely with our analytics and modeling partners. And we reacted swiftly and lovingly with programs to customers who let us know they wanted to close their accounts.  And of course there was win-back.  Effort was spent reaching out to customers whose accounts were maturing or had left us within specific time frames, in order to regain those accounts while awareness of the product and its benefits were still high.   And everything was measured and tracked for continuous improvement going forward.

 Step 4 – Make your processes work for the customer

Overlaying all of this work was a profound agenda to proactively and cross functionally eliminate organizational “gotchas”.  We executed and/or championed initiatives to improve unnecessarily complex processes to make it easier to do business with us.  Overall strategy and direction came from the retention leader.  Ideas came from the whole team.  And our highly experienced call center was our direct lifeline to the customer, saving customers and balances with a continuously improving toolkit.  However, nothing would have worked without the expertise, integrated efforts and insights of many areas of the bank working together to create and support all of our direct marketing and process improvement initiatives.

Sometimes it amounted to the retention team encouraging a review of all the (hundreds of) customer service letters, to ensure they were both service oriented as well as friendly and functional from a retention standpoint.  Or championing “fixing the stupid stuff”, like making sure the customer only had to make an address change in one of the several departments they might have business with at the bank – while logical and important, this was not an easy project.  Other times it required massive efforts across departments and blessings from above to enable cooperation and major changes to happen.


In summary – having a strategic, marketing-grounded, retention leader and team who addresses the entire customer lifecycle using integrated marketing techniques is an excellent start for retention success.  They should use analytics and science, such as marketing research, modeling and measurement to inform strategy and programs.  Their ability to communicate and influence cross-functionally to improve the customer experience is critical.  And that’s just the beginning.  Once that’s in place, the dedicated retention team has to take ownership of customer-saving programs and communications.  I’ve called it “wrapping your arms around the customer and showing them the love.”  This last piece has to be everyone’s job.  I will expand on this in the final segment describing Mission 3 – Taking Responsibility and Getting Results.