10 Steps for building a brilliant contact strategy

A contact strategy is an integral part of all customer marketing as it defines and controls how you communicate with your customers as well as allowing you to continually optimise and tune.

Unfortunately there aren’t really any shortcuts and 10 facets are needed to build an effective strategy.

Trying to shortcut your approach is likely to disappoint your customers, your business or both.

What is a contact strategy?

It’s a strategy for how you will contact and communicate with your customers and prospects.
It creates a clear plan that connects your marketing objectives to how you will build relationships with your customers. It aims to optimise the customer experience for different customer groups across their relationship.
Done properly it will support objectives like:
  • Conversion from prospect to customer
  • Cross- and up-sell
  • Nurturing of new customers
  • Repeat visits and Advocacy

So how do you build a good one?

Follow these 10 steps and you will have a solid strategy that is grounded in customer insight and business requirements.

1. Start with the customer

A contact strategy (CS) defines how you will deliver good customer experience and use this as the basis to activate and retain customers.
Like all good marketing it should start with the customer and be based on their needs.
This won’t be the same for all customers so consider:
  • Customer Segments – how you split your customer base depending on value (e.g. RFV), behaviour or demographics.
  • Personas – defining how the needs and motivations of your customers differ
  • Lifecycle stage – the length of relationship (tenure) that you have with customers. Your CS could be very different for new customers compared to long standing customers even though their profile (segment) and needs (persona) could be similar.
Map these out, agree where you want to focus and start with this understanding of the customer.

2. Be clear on your objectives

As well as starting with the customer you need to be very clear on your marketing objectives: what are you trying to achieve?
These objectives should be based on the specific levers of your business but are likely to be a combination of:
  • Increasing customer numbers – via new customer acquisition, retention or reactivation
  • Increasing visit frequency – getting customers to engage or transact more frequently
  • Increasing spend (or ATV) – getting customers to increase their repertoire or buy into more expensive categories
Yes, we want to be customer-centric and act in their best interests but you will be expected to deliver a ROI and an understanding of the levers that you want to pull will give you the best chance.

3. Consider the whole customer journey

It may be necessary to go ‘deep’ into one stage of your customer journey but don’t build a contact strategy in isolation.
Typically a customer journey can be divided into the phases of Attract, Convert, Nurture and Keep.
It’s important that you maintain consistency across the customer journey so make sure that you understand the route in and out of the strategy. 

4. Understand lifecycle flows

The customer journey is rarely (never) linear.
Customers will be lapsing and reactivating, referring and churning continuously so your strategy has to be built with this in mind.
Try to also view these dynamics through the eyes of your customers.
Just because your business rules define that a customer who hasn’t engaged with you for 3 months has lapsed, doesn’t mean that your customer thinks of themselves as ‘lapsed’ or ‘disloyal’.

5. Plan to measure

As we mentioned above, you will need to demonstrate how your strategy is performing and its ROI so build this in from the start.
Use your understanding of the levers and marketing objectives to be clear what you need to measure.
And then determine how these measures can be delivered across a combination of customer segments, channels and stages of the customer lifecycle.

6. Your customer "moment of truth"

At this point you will know the customers that you want to focus on, why (your objectives) and the broad stages in the customer journey.
Already things will be getting quite granular and you need to be careful not to get into a purely academic exercise.
Starting with your moments of truth will help you to avoid this.
We define Moments of Truth as:
the points in the relationship with a customer where you have the opportunity to earn their true loyalty by engaging with them. 
These points allows you to focus on the customer’s experience (actual and desired) rather than the transactional relationship, which may be mundane and taken for granted by the customer.
The trick for marketers is being able to recognise those moments and having a relevant and credible role to play at that point – just because there is a customer need doesn’t mean that your brand can stretch and actually meet that need at every Moment of Truth.

7. Ensure it's feasible, desirable and viable

Venn diagram

Your strategy needs to be balanced.

It’s no use designing something brilliantly customer-led but having no way to fund it or deliver it internally.

A balanced strategy will be genuinely innovative and disruptive.

8. Data you will need

Just as it’s prudent to think about measurement as your build your strategy, it’s also wise to consider what data you will need to make it a reality.
Focus on the data that you really need rather than would like to have and don’t assume that all of this data should be captured directly from customers – much of your strategy should be highly responsive and timely so will be predicated on behavioural triggers.
Capturing the data requirements at this stage will start to shape your data strategy and again support your evaluation of feasibility and viability.

9. Set contact rules

Contact rules are an agreed set of business rules which govern which customers you communicate with, when, how and how often.

They help to give precedent to certain communications and ensure that you don’t over-communicate with your customers.

As you build your strategy, define the priorities of messages that you want to communicate and use these as the basis for your contact rules.

10. Specify your communication channels

It may seem obvious but ensure that you specify what channels you will use and at which stage. This should happen naturally as you work through customer needs, business objectives and the customer journey. But don’t forget to document it.

These 10 Steps

These steps should be applied holistically. Unfortunately there aren’t really any shortcuts and all of these facets are needed to build an effective strategy.

Trying to shortcut your approach is likely to disappoint your customers, your business or both.

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