Companies large and small are facing unique pressure to really connect with their customers on new levels that have never really been required previously. At the same time, I am also seeing mounting evidence with my business and friends running some really epic e-commerce businesses that you cannot build a truly scalable company unless you understand how to be intimate at scale, and offer your customers value beyond your product itself.
Most subscription and traditional e-commerce businesses are currently looking at retention in a very 1 dimensional aspect and is therefore leaving millions of dollars on the table. I too, have learned this the hard way.
In studying this phenomenon I have given a name to what I see as a truly important priuority for any company moving forward: Residual Influence. Simply put, Residual Influence is the ability to capture and command the attention, trustand loyalty of your customer community by providing as much value as possible for them.
This also creates the need to split retention into two separate, but equally important components: Residual Influence & Subscriber Retention.
Most companies currently are currently building Residual Influence this through their social media page, and often to a lesser extent, their email communications. Most companies (mine included) do a poor job of organizing and prioritizing Residual Influence, meaning that your customers do not frequently engage with your brand. In the subscription space this will often lead to the stacking up of too much product, forgetting to cancel before an order ships (Customer service dilemma), forget to change their order before it ships (if they wanted to try a different product), failing to understand the full product offering. Most importantly, members do not get the feeling like they are truly part of a club or a community, and the relationship is transactional by nature.
This is the traditional customer retention definition, whereby your customer will purchase products from you month after month, or in whatever frequency you work in. In the context of SR, many business are not fully scalable because churn is too high in relation to the addressable market and product offering.
Why this is EXTREMELY important
Residual Influence is a HUGE Revenue Driver
It is extremely obvious that the more engaged a prospective, current or future customer is, the more likely they will buy, buy again, and come back for more in the future. Residual Influence is all about building and maintaining a long term relationship with our demographic and communicating frequently with them over an extended period of time.
By pursuing a solid Residual Influence strategy your company will:
- Encourage customers to continue to stay on their subscription
- Assist in automatically reactivating members once churned
- Encourage members to adjust their subscription frequency or contents in order to avoid churn and receiving product they didn’t actually have a need for (which is a negative experience)
- Allow you to launch new products with ease and build pre-launch lists
Additionally, within an Internal Brand Community (explained in the section below) you can tastefully house an entire affiliate system that is not based in blasting offers in a customers face, but rather presenting offers to be discovered, explored and used by them on their time and within their control.
You will also be able to continually engage all of your members with fresh and exciting exclusive member benefits that will keep you top of mind, and continue to build value for them. This will naturally unlock future purchases from them with a much more automated “reactivation” basis, and also encourage them to explore new products within your offering which can prevent churn.
Residual Influence and “The Triple Bottom Line”
Giving highly valuable information to your customers will enrich their life and help them achieve their goals. You will help them satisfy the needs that they came to you in order to fulfil. Residual Influence is all about providing value to people, and that makes the world a better place. Providing true value for company makes it all worth it, and helps you sleep at night knowing that your company makes a difference. Providing a lot of value for your customers is the definition of corporate social responsibility. It means creating an entity that serves others and sets an example in your industry for how other companies should act and serve others.
Residual Influence is a Component of Company Valuation
As a value center, your RE efforts can allow a potential acquirer to gather not only a revenue stream, but also a media channel. Having a large list of customers that trust your company deepy is incredibly valuable. If you look at the amount of consolidation on the online media and social networking space (even with Microsoft buying Linkedin at the top of the food chain) it is easy to see that attention is one of the most valuable things to a large corporation.
The amount of data that you can collect with an Internal Brand Community (I’ll get to that) is absolutely unbelievable. You can deeply survey and segment your members in various ways and collect an unprecedented amount of feedback to make everything about your business better. You can automate these processes, and even have your members fill out profiles and various onboarding sections that will provide information about them.
Residual Influence is Measured Internally
Residual Influence really has to be measured on forms of internalized communication. For example, Facebook has very simple performance measures on engagement through their analytics in that you can see how many people are interacting with a post, as opposed to simply having it fly by on their newsfeed, or worse, not even being shown to them at all. Facebook is, however NOT a great measurement of Residual Influence in general because not all of your customers will be facebook followers, and not all of our facebook followers will be customers.
HOW TO BOOST RESIDUAL INFLUENCE AND BUILD A COMMUNITY
The foundation of this entire concept is value. Your aim is to create additional membership benefits beyond your core service and add a lot of value wherever possible to the lives of your customers and target audience. If you provide value for your community you will accomplish the goal of residual influence. Value comes in many forms, but in most cases it is going to be in the form of premium content. For it to be valuable, the content has to be really great, and has to make the member feel like they are a part of something special. Each industry is different in terms of the content that is relevant to your target customer, but if you know your customer avatar well enough you can reverse engineer the most relevant content for them and start to create it in-house, or recruit influencers/experts that are interested in being positioned within your community for additional exposure.
Value can also come in the form of exclusive deals and offers that save your members time, energy, money, etc. These can also add monetary benefits for you on the back end if you create list-sharing style deals. For example, if your audience is likely interested in coffee, and you can get them 50% off of an epic brand of coffee, this is a great membership benefit. Just be careful about how you present this to the group, as it can come off as you trying to milk more money from them.
Methods for internalizing your value delivery:
This is tried and true. Using email to deliver content is still one of the highest ROI marketing tactics that you put energy into. Email works, and works well but isn’t the most ideal for building a community. Members cannot interact with one another, and open rates aren’t always high, but to get something started for sending out premium content, email is a great channel to test things out. You will still need to host that content somewhere, as often you won’t be delivering it within email itself.
You can very easily start using ManyChat to deliver content to people on a regular basis. It is a lot more internalized and responsive than email lists, and people have amazing results with using ManyChat to engage with their customers at scale. This doesn’t really encompass the community aspect because members can’t interact with one another (typically a huge value add), but for communications from you to them, this can be powerful!
Facebooks are super easy to put together, and people are super familiar with the interface. This is probably the path to least resistance to start building your community, and can help you begin to collect data on your strategy and optimize before investing further into building a custom community using the methods below.
Slack is usually best for a business audience, as most of them will already be using slack and familiar with it. It’s got a bit deeper of a learning curve for those who aren’t using it, and requires them downloading software. Its very powerful for organizing different categories of information though, and can be an amazing tool to host your membership group.
Internal Brand Community (IBC)
This is one of the single most important things you could implement to maximize Residual Influence. An IBC can take the form of a native app, course software, message board/forums, etc.
The IBC is central location for most of the “club” and actual “member” benefits. It is where we provide exclusive content, have an internal social network, offer special (affiliate) deals to members, allow members to host meetups, and more. Here are some of the details to consider in the construction of your IBC.
It can be accessed by mobile app (most ideal for Residual Influence) and via browser, but ideally should be seamlessly connected with your e-commerce website back end. Members will need to fill out additional profile information for the social networking functions (which also collects valuable data on them and their needs).
Ideally in order to gain access to the Internal Brand Community, one must either purchase products from your company, or buy access to the platform for a small dollar amount (so that you can store their credit card information for easier upsells). You could even add a layer on top of that beforehand, and have a “club certification” where members must go through a certification process (product information, habit forming, NLP etc.) in order to gain access to the IBC
There is a general “module” of content that everyone gets access to when purchasing a product, or when buying their membership for $X, and an additional module will be available to successively in 4 week increments (or other defined periods of time). Releasing it like this allows for continual engagement of each member (such as an app notification or an email) when each new module becomes available. This exclusive content should be on the key interest points of your demographic and will be solicited from influencers in your network or by contacting others about a mutually beneficial partnership.
Discussion & Social Networking
Each module can potentially have its own discussion and networking areas, opportunities to ask questions of experts, and other module specific content. There can also be a single area for discussion.
Selling premium content through the IBC will allow you to upsell customers into the premium modules (much more content than the free modules) without looking like you are trying to grab extra money from customers.
This is an ideal spot to host all passive affiliate deals where you can offer members discounts on the products of companies they will likely be interested in from third parties and get paid a commission on the back end for sales.
You can use the Meetup API for members to start their own beard events and meetups, as well as provide them with best practices on doing so. For example members to apply for sponsorship on various local charity events and social events (like Buck and Doe prizes) that they would like to host. A systematic guide can be provided to ensure people that are getting the sponsored product are posting to social and promoting the sponsorship
Internal Promotions and other communications
This is a great way to be able to push members into managing their accounts on your main site to try new products, or to modify their subscription frequency, product mix, etc.
I firmly believe that comunity based marketing and prioritizing Residual Influence is the future of marketing. I think you will see more and more ocmpanies trying to compete for attention, trust and loyalty rather than simply squeezing out an extra purchase from clients wherever possible.
What are you doing to build a community and add value for your customers beyond your product? Drop some feedback in the comments below and let me know what is working for you!