Blurred Lines

Who Owns Loyalty Marketing?

The line between loyalty marketing and other forms of marketing is more blurred than ever, requiring organizations to re-engineer their focus to provide seamless consumer experiences and to partner with companies that embrace these changes. 

Things Are Getting Complicated

One of the biggest challenges currently facing CMOs and marketing departments is how to deal with the recent blurring of lines taking place between their internal teams and the capabilities of the companies with whom they partner.

Ten, even five years ago, things weren’t as messy. Channels and tactics could be clearly sliced up and assigned to various owners within your organization. I’ll take brand. You take loyalty. He’ll take the data. And over there, that’s the digital team. Now, everything is being thrown into a big organizational blender and our ever-demanding, always-on customers have collectively pressed the “purée” button. The result: blurred lines.

This blending of two, three, four or more capabilities to achieve a single objective is forcing organizations to interact more efficiently, and in some cases redraw the internal lines. Who owns mobile loyalty? The loyalty team or the digital team? How about social loyalty? And is customer data the responsibility of the analytics department or the loyalty team?

Marketers are smart. They know these shifts are happening, but their internal structures and existing agency templates make things harder than they should be.

Selecting a Partner

The dating scene is complicated too. You may be finding it difficult to craft your personal ad (RFP) because you can’t quite articulate your dating goals or what kind of partner you need. The brand team used to just engage with a brand agency. The loyalty team would find a direct marketing agency. Strategies and tactics were more straightforward. And everyone siloed happily ever after.

This segregated approach no longer works. Today, the need to build innovative customer experiences that transcend silos and departments forces a new collaboration and organizational structure. Some companies are going as far as creating roles like Chief Engagement Officer to oversee this new structure. And their partners need to understand the new blending of components—data, digital and direct—which have traditionally been the responsibility of several different agencies. Regardless of who owns what, delivering seamless, digital experiences across channels is increasingly crucial.

Choosing, and more importantly, partnering with and trusting an agency is a huge responsibility and often takes months of planning and relationship building. Agency pitches can be artificially stuffed with buzzwords and eagerly promised technological solutions. Frankly, everyone claims to be “full-service” and everyone claims to be “digitally driven”. It can be hard to see through the muck.

So How Do You Cut Through It?

First, stay laser-focused on business objectives. If at any time you feel a potential partner is pushing technologies over solutions, be wary. If at any time you feel their focus is becoming too tactical, be wary. Look for some pennies with a nice patina on them, not just the shiny ones. Good agency partners always gravitate to business results. They are stakeholders. If you don’t feel they bring this acumen to the table, move on.

Second, partner with a company that speaks flexibility. Given blurred lines, addressing your challenges requires innovation, communication and agility to handle things that can’t be planned. Because the game plan will change, curve balls will be thrown. Agencies need to think on their feet. Knowing that you have partnered with an agency that can lead you through these unknowns and work well with your teams is paramount.

Next, ensure that your potential partners have adapted to the new languages of blurred lines. Are they bilingual— speaking both marketing and technology? Can they break from the mold? Can they lead your organization through politically charged meetings? This may be an essential skill.

And finally, look for a partner that is driving true innovation but hasn’t fully abandoned tried and tested practices. Blurred lines require a new way to think about marketing and this innovation can manifest in many ways: a new tactic, a new process, a new derivative of an older capability. Successful companies offer a blend of new and old techniques. Be wary of companies that have abandoned every traditional tactic and hand you a bag of shiny pennies. For example, email is still a huge marketing workhorse. But successful companies complement email with innovative tactics like social media and mobile.

Our Approach

We believe customer loyalty is the primary driver around which every organization should rally. For us, loyalty is a desired customer state that we set out to achieve, not a program to launch or a tactic to execute. Too many companies still organize around this outdated model. They have a loyalty team. They have a brand team. Each has its marching orders and only occasionally do these teams truly collaborate. They communicate in status meetings, but they don’t truly partner with each other.

We have set up shop a bit differently. We are not tied down by legacy systems or outdated thinking and, instead, strive for a multi-dimensional approach to innovation—ensuring our ideas create real impact and foster engagement between our clients and their customers.

And we believe every touchpoint matters. Driving loyalty cannot simply be the responsibility of a team onto which you slap the label “Loyalty”. The call center needs to buy in. The front line employees need to buy in. Data needs to be shared. Technologies need to be integrated. Everyone needs to be singing from the same proverbial song sheet.

We are a “bilingual agency” that understands marketing needs but can also address technology dependencies. We are an agency that can own this bilingual positioning and help our clients’ marketing and technology departments deliver the what and how of their customer strategy.

We have thoughtfully and intentionally designed our services, processes and technologies with blurred lines in mind. We’re experienced marketers with a new playbook and we feel we bring a fresh, innovative and unique loyalty marketing approach that reaches across an enterprise. We strive to avoid cookie-cutter coalition and stale, me-too approaches. We don’t just say we’re different, we can prove it.

About the Author

Jay Peters has focused his career energies on the intersection between marketing, technology and user experience. He believes when the customer wins, the company wins. Jay is the Director of Capabilities Development for Olson 1to1 and has worked in many areas of Olson, including strategy, account and new business and has worked with legacy clients such as Best Buy, Wyndham Worldwide and Sun Country. His educational background includes a B.S. in business from the University of Minnesota and an MBA in marketing from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management.