Interview with Deborah Kytic – Driving Customer Advocacy

In this week’s interview, we receive some valuable insights from one of ADMA’s most renowned relationship marketing consultants – Deborah Kytic. Deborah has an array of marketing experience which spans over a 20 year period. She has been at the helm of one of Australia’s best known brands, and now runs her own consultancy, Loqium. In this interview Deborah discusses the balance of achieving a scientific approach to your loyalty initiative whilst incorporating good old-fashioned creativity, and finally insights into why Guinness is one of her favourite brands.

1. What was the trickiest aspect of working for a large corporate like Optus and trying to gain customer engagement on an intimate / one-to-one basis?

Ensuring that you have the right data and capabilities so that you’re not just doing everything to the masses is quite tricky. Also, how to refine your offers and communications in a way that will make your customers feel like you’re talking to them one-on-one.

It is such a challenge to drive campaigns that contribute to the bottom line whilst driving good data standards that enable you to talk to customers in more intimate way. it’s a simple fact that some companies do it in better ways that others.

2. What has being at the helm of one of Australia’s best known brands given you in terms of experience?

One of the most important aspects for working for big organisations is learning how to get cut-through of your ‘big ideas’. This is a lesson you can take from the largest to smallest of organisations. The experience teaches you how to construct and win an argument with facts and data and enable you to sell your idea. You also learn how to get ideas in front of right people so that they can make decisions.

The other great things are the obvious ones; you have more funds to work with than smaller organisations and that often gives you exposure to best in class technology, processes and agencies. In a large organisation, you get to work with best of the best and apply those learnings wherever you go.

3. You now run your own consultancy. What are the key drivers that you sell into your clients?

One of the things I would say is that one size doesn’t fit all, we don’t take a cookie cutter approach rather can mold and shape our offering to the needs of an individual business. We’re different from big consultancies because we come at it from a much more personal angle. Our position for our entire company is quality service and value for money. We’ve designed the business to keep overheads very low. Our staff work from home and work off the cloud. So we don’t all reside in one spot, which enables us to save on logistics and overheads which in turn allows us to have a better service and better price. From my own perspective, I’ve been around for a while in marketing; I’ve worked overseas and have a broad experience in Australia. From a marketing perspective in Australia, I find that the service ethic is not as great as in other parts of the world. Making sure we get our customer experience right is not quite as high of a priority as in other markets. Generally speaking we don’t put enough into servicing our customers. So we draw on those international experiences for our clients. I would say however that Australia is often very good at innovating, we’re not dependent on someone else to come up with the ideas first.

4. How do you filter through all the channels to know what’s right for your business?

There’s a lot of gambling and intuition for what might be the right channel for each individual organisation. In the end it boils down to logic: Who are my customers, where are they playing and what am I trying to achieve with this. It’s about finding the right place for your products and services and for your customers. You don’t have to be in every place if it’s not right for your business.

5. You would have seen some fantastic work over the years. What has been your favorite loyalty or retention campaign to date and why?

My very favorite is the Guinness campaign, it is the perfect program in terms of how to engage your base in a way that makes that base so incredibly loyal to your product and doesn’t force them to be a customer. There is no logical reason why to join the program but they have an enormous following.

They execute things so beautifully. Like the personalised birthday card which gives the individual a pint at their local pub with four friends. They’ve reinvented themselves to stay modern and relevant and give an old brand props for staying true to their origins.

6. Likewise, is there a stereotype that you’ve seen for what you think is the worst type of retention campaign?

I don’t want to pick on the supermarkets or retailers, but they take loads of information from their customers – everything they buy, where and when and so on, but they reward their customers with insignificant rewards, or irrelevant rewards to a customer and their spend pattern.

7. A lot of organisations feel that we should be focusing on customer acquisition over retention (A part from the fact that it takes less money and effort to retain customers than attract new ones). What would you say to this statement?

It’s a true statement that many companies focus on acquisition. Which depending on where you are in your customer lifecycle may be the right thing, but you don’t want to drag customers in and then see them come out the bottom of the bucket just as quickly. Smart organisations should grow their customer base at both ends. Bring them in, whilst focusing on the long haul, and how to keep them. If don’t do that it’s not profitable or sustainable for the business.

8. Do you think that there are too many organisations pushing out loyalty programs, just for the sake of it? Do you agree or disagree that these programs are right for everyone?

I think it’s what you have to do in certain industries it’s a right to play. In an airline for example, if you don’t have a points program it’s almost a point of entry to the business. But this is not the case for all industries if you’re doing it for the sake of it, you’re wasting money and not driving customer loyalty. You have to innovate and do something really clever with those interactions to make it worthwhile.

9. If a client came to see you about implementing a loyalty program, what are the first steps you would ask them to consider?

The very first questions are to get them to really think about what they’re trying to achieve. What are the business objectives and why are they thinking about doing it.

Sometimes the answer to the question is not a loyalty program. If it’s a service and they say, ‘I’m losing customers’. That’s not a loyalty program solution. The first point of action is to do an analysis. What are the drivers of the business and what do your customers want. Fix the basics and focus on them first.

10. What are the key areas of ADMA’s Retention course that you tutor?

Over the course duration, we look firstly at a best practice loyalty model and start with building a strong foundation. We then focus on how to get the customer experience right: Understanding segments, who’s important and who’s not. This is all down to the data that you have. Once you have that basic layer and getting that right first. Moving up the ladder, it’s about starting the dialogue and being able to communicate at the right points within the cycle. We then focus on how to use data and customer knowledge to trigger data at the rights points of time, which then eventually leads to the loyalty space and progressing customers into advocates. But it’s about getting the initial steps right first in order to take it to that advocacy point. The other thing that sits with that is to not forget that it’s about how you communication as opposed to when and what. Focus on communications channels, style and creativity in order to get cut-through with customers. We cover all these topics so participants can walk away with an actionable plan.

11. How can you drive customer advocacy?

Positive word of mouth is a big driver. It can happen regularly in the social channel. It’s also more about that individual experience with the brand. If a competitor offers something to your customer it inoculates that message. You want your customer who’s an advocate to explain that they’re with you and that you’re great as a brand and company, and then they recommend you. That’s the most positive brand promotion of all. Therefore measuring customer advocacy is really important and driving it further to that high end advocacy is really important.

12. What do you think will be the future of retention marketing? Where do you see it in the next 5, 10, 20 years? Will data or digital be the key?

I think a lot of people in the industry (and I would agree) say that a scientific marketing approach will continue to grow. Deep data insights will be as one within the marketing mix. However we shouldn’t get ourselves carried away, as it’s still about the relationship and how you communicate.

13. Is it possible to become more one-to-one that we currently are achieving?

It is possible to get more one to one as long as you are communicating that in a smart way.  Industries often communicate (in a channel sense) with the lower cost channel that they think will get the broadest reach. It’s nothing short of boring spam and not very engaging for the customer. It’s about achieving a scientific approach, but incorporating old-fashioned creativity. We used to get these beautifully created marketing masterpieces, and we shouldn’t forget those. Beatifically crafted direct mail pieces get more cut through nowadays. It costs 2c to do an email and $1 to send mail. However what’s the ROI, if response rate is poor and cut through is poor? It ends up costing more in the long run. What’s really important is that marketers need to look at the full ROI and not just the cost.

Deborah runs the ADMA Retention Marketing Short Course which is running in October this year. Entries are open, so click here to enrol today


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