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  • Peter Kirkpatrick

Using Email to Increase Customer Loyalty

In the last article Say it With Email we cited several industry insights – including Forrester Research’s recent conclusion that 90% of emails get delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox, whereas only 2% of your Facebook Fans see your posts in their newsfeed – as a challenge to everyone at clubs not using email as a key pillar in their customer contact strategy to ask themselves: why not?


With its inherently, personal nature, email naturally lends itself to marketing lifecycle communications – or customer journey – programs. Furthermore, email programs tend to punch above their weight in terms of response. With a basic understanding of your customer’s motivations, their buying journey, how they interact online and what truly drives their purchase decisions you can successfully achieve a higher return for your marketing efforts. Lifecycle programs are about guiding your customers along the path to purchase by identifying, and leveraging, timely and relevant touch-points.


That said, we get it, marketing automation tech can be as daunting as hearing your name announced on the first tee at your very first competitive event. But it doesn’t have to be. Remember, marketing automation is just a cool way of saying “easily repeatable marketing programs”. It’s important to narrow your efforts to the areas that will have the most impact. Your customers' journey begins with awareness, moves to consideration through to purchase and then ends up in a loyalty loop that includes the purchase experience, product satisfaction and hopefully, repeat purchase. This is the part of the customer journey that we will focus on and the part where the customer email addresses you’ve collected will pay big dividends (you did get their email address, right? If not, go back and read the last article!).

McKinsey & Company helped marketers better understand the customer decision journey when they introduced the “loyalty loop” (adapted for relevance)

Use this short list of key tips when using email to build an engaging post-sale customer loyalty program.


Focus on areas with a significant recurring impact - Look for the audiences that present the greatest opportunity within your customer base. Although our best repeat customers may present upsell and other loyalty opportunities (and shouldn’t be forgotten) the incremental lifetime revenue opportunity may be relatively low when compared to that of converting an occasional green fee paying golfer to a regular repeat customer by having them join a weekly social or league. A dedicated new customer welcome program is a foundational investment that generates goodwill, develops relationships, and ultimately, helps increase your share of wallet as it relates to their discretionary golf spend.


Evaluate effort and resources requirements - Whiz-bang automation, dynamic personalization, multi-channel delivery capabilities, and Nth-degree segmentation options all sound great but can quickly become unwieldy and overly complex. Start with a few basic “bankable” programs and make incremental additions as you test, measure and make refinements. Beware of creating FNI (fluff with no impact), or complex red-herrings that have no tangible results.


Four Core “Bankable” Programs:

  • New customer welcome automated series: 2-3 appropriately timed messages that begin to send when a new email address is added and that include an offer/promotion.

  • Thank you messages: a singular message triggered by an event – tournament participation, pro-shop purchase, etc. that just shows you appreciate their business.

  • Relevant, scheduled cross or up-sell message: Promotional messages sent around scheduled seasonal activities – club opening, Mother’s and Father’s Day lead up, season end, etc.

  • Lapsed (aging) customer win-back program – Messaging specifically speaking to those that have not engaged, potentially offering escalating offers to encourage re-engagement

Create a customer journey map for your key customer segments - A visual representation of the process your customers navigate through to before arriving at the first tee. These visual references can help you get a sense of your customers’ motivations, their individual behaviour, unique needs and desires, and their pain points. This will help you to identify gaps and insert yourself into the conversation with methodical, contextual and content-driven nudges, which may be online or offline activities.


You’re not always selling, but don’t be afraid to ask for the sale when you are - Regard your loyalty messaging streams as relationship builders. Develop an authentic content strategy that includes touchpoints alongside relevant, timely (or triggered) transactional offers. Don’t be afraid to humanize your messages, push boundaries and have a little fun.

“Hi Paul, just a short note to thank you for choosing to play at our course yesterday. We hope you had a fantastic round, but rest assured, if it was challenging, any balls we find with your initials on them will be donated to our kid's equipment program! In any case, we have a fresh sleeve waiting for you here when you come to play your next round - just bring a copy of this email when you check in.”


Test, test, and test again - No lifecycle marketing program is ever “set and forget”. It needs to be constantly reevaluated from the following points of view:

  • Relevance – do your messages refer to great weather when we just had two solid months of rain?

  • Effectiveness – Are the messages working? Are there certain messages at certain times that are having the best results?

  • Accuracy – Nothing is worse than having an error in your automated program sending the wrong messages to a group. Make sure you have test “seed” emails in each list so you can monitor the sends.

  • Resonance – If you are getting feedback, good or bad, on the messages you send it should definitely be considered. Remember to weigh the feedback against the size of the list you are sending to before making any rash decisions. One negative response may be indicative of a broader problem and should be looked into, but it also may be a result of a singular negative customer experience.

Ok, your turn. All you have to do is commit to starting! You can make incremental updates and enhancements as you learn. Good luck this season! See you on the course.


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Originally published in ProShop Magazine, Summer 2019.

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