Digital Marketing Planning – Building a Retention Strategy

For any digital marketing strategy having a set of objectives and clear strategy is essential for the success of what you are looking to achieve.

Econsultancy reported that “attracting a new customer can cost up to five times as much as keeping an existing one”.

This post focuses on creating an easy actionable plan around retention, which by definition is maintaining or preserving your existing customer base loyal to your product offering. It should be at the heart of your digital strategy in maintaining and building communication with your existing customer base.

The post is divided into the following sections:

1) Knowing your Audience – What insights can be used from your existing data and tactics

2) Setting Objectives for Retention

3) Tactics for Retention

4) Monitor, Measure and Manage

Rather than jumping into the tactics of a retention strategy, you need to ensure you take the time to audit business insights so to help steer your strategy and that it is built from a sound foundation:

1) Know your audience – understanding your audience is essential to ensure the chosen retention tactics are in line with your existing customer base. Think about building your retention strategy from the inside out and how and what delights your audience

So to start building an audit of your current position, here’s a list of key insights to consider when mining customer data in order to create a retention plan gathered from an example set of digital channels:

Search marketing metrics:

  • Brand/non-brand search terms = this will provide you with more long-tail queries users search for when visiting your brand. TIP: Use Search Console >Search Traffic > Search analytics
  • Seasonal search patterns = Is there a seasonal trend associated with your proposition that could be used to help tailor and pro-active communication to your existing customers? TIP: Use Google Trends and understand if there are seasonal fluctuations that impact your product/service
  • Referral sites = Are there any common groupings of sites that are driving traffic to your brand that you could be engaging with to build up a direct relationship with? What are the pages of your site most attracting referral traffic to that you could use to build out new opportunities of content? TIP: Consider creating content groupings in Google Analytics to better understand and focus your time to build micro campaigns

Social Media

  • Data-mine your current followers across your social media platforms to understand their behaviour, frequency of engagement, reach and resonance (e.g. how engaged is the user through through the sharing of relevant content). TIP: Take a look at Followerwonk, a tool which helps you find and analyse your Twitter users
  • New followers – how and why are they engaging with your brand, what social channels are they using to engage with you? If you did a search on LinkedIn for people like your prospects, which groups do they belong to? Are they active?
  • Engagement – Which platforms get the most engagement with people who could become customers? What hashtags do they use? What posts or tweets get the most likes or shares? Is there a common theme on what drives engagement for your brand that you could build on? TIP: Check out URLProfiler which provides a breakdown of which of your pages attracted the most shares
  • Most shared content – Audit what content you deliver through social media is generating the most engagement. This will help to unearth what really does resonate with your users and helps to provide some insights into how you could be engaging with your audience more frequently. TIP: Check out Buzzsumo, a tool that provides data on volume of social shares

Personas – To bring this existing data “to life”, think about creating various personas of your existing customer.

The types of personas should be built based on the data you’ve collated such age and demographics profile, the channel they interact with, level of frequency in visiting your digital platforms (website, mobile, app) and frequency of purchase.

When it comes to building a persona many marketers stop here….marketers can be guilty of being siloed in their analysis by just looking at quantitative data. The real value to really get to know your current audience is to complete some qualitative insights through the use of thick data

Remember to apply thick data in really getting to know and building up a profile of your customers. Thick data applies to the collection of data and traditional sources from inside and outside of your organisation.

From the data you’ve collected, begin to map out the types of personas and from here start to pinpoint 8-10 customers that fall into your persona buckets. Then start to map out the types of questions that will help steer you to get better insights into their behaviour.

This can be done through face to face interviews, phone calls or through  a customer survey (e.g. Survey Monkey).

Also consider question and answer based websites and forums which can provide valuable insights into the types of questions posed by communities. These insights can in turn be used to help you craft additional content to satisfy your existing users.

Sites such as Quora, Reddit and Answer The Public can provide additional content themes for you to use in expanding on your own proposition to enrich the user experience and to retain your relevancy

2) What are the Objectives for your retention strategy?

By bringing together the background and a better understanding of your audience, the insights you have collated should now provide you with a set of Objectives as to why there is a requirement for a retention plan.

To ensure success and buy-in within your business, create your set of retention objectives around the SMART principle, for the purpose of this post, I have listed a few examples:

a) Achieve 25% of existing customers to service their online account within 12 months. Defined such as: visiting the site, logging into their online account, making a repeat purchase as a few examples.

b) Drive 30% of existing customers to make a repeat purchase within 6 months through your digital channels (website, mobile)


3) Retention Tactics

Now begin to define how these objectives will be met through the use of tactics tailored for driving retention. Here is a list of digital tactics tailored for retention and can be linked back to the Objectives laid out in this post:


Whilst SEO could mainly be considered as a tactic to drive your acquisition objectives, there are many opportunities to utilise SEO to assist with your retention plan by setting specific tactics focused this way:

Personalised search results – Ensuring your brand appears in both head terms and long tail search terms for personalised search results ensures your existing customers continue to interact with your branded content.

Google Sitelinks Search Box – with the roll-out of  Google sitelinks search box, this means any branded searches will display an integrated search box on Google, encouraging further searches into your brands content marketing strategy

Create content for your existing customer base –   These insights would be based from the analysis completed in understanding most popular pages, non-brand search terms and users referred to your site

On page optimisation – key on page factors influence rankings  so it’s essential the content created has been optimised for visibility  – think about the URL of the page, who the content page is for and the value of information you’re providing

Product descriptions  – Each product on site should include relevant imagery and product information that is unique.

To create a point of difference, ensure the  content is tailored to the defined audience from the creation of personas you created and enrich the content to their needs and requirements (based on the research conducted).

A great example of this is gadget retailer, who has for many years crafted their product descriptions to their audience personality

Link building – Pro-actively target websites your existing user-base also use. Analysing your site referrers and most effective affiliate websites, this should provide you with a pool of prospects to launch a link building campaign to drive referrals to your site.

Also consider your competitor sites – ensure you’re providing a level of differentiation and ask the question how is my product offering unique and why would a website link to this content over a competitor? TIP: Subscribe to SEMRush which provides a number of competitor intelligence tools to better understand the key competitors within your sector

Email Marketing

Create and test out multiple email templates to your existing customer base and begin to monitor the effectiveness of your emails.

Look to segment your customer base and see which segment drives the best performance based on your retention measures

Ensure the right email technology is in place – if you’re using a 3rd party email software provider, does it provide you with the opportunity to create multiple email templates? the right metric reporting?

Ensure email lists are data cleansed before commencing a campaign – have you removed and are up to date with existing customers who wish to be  unsubscribed? Have you tested out your email success rate in hitting your customer inbox?

Personalisation: Segmentation of your email audience by product or defined persona group

Social media

Create an Editorial content plan in place to drive timely content through Social Media channels. From the analysis conducted in stage 1, you should have a good understanding of what social activity resonated with your audience as well as seasonal fluctuations that may impact your product/service.

Influencer Marketing – Consider engaging with your social media advocates that can help you amplify and promote your brand to a wider community and new audiences. Fashion retailer ASOS are a great example of how this can benefit a brand by breaking down the barriers and building one-to-one relationships with their audience

Affiliate Marketing

Evaluate current program on commission levels offered compared to competitor programs – are any of your competitor programs incentivising affiliates to drive existing customer purchase and if not, could this be an opportunity for your own channel?

Analyse trends and performance of your existing affiliate program e.g. what % of sales driven through affiliates are from repeat customers?


4) Monitor, Manage & Measure your performance

With the chosen retention techniques in place, it’s crucial to measure and monitor the effectiveness of each channel throughout the campaign, so consider setting specific KPI’s for each channel.

The art of successfully crafting a retention strategy will pay back time and again in how you measure its effectiveness through customer lifetime value.

By setting KPI’s, this means each measure can be quantified and used as objectives and provide on-going measurement.

The control phase of the report also provides insight into whether the overall objective of the campaign is being met within the set time-frame

Age of the Customer

Understanding your audience is a worthwhile investment to make. By taking the time to listen, interact and understand your existing customers makes sense to ensure your brand remains relevant and remarkable.

And it seems the shift to a more retention focus rather than acquisition is gaining momentum as described by this recent report from the Content Marketing Institute




The retention of the customer lifecycle is the most profitable one where the greatest level of relationship value is experienced so take time and ensure you have a defined strategy in place that listens and builds communication with your existing customer base.

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