Communication is the act of exchanging information and ideas between individuals or organizations with the aim of engaging. It can take many forms- verbal, written, or visual, and can be delivered through various channels. From a business perspective, communication is the ultimate tool for acquisition, service and retention. The level of engagement that a business can achieve with its audience is a key indicator of the effectiveness of its communication strategy. Communication forms the spine of any business, just like payments.
Communication is a standalone concept which we often couple with marketing, advertisement, support and service.
Now let’s go ahead and define 2 distinct concepts built on the foundation of communication:
- Marketing communication
- Customer communication
Marketing communication refers to the messages and promotional activities that businesses use to reach and engage their target audience, with the aim of creating interest in their products or services, and ultimately driving sales. This type of communication is typically one-way, meaning that the business is sending a message out to the audience, and the audience is receiving it, but there is limited feedback from the audience. Marketing communication can take many forms, including advertising, public relations, events, sales promotions, and direct marketing.
On the other hand, customer communication refers to the interactions between a business and its customers, with the aim of building and maintaining relationships. This type of communication is typically two-way, meaning that both the business and the customer are actively engaged in the exchange of information, feedback, and support. Customer communication can take many forms, including sales, service, support, and feedback. It is an ongoing process that helps businesses understand the needs and expectations of their customers, and make the necessary adjustments to improve their products or services.
In summary, while marketing communication focuses on promoting the business to potential customers, customer communication focuses on building and maintaining relationships with existing customers.
✍️ Okay, this sounds basic, but why are we speaking of it now?
Over the last couple of decades, there has been a convergence of marketing channels and user touchpoints. Gone are those days when businesses used only mass media and outdoor communication for marketing. TV ads, outdoor banners, hoardings etc., communicated to every viewer indifferently. With the advancement of mobile technology and penetration of social networks, businesses have been blessed with the ability of direct marketing, where they can directly target and reach users on their mobile phones.
This convergence has blurred the line between marketing communication and customer communication, and “customer communication” as a concept is losing its independence.
✍️ Why is it necessary to distinguish the concepts and look at them with an independent lens?
New technology has given businesses access to customers beyond territorial boundaries. For some businesses like social networks, the TAM is the whole world literally. With an overwhelmingly large customer set to go after, all businesses are heavily investing in marketing.
Traditional businesses grew on the increasing depth of their relationship with their customers, which resulted in long-term engagement, higher LTV and negligible churn. Example:
But today’s businesses pay no minimum attention to customer relationships since most are busy acquiring new ones. With the user base going from thousands to millions, many businesses that do not pay attention to customer communication end up with the troubles of low LTV and high churn.
However, it is remarkable how some brands like Airbnb and Dream 11 have been able to scale their user base and retain most of them with increased loyalty. These brands realise have realised the importance of customer communications (link here) and have always looked at marketing and customer communication distinctly.
Therefore, it is necessary to revisit and redefine what customer communication means and how different it is from marketing communications.
✍️ Customer communication: An independent saga
Customer communication literally means “communicating with a customer”.
When looking at it from first principles, customer communication pre-supposes the fact that the person being communicated with is already a customer. Therefore logically, it comes once the customer has been acquired through marketing.
Now let’s de-clutter customer communication from marketing communication:
- Customer communication is built on the foundation of an existing relationship between the business and its customers. The business has already earned the right to communicate with its customers through its previous interactions and experiences. This allows the business to tailor its communication to the individual needs and preferences of each customer, leading to more effective and impactful communication.
- Marketing communication, on the other hand, is focused on acquiring new customers and promoting products and services to a wider audience. To reach its target audience, a business must pay for marketing channels such as advertising, promotions, and public relations. The goal is to create awareness and drive sales, but the communication is not tailored to individual customers and may not be as effective as customer communication.
In summary, customer communication is an earned channel, where businesses have already built a foundation of trust and established a relationship with their customers. Marketing, on the other hand, is a paid channel, where businesses must invest resources to reach new customers and earn the right to communicate with them.
Example: Performance ads on Facebook of Dream 11 would be marketing communication where the end goal is to get the user to sign up and download the app. When the user signs up and downloads the app, the business has “EARNED” the right to communicate with the customer through the following channels - sms, email, push and InApp notifications (and in some cases, Whatsapp as well). Now Dream 11 can use these earned channels of customer communication to deepen its relationship with the acquired user to drive engagement and retention.
Types of customer communication
Customer communication can further be broken down into 4 parts:
- Sales and engagement communication - customer communication directed to get the user to engage with the platform and where engagement is measured in terms of sales/ transaction, then get the user to transact with the platform. Engagement can mean different outcomes for different types of businesses. Example:
- For a business like Spotify, engagement would be getting the user to listen to music
- For a business like Instagram/ LinkedIn, engagement would be to get the user to spend more time surfing through their platform
- For a business like Amazon, engagement would be getting the user to transact/ place order for an online purchase
- Service - customer communication which completes engagement and aids in fulfilment. Example: transactional communications like order status, payment confirmation, reminders, comments, receipts, etc.
- Support - This type of communication is focused on providing customers with support and assistance in the event of an issue or problem. It may include email, phone, or live chat support, as well as self-service options such as FAQs and knowledge bases.
- Feedback communication - Feedback Communication: This type of communication is focused on gathering feedback from customers in order to improve products, services, and experiences. It may include surveys, customer reviews, and other forms of feedback collection.
Each type of customer communication serves a different purpose and provides unique value to customers. By using a combination of these different types of communication, businesses can create a comprehensive and effective customer communication strategy that supports their goals and drives results.
We have separately detailed the tips and tricks for developing a customer communication strategy to drive a better experience.
To conclude: Customer communication is a critical aspect of any business strategy, as it plays a crucial role in driving loyalty and retention. To maximize the impact of customer communication, it is important to view it as a standalone effort, rather than simply an offshoot of marketing or other business initiatives.
Effective customer communication goes beyond just providing information and promoting products. It involves creating meaningful and valuable interactions with customers, addressing their needs and concerns, and building relationships based on trust and mutual respect. By focusing on customer communication as a standalone effort, businesses can create a differentiated and compelling customer experience that drives loyalty and retention over time.
One of the key benefits of treating customer communication as an independent effort is that it allows businesses to tailor their communication approach to the specific needs and preferences of their customers. By using data and insights to understand their customers' behaviours and motivations, businesses can create targeted and personalized communication that resonates with their audience.
By focusing on customer communication as a key priority, businesses can create a differentiated customer experience that drives results and supports long-term success.