Retention is Not Marketing

One of the biggest philosophical errors in business today is the thought that marketing should drive customer retention. In the article Customer acquisition versus customer retention, the author talks about which of these options (acquisition v. retention) is the best use of marketing dollars. While there are several good points in the article, the bigger point I’m focused on is the “best use of marketing dollars” concept.

Marketers far too often view “retention” as the next “campaign” where we’ll push this product or that message in an e-mail blast or a glossy newsletter. We’ll promote this event or offer that discount with a big ad push.

But customer retention needs to be viewed differently. It’s not transaction-based or event-based. It’s not push-oriented. It’s relationship-oriented. It’s dialogue-oriented. It’s 1-on-1.

Now don’t mistake this statement to think that I’m promoting retention as something that has to be labor intensive and high cost. I’m addressing the mindset of it because this affects the strategy of it. Once you start thinking how can I retain Joe or Mary or Sue, once it’s Andre or Bea or Randy, the approach changes. It’s more personalized, more customized, more person-focused and less number focused.

You begin to think “How can I develop a relationship with this individual?” You ask “How can I keep them for the long-term?” You consider “How can I become vital to their day-to-day activities?” These types of questions lead to longer-term strategies, longer relationships, higher retention, and higher revenue.

Think about retention in 1-on-1 terms, not broad based marketing terms. Your decisions will change, and your performance will improve.

Listen to our latest podcast episode of “Stepping Up Service” on The MESH Network at

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