When we think of marketing, we often think of Marketing's efforts to acquire customers. The world, however, is moving toward relationship-based business, including subscription services and subscription commerce—but also most other business.

Consider consumer packaged goods companies that used to have no direct relationship with customers, who bought in box stores. Many CPG companies are now using online and social mediums to build direct relationships with their customers.

In this world, customer retention is just as important as customer acquisition. So how do the 7 Ps of marketing apply to customer retention marketing?

1. People are the most important. Retaining customers is about building relationships, and relationships are about people. Treat your customer as a person, and not a customer; start by hiring people who show they care about others.

Compare how you behave driving in rush-hour traffic with how you drive down your own street past your neighbors. When you know you will see people again, or if you want to see them again, you treat them better.

The whole company needs to care about customers and customer retention, and one executive must be responsible to ensure that's so—hence the rise of the chief customer officer.

2. Product is a very close second in importance to "People." If your product is off, you will have a difficult time with the rest of the Ps. However, if the product is on target, you will accomplish the rest of the Ps much more easily.

When designing your product or service for maximum customer retention, provide quick time to value, continued value over time, and high quality (those are what Apple does so well). Sometimes there is another P: Packaging. I include packaging as part of the product (or service), and the key to it is polish.

3. Place obviously matters when you are figuring out where to put your physical store, but what about when you're online? Does it matter there? Yes. If I am looking to communicate with my customer and offer them an upsell, I could send them an email or message them right while they are shopping, browsing, or working on my site. The first communication is out of context and has a low chance of response. The second is in context and has a higher likelihood of response. “Place” is context, and context matters.

4. Price. In any good relationship, people take care of each other. That is now the expectation in the customer-business relationship as well. Our customers assume that we will look after them. That is what they pay us to do. In an e-commerce business, that sort of relationship means providing deals for our recurring customers. In a subscription business, that means rolling new features (some, not all) into the service, over time, without charging more.

5. Promotion. How should you promote your product or service to customers to retain them, upsell to them... and keep them for the long haul? Quite differently from how you promote to a prospective customer. Why? Because the person is your customer. You know, or should know, him or her. You know what the customer bought from you or how he or she uses your service. You can use that information to message customers in a more targeted, appropriate, helpful, and effective way. Don't spam them with the same generic info you send to everyone else. Send them targeted emails and in-context messages.

6. Processes. To succeed in all of the previous Ps, and for this success to be more than a one-time fluke, you need good processes, such as monitoring social media and engaging customers there, surveying customers for satisfaction, and implementing marketing automation. My company uses its own customer engagement solution to understand how each customer is engaging with the business. We look for positive or negative patterns and respond accordingly, sometimes by person or email but often right in our application with a targeted message based on behavior.

7. Positioning. If you want to retain your customers, you have to know who you are and communicate that clearly and repeatedly to them so they know who you are as well.

Foremost, however, is this: Your actions must communicate your positioning. Those actions are showcased in the people you hire, the product you ship or service you deliver, the price you charge and the discounts you provide, the place and promotions you choose, and the processes you put in place.

Combined, your words and actions say "This is who we are and what you can expect of us."

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By acting on the 7 Ps of Customer Retention Marketing, you can keep your customers; make their interactions with your business successful; and in so doing make your business more successful.

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image of Karl Wirth

Karl Wirth is the CEO and a co-founder of Evergage, a customer intelligence and marketing automation solution that enables online businesses to understand each customer and respond in real time.

Twitter: @wirthkarl

LinkedIn: Karl Wirth