Birds eye view

3 lessons in charity loyalty that marketers can tap into

Why do charities have a higher degree of loyalty from their supporters? The magic of a personal connection, seeing your customer as an individual and being able to build a ‘community’ should not be taken for granted.

On the International Day of Charity, Charley Day, Strategy Director from the Kite Factory, looks at the lessons marketers can take from the crowded charity sector to create superfans that will stick with you, as originally featured in Performance Marketing World.

Disney+ stole the retention crown in streaming TV last year when their six month retention metric surpassed Netflix’s to become the highest. Today that rate stands at 78%.

But the real winners in loyalty today aren’t who you might imagine: it’s that of the international charity WaterAid, whose supporter retention rate stands at a market-leading 94%.

Not only is it impressive to maintain such a high retention rate in this increasingly uncertain world, but WaterAid has also increased that by over 2% in the last five years. That’s astonishing considering the crowded NGO sector. Like many companies, charities face the challenge of engaging multiple generations and dealing with today’s switching culture, especially when other organisations may offer a new experience.

Switching doesn’t mean that consumers are necessarily becoming less loyal, it’s just much easier to access different brands and technology, making it simpler to try something new.

With 26% of the UK public planning to change brands to save money, how do brands develop and maintain the relationship with their customers, so they are not tempted to move away?

The business of genuine purpose

Why do charities have a higher driver of loyalty? On the surface it’s because they are in the business of genuine purpose. Given current global events, we are all looking for a way to make an impact in a world of constant flux, and are reluctant to leave an organisation that fulfils part of our value system.

At a closer look, the drivers of loyalty run deeper than a charity’s reason to exist. As not all charities have such astonishing retention metrics, what elevates some from the rest? The magic comes from creating a personal connection, and an emotional resonance that engages with a person’s values. Charities are no longer simply measuring their supporters’ value to the cause, but also their value to them as individuals.

To connect with more people, you need to help them feel before you ask them to engage. This is what drives a deeper level of engagement and creates superfans who will stick with you. Here’s three lessons from charity retention that marketers can tap into.

Create a value-based segmentation

WaterAid is incredible at creating a well-crafted communication strategy that drives two-way conversation – where relevant, timely and personal communications speak to what’s going on in a person’s life. The lesson? Be the most interesting brand in the room, by being relevant to your customer’s life at that moment. Most importantly, find a way to authentically relate and connect.

Refresh the view of your customer base by overlaying values and motivations rather than relying on numbers. Don’t just communicate with your customers about what you want them to know about your business, think about what might be going on in their whole lives and how you can connect at a deeper level.

Don’t just hold on to people, deepen their engagement

Charities are excellent at building a community of people who can influence on their behalf. They use their owned and earned media to increase consideration of their cause and make their paid media investment work that much harder. This does the job of deepening loyalty, through creating a sense of commitment.

Brands that encourage loyal customers to be their advocates grow twice as fast as the industry average. Word of mouth is a compelling marketing proposition – 86% of people say they will recommend a company to friends and 66% are likely to write a positive online review. Think of ways to move your customers through this engagement funnel.

Commit to long term measurement

Charities consider supporters as an individual, not purely as ‘volume’.

Build a holistic CRM, with a focus on high lifetime value. Look to who you are acquiring, not just retaining. Knowing your audience profiles and what they value should then inform their journey with you. Look at what matters to that person and then which product will prompt the best response.

Study your retention metric continuously and test what drives deeper engagement. Link engagement rates to your marketing KPIs and favour a long-term lifetime value model over short-term results. This will require an engagement framework, like the one we designed for our charity clients, like Leonard Cheshire.

The world is in flux and with more uncertainty coming, emotional connection and deepening engagement is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It is essential to the survival of your brand.