pbSmart™ for Small Business

How-To Ideas on Building a Customer Communications Plan


Hand drawing empty diagram

Direct marketing is about integrated programs that build profitable customer relationships over time and react to a customer’s specific patterns. Trigger-based communications (communications sent upon specific customer actions or status conditions) make that easy, so here some ideas for planning the logistics. The basics points to keep in mind are:

  1. Define the communications you want to send
  2. Decide on frequency
  3. Put the customer first
  4. KISS — Keep It Simple for Success.

Seven Communication Triggers to Plan Around

The information needed to trigger a message should be either readily available to you or datathat you acquire easily. The idea is to send your customers the right messages timed to arrive when they are most likely to be interested, appreciative, or ready to act.

  • Welcome: Create welcome messages triggered by offline or online behavior, such as, purchase, sales inquiry, completed download, or registration.
  • Transactions: Create marketing messages triggered when transactions with an existing customer occur such as a purchase, profile update, or a new opt-in. The content can fall into the categories of brand reinforcement, promotional opportunities, or trust-building opportunities.
  • Customer profile: These messages are based on personal profile information the customer willingly supplies. It could be a simple birthday trigger, an anniversary of doing business with you, or perhaps messaging around purchase-intent information, like an upcoming retirement or sale of a business.
  • Cross-Sell/Up-Sell: Cross-selling and up-selling occurs when customers are sold complimentary products or upgrades. Create cross- and up-sell campaigns based on customers’ purchase profiles.
  • Customer satisfaction: Create automated messaging that is triggered when a customer makes a big item purchase, an installation occurs, or a trial is starting.
  • Limits reached: These include any messages regarding a customer’s threshold of activity. Perhaps it’s an alert that the customer has exceeded a pre-set spending limit and his or her account needs to be refilled or that loyalty points are about to expire.
  • Win-Back: If you haven’t had a customer make a purchase or had contact within the average frequency for that customer group, integrate a win-back program to offer incentives to the customer to return.


You’ve Got the Who, When, What. Now You Need the How

Trigger messaging makes creating a communications plan easier in that it helps you know:

  • Who to reach out to When and What you want to communicate (your messaging).

You also need to plan the How’s:

  • How you will communicate (email marketing, direct mail, mobile, social media)
  • How you will measure success
  • How big your marketing communications budget will be and how it will be spent


[Pitney Bowes new release, Pitney Bowes Survey: 76 Percent of Small Businesses Believe Ideal Marketing Mix Includes both Physical and Digital Communications, May 20, 2011 and eMarketer, Social Marketing's Benefits Rival Email for Small Businesses, June 6, 2011]

Rule of Thumb: Think Lifetime Value of a Customer

Lifetime Revenue (LTR) or Lifetime Value (LTV) is an important number to keep in mind here as you create this trigger-based communications plan. LTR or LTV is the average revenue or profit respectively you can expect during the average number of years of a customer relationship. Some of your best customers may buy 100 times more than others buy. If you can segment customers by their LTR or LTV, you have a measure of what you can spend to keep that customer segment. If that level of segmentation isn’t possible, you’ll need to use average LTR or LTV of the average customer to judge how much messaging you can budget for.


Three Benefits of Creating Your Trigger-Based Communications Plan

Taking the time put a trigger-based communications plan in place gives you:

  1. An automated marketing process that doesn’t require being managed on a day-to-day basis.
  2. An ongoing personalized communications plan that can also be integrated into your usual mass annual communications, such as holiday greetings or trade events.
  3. Automated communications integrated with your other marketing that powerfully and effectively build and cement customer relationships.

What Next?

Find out how you can put together an effective email campaign withpbSmart Connections email marketing software.

Learn about all the different ways Pitney Bowes can help youcommunicate better with your customers.


Sandra Blum is a direct marketing expert and author of the industry classic Designing Direct Mail That Sells. She is also president of Blum & Company, a direct marketing, advertising, and marketing communications firm. Sandra is not a Pitney Bowes employee and shares her insights on this blog as a paid contributor.

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