Achieving Balance in Database Marketing

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Companies must help their sales and marketing departments work better together in today's ever-changing business environment. This sounds like a tall order, but when you break it down and take a look at actionable ideas that can create improved harmony between sales and marketing groups, it isn't all that difficult to achieve.


In the struggle between sales and marketing, each side lays claim to certain issues. Sales force issues include the lack of good leads, incomplete information on leads, unrealistic quotas, a lack of responsiveness by marketing and wasted time on data entry.


This results in some costly sales mistakes. Your sales force usually has no way of prioritizing leads by likelihood to purchase and ends up spending the same time and effort on all leads. They often write off entire pools of leads early if they are unsuccessful.


On the marketing side, marketers often feel they do their jobs amidst a din of salespeople complaining about all of the above. Meanwhile, marketers are taxed with the high cost of generating quality leads, low response rates, little or no feedback from sales, suspicions that sales is not following up all leads, infrequent help from sales in updating records and an inability to calculate the return on investment for programs.


These problems result in equally costly marketing mistakes. Your marketing team ends up mailing the same materials to every lead instead of focusing on the cream of the crop. They often mail to old and outdated lists.


It is a vicious cycle, but what can you do about it? You should leverage IT and database marketing tools to develop closed-loop systems that address the needs of both sales and marketing. Here's how.


Balance sales territories. This will help your marketing organization gain credibility, trust and cooperation from your sales force. The problem is that salespeople want equity among their territories and quotas. The solution is to provide sales with quantitative and qualitative information about territories.


To do this, you need to profile your existing customer base demographically and measure the contribution it makes within each rep's territory. Measure the market potential using your demographic profile to show the sales force that its territory includes existing and potential business and how the territory stacks up equitably against others.


Distribute leads efficiently and effectively. Distribute leads (including Web, advertising, trade shows and direct mail) by territory or vertical markets through a sales-force-analysis or customer relationship management system. This creates a more effective, timely and equal distribution of the leads. Also, it encourages your sales force to use your SFA or CRM system with confidence and without wasting time doing data entry.


Add value to the leads. Once leads are flowing, adding information means adding value to that lead. Rather than suppressing response by demanding more information from a lead up front, you can use your database tools to append the information after you've gotten the response.


Information that will add value to the sales conversation and marketing follow-up includes the number of employees, annual sales, type of business, headquarters location and vertical niche data.


There are various ways to append information to your records. They include going to a data processing service bureau, using a marketing consultant or database marketing agency or doing it yourself using desktop software.


If your lead flow is manageable inhouse, doing it yourself buys you time. If the daily lead flow is heavy, you may be better off looking into using a database marketing agency. The benefits of appending data to leads are tremendous. You'll be able to prioritize leads and focus sales and marketing efforts based on the opportunity within each lead.


Share your models. Database marketers are always talking about creating models. Models are great tools as long as you bring them down from the database marketing ivory tower and put them into action for your sales and marketing groups. The benefits of using models include:


• Lower attrition by marketing to those leads and customers with the most potential to become best customers.


• Lower marketing expenses by cutting your prospecting file. Don't be afraid to throw away mailing names that don't fit your response model.


• Cross-selling opportunities in your customer base that you never knew were there.


Data collection is key. One of your biggest problems in gathering information is that sales views the effort as a waste of its time. Some of the needed information can be appended and does not require the involvement of sales. Still, there are critical elements - including current phone, fax and e-mail addresses - that your sales force must collect for effective selling and marketing.


The solution is to use a SFA or CRM tool train your entire sales and marketing force on both its usage and the benefits of using it correctly, and make it a part of their jobs to do so. With robust information on each record, marketing can develop better models and provide sales with better qualified leads.


Step 6: Integrate the data from your organization. Marketing departments have historically struggled with measuring the success rate of their marketing programs. This often occurs because the marketing database is kept separately from the accounting system - and never the two shall meet. But by integrating the data from marketing, sales, and accounting, you'll be able to calculate real-time ROI by marketing channel and program, enabling you to make changes in the way you spend your marketing program dollars, and quickly improve your bottom line.


Step 7: Create a customer base trigger program. We've been focusing on your leads and new acquisition, but equally important is attention to your existing customer base. The common problem here is often the timing of communications to your customers, and the lack of integration between sales and marketing efforts. The solution is to use behavioral and purchasing information to focus and schedule these communication touches from both sales and marketing. The benefits will be communication with customers according to their time line and life cycle, optimizing the value of all communications, better integration of sales and marketing activities and growing the value of customers.


If you follow these steps, you should be able to find some peace, harmony, and improved ROI.


Jennifer L. Sprague is vice president of marketing at iMarket, Waltham, MA. Her e-mail address is jsprague@imarket.inc.com.
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