Avoiding Random Acts of Contact

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Imagine this. You frequently buy goods from a company that sells dozens of products under four popular brand names. Each of the organization's divisions independently captures, manages and analyzes data about you and your transactions.


However, because these business units don't share detailed customer information, you're increasingly frustrated by e-mail, phone and direct mail offers that are redundant, irrelevant or ignore your demonstrated loyalty to specific products.


It's not surprising that under a single corporate banner, multiple divisions often vie for attention from the same "best" customers. But without guidelines that coordinate message content, channels and timing, recipients may feel bombarded by too much of a good thing. That's what a leading technology manufacturer discovered recently when examining the behavior of its most valuable customers. Analysis revealed that, over time, the top 20 percent grew less responsive to new offers. As these customers received more marketing messages, they tended to opt out of contact lists entirely! This was the unintended result of an aggressive every-division-for-itself mentality.


You can avoid similar disconnects by designing an integrated customer contact strategy. The process isn't always easy, especially when new forms of communication are continually emerging. Webinars, e-zines, chat rooms, search mechanisms and blogs - these are only a fraction of the interactive possibilities. If you're ready to carve a path through this dynamic multichannel landscape, consider these issues:


How do you define success? Are you motivated mainly to deepen and enrich your relationships with good customers, or to sell anytime, anywhere? These days, successful strategies aren't driven by short-term market share wins. Instead, they focus on gaining a larger proportion of your best customers' purchases over time.


Does your model revolve around customer interests? Do you anticipate and act on events and triggers in a customer's life? Or do your internal business cycles dictate contact frequency and context? It's tempting to treat customers as passive targets who wait to receive messages when and where you choose to deliver them. But there's tremendous advantage in letting their behaviors signal when, where and how to approach them.


Are your data consolidated and accessible? The quality of your multichannel marketing depends heavily on your ability to integrate customer data from every communication source. Strive to gain a single, 360-degree view of each customer by combining descriptive data, permissions, transaction files and response records from across multiple systems. Also remember that effective solutions aren't based on input alone - they distribute customer intelligence in a way that's highly available for analysis and action.


Are your goals supported by business rules? Customer-driven marketing initiatives can't proceed without organized, accessible data. However, these endeavors remain at risk until you also develop clear, consistent, corporate-wide standards for integrated planning, analysis and implementation processes. This can be the toughest, most time-consuming action item because it requires all lines of business to cooperate in defining and enforcing common procedures.


Will testing play a pivotal role? Multichannel outreach isn't a one-time event. It's an iterative process that depends on continuous feedback loops. Ideally, it involves tracking and analysis of behavioral patterns among targeted customer segments, and flexibility to build on what's learned from those responses. Testing best practices should be central to your scheme. Prepare to test against small but carefully defined predictive groups at every step, and to incrementally improve your results with controlled adjustments to campaign variables.


Does management share your vision? Will your managers champion a coordinated customer contact strategy? Without strong, steady endorsement from the top levels, even the most viable approach is unlikely to succeed. Executive commitment can ensure that technical and organizational barriers are minimized, and methods that serve your company's long-term interests are advanced.


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