Focus on two-way conversation

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Karin Stroh, Xerox
Karin Stroh, Xerox

When you think of direct marketing, do you think of a static print piece addressed to "occupant," a printed direct mail piece personalized with an individual's name, or are you thinking of a customized cross-media campaign where 
individual recipients are sent relevant marketing materials regardless of media channel? Over the last two decades, direct marketing has transformed dramatically, but the main purpose has not changed. The aim is still 
effective customer relationship management.

When handled correctly, customer relationship management works magic in loyalty, brand relationship, sales results and customer satisfaction. In order to turn marketing communications into marketing conversations, you need to follow the data.

The best way to learn about your customer is to develop a two-way dialogue with him or her and grow your knowledge about each individual. Start by collecting relevant data to build a profile of each recipient. For example, if you're a financial institution, survey customers 
regarding banking habits, life stages and financial investments, as well as preferences. Do they prefer their statements by mail, 
e-mail, or via a mobile phone application? Do they prefer information about new promotional interest rates on houses, cars, boats or RVs? By collecting and managing this information, insight is gained beyond group 
segments to the needs, wants and preferences of each individual. That will enable you to cater to them in marketing messages.

However, before even thinking about what the direct marketing campaign will look like, examine the knowledge or variable components that you've gathered about each customer so you can determine the customer segments and messages you want to convey. Once this is clear, the next step is to develop a variable element matrix for the campaign using the demographics and psychographics you've amassed.

Be sure everyone involved understands the goal of each media that will be used in the campaign. For example, if the graphic designer designs a printed direct mail piece without any understanding of what variable information is going to be used, it could 
become useless if they have not adhered to the design principles needed. Once you have everyone on the same page, then you can create something visually stunning using variable text, images, graphics and offers that evoke an emotional reaction. 

After you've done all that, be sure to keep the two-way conversation between marketer and individual recipient ongoing, scalable and efficient. Conversational communications begin when information gleaned from implementing one component in a campaign is used to create the next one. With each 
communications cycle, the complexity of the conversation grows and so does the unique data collected during these conversations.


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