Coordinate Fulfillment, DM Sides of the Business

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Fulfillment and direct marketing. What's the difference? I have heard it described like this: Fulfillment is sending people stuff they have requested. Direct marketing is sending people stuff they haven't requested.

How do we in direct marketing get people to request more stuff from us? The goal of direct marketing is usually some kind of fulfillment. Once someone receives the direct marketing piece and sends a response or hits a Web site, the next action is usually one of fulfilling their request.

This is a complicated process with a zillion details that need to be thought out, managed and organized if you want to learn from what you are doing and do it better. One way is by carefully planning your program in advance and by building one database to handle all of its aspects.

First off, be sure you know the DM 101 prerequisites:

o Selecting the right target audience.

o Choosing the most appealing message.

o Buying the right media mix.

o Presenting the most attractive offer with the best incentives.

All of these ingredients will turn someone who didn't ask you to send them anything into someone who wants you to send something.

A seamless system is essential. The key to a successful program is seamlessly integrating the front-end direct marketing to the back-end fulfillment across multiple marketing channels.

Warehouse space is easy to find. You know how to hire and train people, and there are a thousand inventory packages you can buy. But getting the dog to wag the tail is easier said than done.

Integration requires adopting a data-centric philosophy as the hub of the wheel that drives what people do in the warehouse, what they do in the DM process, how to design the Web response sites and what outbound databases you use. All of it needs to be centralized.

In your planning, start at the final reporting phase and work backward. What will you need to know about your responders?

Who are these people, and where did they came from? Why are they responding, and what are they responding to? In your overall campaign, how will the fulfillment program move you closer to your marketing goals?

Does it create an opportunity for sales, or does it provide more awareness of your company or service? Or, does the fulfillment program let your employees do their jobs better?

Sales-force fulfillment programs are designed for supplying the field sales people with product samples and literature that they need to sell as well as managing their respective inventories in the field.

Integrate your database early. Using an integrated approach, relationally linked data can provide a multi-task tracking system, all reporting to the same database. Build the database after you determine what reporting you need throughout the entire program. The database is the mastermind of the program. It should let you integrate the entire program and make inevitable growth and development of the fulfillment system much easier to manage.

Rather than having the telemarketing database separate from the direct mail database, which is separate from the Internet database, tie them together using a database-enabled Web site to handle telemarketing script changes while accessing the actual database that mailed. Also, relationally link the fields into the database to handle customer response so that you are ready to report, ready to send the fulfillment items. One database does it all.

If you integrate the direct marketing and fulfillment process into one place, you can keep your focus on managing your program and not on trying to get your multiple vendors to work with (and not blame) each other. Relying on a vendor partner who can execute the entire process reduces your number of contacts to a more manageable number: one.

Providing a smoothly running mechanism to track a customer request from wherever it originates is key to integrating your direct marketing and fulfillment.

Whether you track your response from space advertisements in a magazine through an ID code identifying source or through a PIN-driven Web site using direct mail, you can build an outstanding program that will help you refine your targets. The key is to think it all the way through it before you build it.


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