Tips on Selecting an Outsourced Service Provider

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Most companies understand that communicating one to one with customers is imperative. The challenge often is in implementing enterprise-wide, collaborative, real-time solutions that drive the speed to market needed to communicate relevantly, personally and consistently across all interactions with customers.

Often, the statements, correspondence, direct mail and other ongoing communications sent to customers regularly are the enterprise's best chance to build one-to-one relationships. Many enterprises outsource the production of their customer communications, which can heighten the challenge. The service provider you choose must have the systems and processes to work seamlessly with your marketing team. Otherwise, the provider won't meet your expectations, and your company won't reap the benefits.

The service provider/client relationship. We live in an experience-based marketplace where customers demand more from their suppliers. People want their work and online experiences to be positive, intuitive and productive. We also live in an increasingly regulated society. Organizations must ensure that content complies with legal and regulatory standards. Stakeholders increasingly are required to review and approve this content before delivery.

Therefore, your service provider must understand your need for increased participation in the document creation process. You at least want to be active in the creation of marketing content delivered to your customers. For results that satisfy your desire to have real-time control over integrated marketing campaigns and design as well as your service provider's need for cost-effective deployment, a content-centric collaborative environment is required.

What is content-centric collaboration? Cap Ventures, a leading market research and consulting firm for the digital imaging and document solutions industry, defines content-centric collaboration as "a process that requires two or more people to create or use information contained within content or documents to accomplish a business objective." When the objective is marketing campaigns to cross- or upsell new services and offerings to customers, content-centric collaboration becomes the linchpin of an integrated marketing strategy.

Integrated marketing means more than creating a personalized message for a specific subgroup of customers. It includes analysis, content targeting at the individual level, greater focus on response tracking and wider participation from all aspects of the business. Conducting integrated marketing programs in a real-time collaborative environment lets all relevant stakeholders participate in creating and managing marketing campaigns.

The challenge for everyone. Innovative service providers work hard to extend services to their customers that provide a way to access and control marketing content in the document creation process. But often the solution is using e-mail to collaborate, which can be limiting and address only some of the client needs. It also can take too long, adding to costs and limiting opportunities to reach customers in a timely manner.

If your provider uses traditional document composition tools, the time to incorporate a marketing message into a customer document, or even make a simple modification to an existing message or campaign, could take one to two months. That is a lifetime in marketing terms.

Another challenge is that normally many campaigns are targeted simultaneously to customers. These may include multiple campaign authors and targeting strategies, which must be prioritized and incorporated into documents based on importance and limited "white space" available. This "many-to-many" marketing process is typically not handled by CRM systems - certainly not for critical business communications - and, therefore, requires a solution that integrates information about customers with sophisticated campaign management, document creation and multimedia delivery.

Consider many things when planning for a real-time collaboration solution that meets the short- and long-term needs of your organization and the provider you select.

Together, it is important to resolve user access and security issues. Also, ensure that your provider has the infrastructure to support the creation of all types of documents and allows external user access for content collaboration. Appropriate and timely workflow processes need to be in place as well. And, ensure your provider has the reporting processes to inform you what content was provided to which customers.

It's critical to be able to easily modify and create marketing content. The ability to create rules-based marketing campaigns for timely incorporation into customer communications at run time is imperative. You also need the ability to preview formatted documents with the targeted marketing messages as well as test and verify that campaigns are reaching the right people. Tools should be in place to track and manage marketing campaigns in order to gauge success and perform more targeting initiatives based on the response, or lack thereof, to previous campaigns.

Meeting all these needs requires time to seek out a service provider that has an infrastructure for rapidly building and deploying all types of variable document applications, including a browser-based front end designed for remote marketing users to collaboratively create and manage targeted campaigns in real time.


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