Direct Marketers: Pick Up The Pace

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In today's highly competitive markets, where product parity is the norm, Chief Marketing Officers face an unexpectedly large number of challenges.

The challenges are arriving at breakneck speed and those CMOs who are competitive and adept at responding to the fast pace of today's markets are the ones who will survive.

Because the numbers and types of media are growing quickly, marketing executives are facing a remarkably complex environment to acquire and retain customers. The difficulty of capturing their attention, retaining their loyalty and, at the same time, communicating the sales proposition can send chills down many a marketing spine.

Modern marketers are breaking free from the rigid quarterly planning procedures of the olden days and picking up the pace dramatically. New techniques and an abundance of marketing information spur them along. And they hear the demands of educated and impatient customers quite clearly.

They no longer have the luxury of waiting until the next quarter or even the next month to refine campaigns. Most feel the need to adjust plans week-by-week or even day-to-day.

But many CMOs have little time to adjust to these fast-moving markets. Recent reports say their average job tenure at the largest 100 branded companies is shorter than two years. One report called the job "one of the riskiest in North America."

The answer lies in the use of data and technology. While direct marketers are most adept at using data and technology, even they need to consider picking up the pace.

Most companies capture volumes of information about existing and potential customers. But they can't remain effective in a torrid market if they don't use this information correctly and execute their campaigns promptly.

To keep pace with their competition, they must be able to inject findings immediately, sometimes into tomorrow's plan, using quick-reaction time as the basis of their campaigns and building increased frequency into the marketing cycle.

Two-Step Solution

Fortunately, there is a solution that can move the marketer quickly toward real-time response to customer preferences. It's a two-step process for orchestrating a marketing campaign.

The first step involves analysis of accumulated data in such a way that messages can be personalized for effective use across all channels. New technologies have helped marketers read and analyze customer preferences so that the resulting plan will contain messages and use channels that are relevant.

The second step is the prompt and energetic execution of the plan, using channels like e-mail, Web sites, call centers and print-on-demand programs that can, if done properly, shrink the marketing cycle to once-a week or sooner. This allows marketers to address existing and potential customers more times per year, and this should improve awareness and increase lifetime value.

Another advantage of this approach is that the new communications technologies provide the least expensive methods of message delivery, causing a fast-turnaround program to be budget friendly as well as effective.

Because the technology used to support these programs is developing quickly and often becoming complex and difficult to manage totally in-house, many companies are turning to specialized marketing services firms for help. As marketers learn to take advantage of outside help with high-speed data measurement and message delivery, they will be able to assume more control over meeting their own objectives.

Today's marketing executives know that the window of opportunity can be a tiny portal, capable of closing quickly. Their success depends on reading customer information properly, analyzing it thoughtfully and putting it to work immediately before the window of opportunity slams shut.

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