Marketing Beyond the CRM Concept

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All this commotion and focus on customer relationship management, yet it means something different to everybody.


Some people say CRM - in its simplest form - means a good mailing list. Others have told us it's a mantra to revolutionize business through sophisticated hardware and software that links all the customer data into one focused spot.


A half-dozen large consulting companies see it as the opportunity to control more of their clients' business and have claimed territorial supremacy - never mind that they just started rudimentary database marketing a couple of years ago. The missing point to all this is that the CRM fad will pass because CRM is not designed to be a fully practical approach.


Yes, customer-centric focus is the goal we all want to reach. But many of the CRM initiatives fail to deliver practical solutions. Many applications are primarily IT nightmares with difficult-to-support interactions between numerous data points and unaccustomed, outside vendors forced to pass customer history to the IT department so they can update the files.


A new technology is emerging that enables true one-to-one communications with known customers in the database. Called marketing automation, this new dynamic is changing the way customer-focused enterprises identify, market to and sell to a customer. Because of its multidisciplinary nature, marketing automation takes several forms. Its effect is immediately measurable and quantifiable.


The level of awareness of marketing automation and the pace of its implementation are being accelerated by the rapidly decreasing product lifecycles that are making speed-to-market marketing programs and products a necessity.


Management today insists on justification for all marketing spending and investment dollars. It's less than pleased to wait for the results to come in weeks from the time of a mailing. Management wants ROI in real time.


Forward-thinking marketers are turning to the Internet to keep pace and be able to report to the top person at 5:30 a.m. or 11 p.m.


Marketing is one of the most overlooked, sometimes misunderstood and often underfunded areas of a company. Firms are quick to focus attention and corporate resources on IT, product, sales and financial initiatives. They overlook or ignore the one area that drives the company forward - its customers and the marketing department that organizes and sets up communication, tenaciously guards the brand image and conceives the to-market strategies that deliver the sales and profits.


As we all know, marketing is not a homogeneous activity. It's made up of disparate and often discrete activities, which are infrequently tracked or reported. However, most enterprises intuitively understand the value of marketing. The delivery of metrics, such as share-of-customer and lifetime value, are giving marketing more credibility in boardrooms around the world.


But today's marketing must go beyond the CRM concept to more value-oriented, trackable and measurable applications. Customer lifetime value and share-of-customer requires continuous relationship management to facilitate upsell and cross-sell programs.


This is where marketing automation comes in. Marketing automation is a set of software technologies that includes campaign management and automated execution; lead management; marketing encyclopedia and content management systems; decision support and data mining tools; media and channel management; and marketing agent support.


Yes, all these programs are automated. It's surprising just how many marketing and communications activities can be automated. This means you can ditch the four-times-a-year mass mailing. It's expensive, inefficient, and today's customers don't want it anymore.


Communications tasks can be automated and activated daily through algorithms programmed into your automation system. Visitors to your Web site will find a completely tailored interactive system, which keeps their records available for updating and delivers content relevant to their needs.


These new systems will enable personalized interactive execution of marketing programs using multiple communications vehicles, including the Internet, e-mail, fax (broadcast or demand), direct mail or other cable electronics (set-top boxes) delivered to the home or office.


Customer interaction systems and marketing automation will become the new focus for many firms and will become the most essential component of the company's front office. Many e-retailers are recognizing the value of electronic marketing as an integral part of the Internet purchasing experience. Marketing automation already has become the technology of choice to accomplish business-critical goals, and leading-edge marketers are beginning to use it to gain competitive advantage.


MarketFirst (www.marketfirst.com) is one firm that specializes in marketing automation software. For organizations that are looking for ways to be more effective and lower their costs, marketing automation provides a solution. Marketing expenses can be dramatically cut when the large-scale mailings are reduced and focus is on customers and how to better serve them.


As with any new initiative, a learning and experimentation period is required to train the systems and people to be more intuitive.


John Wanamaker of the old-line firm Hudson Department Stores once said, "Half of our advertising money is wasted. The problem is I don't know which half." This dilemma is still abundantly accurate for many firms today, despite technological advances.


Marketing automation is not about making marketing professionals more productive or accountable, although it does this by nature. Marketing automation is about enabling marketers to implement more effective programs at a lower cost per acquisition and retention than ever before, while letting customers know that the company is keeping them in mind and delivering information to them at the appropriate times.
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