CRM: Buzzword or Hi-Tech Babble?

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Is "CRM" a recognizable term to nontechnical types? Or is it better to use more generic language in promotional messages? The Beryl Cos., a teleservices firm serving the healthcare industry, aims to find out in a direct mail campaign.

In February, the Bedford, TX-based company dropped 6,000 mailers to executives at individual hospitals across the nation. All the mailers were 6-inch-by-6-inch pieces folding out to seven panels.

They all were made of identical coated stock and bore the same two-color artwork. But Beryl tested two different marketing messages in the campaign.

On 3,000 of the mailers, the copy on the top of the mailer asked, "Isn't it time to make the telephone central to your CRM program?" On the other 3,000 mailers, the top of the mailer read, "Isn't it time you outsourced your call center?"

"[CRM] is very much in fashion across the business," said Ross Goldberg of Kevin/Ross Public Relations, Westlake Village, CA, the firm that designed the campaign. "But we're not sure how well CRM is an accepted, used term within the healthcare industry. If you were talking about any other industry, CRM would've been easy."

The copy on the inner panels of the two mailer types also differed. The piece with CRM on the top speaks in-depth about customer retention and maximizing marketing dollars. The other piece focuses more on how call center outsourcing can reduce the hassle and expense of customer service, which many hospitals handle inhouse.

Which message works best will have to wait until Beryl tallies the campaign results, Goldberg said. Since the decision to hire an outsource firm is a major expenditure that hospitals spend a long time considering, results are not expected until later this year.

The company plans to test other elements of the mailer in future drops. The next is expected in May.

Beryl also is bringing tighter focus to its direct mail campaigns by segmenting its prospect list more deeply.

Previously, the firm sent generic mailers to all its prospects, which include hospitals and HMOs. This year, the company began segmenting the list into three distinct groups: health plans, hospital groups and individual hospitals.

Instead of a generic piece, each segment received a different mailer. Dividing up the list allowed Beryl to address the individual concerns of each kind of prospect better, Goldberg said.

The individual hospitals received the "CRM" or "outsourced" mailer, which was not personalized. However, in February 800 hospital groups received a letter hand-signed by Beryl CEO Paul Spiegelman. Another 2,000 health plans received a different letter, also signed by Spiegelman.


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