Personalize Without Losing Time, Money

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The sheer speed and intensity of change that continues to impact our industry has a lot of direct marketers hard-pressed to keep pace and adapt to a less stable environment. It's not always easy.


But then I think about the enormous strides we've made: How, as an industry, we continue to integrate technology to generate new solutions. Looking back, direct marketing has traditionally depended on the basic ability to identify, target and mail to large, aggregate groups of consumers.


As we move into the next millennium, we see that marketing campaigns are changing. They're growing more complex and demanding. And influencing it all is the realization that real power in the marketplace rests squarely on the consumer side.


These new business challenges for the direct marketing community require new and insightful solutions. The central question: How do you increasingly personalize and customize campaigns without incurring prohibitive cost and time-to-execution factors?


The solution requires intelligent use of the knowledge about your customers coupled with the communication ability provided by today's emerging print and production technology and implemented with a full-service direct marketing provider - a long-term partner who can help coordinate your campaign.


Today's database technology is amazing. Used in the right warehousing and analysis configuration, it lets you understand your customers more clearly. Good data analysis enables you to go beyond - in most cases, well beyond - traditional market segmentation, until you see the types of neural dimensions and dynamics that only sophisticated business intelligence and other analytic solutions can provide.


Take what you've learned and use it to see your customers in different ways, in different groups and in other strategic perspectives. Look at each group and understand their differences and similarities. Reflect on these insights and explore the implications for your key strategies and tactics.


Once you see your market more clearly, you must also remember to ask yourself a few questions about creative strategy and print and production planning. You know your customers. How then should you communicate? Given the ability to personalize efficiently and cost-effectively, how much personalization do you need?


And if you should decide to target multiple groups, just how would you get the message out in an effective and cost-efficient manner? The focus here shifts to printing and production. What's possible? What's practical? Let's put it this way: What was once impossible from a large-scale, mass-customization perspective is now surprisingly easy and affordable.


Today's technologies, for example, let imaginative marketers build direct mail packages that uniquely address different audiences.


The process is fast and effective. As for affordability, I think a growing number of marketers are surprised at the dramatically improved efficiencies. Today's technology gives personalization of direct mail a level of flexibility and affordability that has never existed before.


Once you understand what you can do with data today and appreciate its impact on emerging print and production technology, you then turn to implementation. What's the best way to execute this kind of large-scale customization effort?


The appeal of a turnkey service provider is rooted in basic market dynamics. Rather than build out internal resources, companies are looking to "go outside" for a few high-quality relationships with proven vendors that have turnkey resources.


Partner with a few choice vendors who can provide the support you want in exactly the manner you need. Remember, only the most valuable of allies will show how to use the tools to achieve real business results.


Well, that's the short plan. If communications to customers require greater levels of personalization and customization, let's give it to them. But let's do it right - with planning, innovation, proven processes, increased efficiency and coordination.


Let's do our best to embrace the changes we're all facing. And, as an industry, work in collaboration to explore the potential benefits of today's leading database and print and production technologies.
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