Put Substance Behind Service for Better ResultsCreative, "out-of-the-box" thinking, good follow-through and a positive, friendly attitude are fine attributes in a direct marketing services provider. But they alone don't cut it anymore in the Information Age. Customer intimacy backed by operational excellence is the only way your list broker and manager can affect your business.
Operational excellence is the foundation on which the most secure mailer/list services relationships must be built. Presented with a complex media matrix and seemingly limitless data, mailers and list owners can capitalize on a multitude of new revenue-generating possibilities. As such, the confidence and dependability of list professionals now rest with the reliability of their operations personnel and systems infrastructure.
Where do your list brokers and managers spend most of their time? Are they presenting new ideas, products and plans based on solid metrics and research? Or are they lost in the jungle of number crunching, inconclusive reports and analytical data?
In an industry where variables like cost per thousand, response rate, income per name, lifetime value and test-to-continuation ratio rule our world, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture, which is, "Are you aligned with service providers who can scientifically help grow your business over the next five years?"
You can answer "yes" only if your brokerage and management firm's customer service, operations and sales personnel rely on a flexible and dependable MIS infrastructure, efficient data access system and experienced market research professionals for their information.
A solid operational infrastructure aimed at delivering exceptional customer service requires a three-pronged approach: investment, empowered employees, and execution and delivery.
Investment. Brokerage and management firms often reject financing new ways to capture, analyze, disseminate and use information because upfront costs seem high and results are deemed unmeasurable. How much did it cost in time and infrastructure expenses to add new capabilities, and how much do they factor in maintaining your loyalty?
In a business where return on investment is the rule of thumb, the long-term vision of client retention often comes in second place. But an investment in operations aimed at maintaining your customer loyalty can be just as effective as the investment made to acquire your business in the first place.
The investment in brainpower is just as important as the investment in technology. Today's list brokerage and management firms need to compensate for the services of MIS application specialists dedicated to understanding specific direct marketing sectors and related data.
Empowered employees. List brokers and management professionals need trustworthy tools and in-depth training to impress you with breakthrough thinking in today's competitive marketplace. That means maintaining a sophisticated MIS infrastructure that includes:
• An offline data warehouse.
• User-friendly ad hoc reporting software.
• Client PC software for analysis and presentations.
• A sophisticated contact management system.
Implementing a plan to empower employees involves more than an investment in technology and training existing personnel. It requires an ever-evolving strategy stating milestones and deliverables that visibly add value to the service.
For example, your manager may invest in a robust data card Web site that promotes your data properties through your own home page to which users are driven by e-mail announcements, news, newsletters and banner ads. Once the engine is in place, more electronic capabilities can follow as technology keeps evolving.
Employees need to operate in a culture of acceptance to new ideas and a willingness to support initiatives that can serve the client better. That is how effective, creative thinking based on well-run operations can happen.
Execution and delivery. Operations and sales personnel must come together to transition from a "discovery" mindset to a customer intimacy focus. This is how your contacts can "wow" you with findings and actionable strategies based on research and analysis.
With already distilled data at hand, a list broker can spot trends that help mailers plan for the future. For example, your broker may contact you with timely information such as, "Last quarter we noticed a significant decrease in the list universe sizes of files in your market category. Therefore, based on your average test-to-continuation ratio, we recommend increasing your test allocation by 10 percent on your next campaign. This will prepare us for subsequent mailings by having an adequate base of new prospects to target."
This may have just prevented a decrease in customer acquisition for that quarter. The investment in the operations to deliver this level of service just paid for itself in the loyalty you will feel toward your broker.
Likewise, with the proper personnel and tools in place, your list manager can compare list sales with others in your category to see where opportunities exist and where to focus sales efforts.
When your list broker and manager take a proactive approach to your business with enlightening information, they become service partners. Investing on your behalf, your DM service providers acquire the ability to continually upgrade their service. As partners, you can put operations in place that get results for years to come.