Strategy Brings Your Campaigns Alive

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As existing customers are a company's most valuable asset, smart companies are developing a marketing strategy to cross-sell and upsell to them. Organizations that use what they know about a customer to communicate one on one - and through multiple channels - will ensure that their customers understand and appreciate the value they get from doing business with the company. The customer experience will be positive, with retention, loyalty and increased relationship value the result.


But companies face organizational and technical challenges when implementing a messaging strategy for all customer communications, including personalized direct mail, brochures, Web pages and monthly billing statements.


Linking the silos of information a company has about its customers often requires a re-examination of business processes and a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond inserting a simple message into a customer communication.


The creation of a messaging strategy designed to market additional products and services must be a cross-functional exercise that incorporates marketing, customer support, IT and other lines of business in a team effort to consolidate what each area knows about the customer. Only when the information in each of these areas is linked over a period of time - with a sound strategy driving the process - will companies reap the most ROI from targeted marketing messages via various direct marketing vehicles.


Relevant content. Developing a dialogue between company and customer is meant to create an environment that better meets the needs of the customers and gives the company an ongoing opportunity to communicate with and market to them. This means that a messaging strategy, when drilled down, is really all about the content. But who creates it? Who manages it? And how will you measure its effectiveness?


Most important, it is imperative to know who is really driving the process in creating targeted marketing messages sent to customers. Are you sending customers information you want them to know, or are you letting customers tell you (through previous interactions) what information they want? To answer these questions, step back and look carefully at your company's process flow.


Exploring how the company manages the customer experience is the first step. Consider what channels you use to communicate with customers - paper, Web, phone, front-line staff - as well as your customer touch points such as direct mail, inserts, statements and online interactions, and then prioritize this information based on their ability to drive increased sales, customer retention or improved customer value.


Deciding which individuals or departments are responsible for each component of the content, what they supply, where they get it and how often they generate it is critical to assembling quality content as well. Put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask whether they are getting content relevant to them in a format they want.


Gathering this type of information helps forge a unified view of the needs, preferences and recent interactions with your customers to help you market to them more effectively. In doing so, you ensure that as a company you present a single, cohesive face to the customer, developing messages that are consistent in content and presentation across all media channels.


You can personalize the content better and take advantage of cross-product marketing - without increasing postage costs if using the strategy on an account statement. And you can customize the delivery more easily, making it possible to respond better to customer choices and options.


Use content wisely. With your information process on the road, the next steps require looking at the strategy for delivering messages. Effective use of messaging through targeted customer communications is driven by these five considerations:


· Message zones. Proper presentation of message content is key. Are you managing the white space around printed documents effectively? Have you put the most important content first in all communications? Are any messages too long or too short? How can they be adjusted to provide more clarity?


· Message formats. Consider which delivery formats have been best received by customers and which should be changed or discarded. Are you using images and charts for better understanding? Would a teaser on the first page help direct readers to a detailed section or message?


· Message triggers. Who is getting the message? The things that drive the need to communicate with customers are usually marketing campaigns, customer transactions and others such as lifestyle events, changes in account status, etc.


· Message effectiveness. Test your messages (on your family, employees, then small customer test groups) to ensure they say what you want them to and provide the results you desire. Play devil's advocate and pick them apart until you are satisfied. Consider whether you are sending the right number of communications to customers and not over- or under-mailing them.


· Message tracking. Your customers and their needs change. Establish tracking measures during the strategy phase, including response rates, reductions in contact center calls and mean call times. It is imperative that message delivery and response results for each customer are tracked and analyzed to further develop content. As more data becomes available over time, review it often for trends.


The benefits reach everyone. A well-considered messaging strategy benefits the entire company. It can reduce document production costs on inserts, direct mail, handling and postage and reduce calls to contact centers by doing a better job of providing customers with the information they need.


The real benefit: Marketing messages that are relevant to recipients and delivered via their preferred method are valued and read - and acted upon. They tell a customer you have taken the time to learn what is important to them - and you are using that information to have a dialogue with them.


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