Technology Alters Service Criteria
The fact that convergence is defining direct marketing today bears on one particular aspect of our business: working with and evaluating list management and brokerage professionals.
The burgeoning number and power of technology tools require that marketers seek new qualifications in their list services providers. These firms must combine an intimate knowledge of the technology available for program planning and execution with a good, old-fashioned grasp of effective direct marketing principles.
Technological advances have long been the foundation of direct marketing. For example, the entire discipline of database marketing was founded on using computer technology to amass - and make accessible - actionable consumer data for direct marketing campaign planning and implementation. Marketers have always been on the forefront of applying technology to refine and enhance business processes.
That trend is continuing. And it is creating new challenges, as technological gains occur more rapidly and easily than ever. It is often possible to have technology tools, especially a new software application, developed in weeks or months. It has always been easy for marketers to envision tools that can enhance their capabilities and skill sets. Now those tools can be produced in short order.
Marketers, therefore, must be sure that their list services providers are also conversant in technology, that they can immediately advise on whether the tool can, in fact, be speedily produced. Most importantly, clients must be comfortable knowing that their list services professionals can quickly avail themselves of existing tools to meet pressing budgetary and timing requirements.
Marketers that are evaluating their list services providers, or seeking to hire new ones, should factor in these two criteria. They relate to "convergence conversancy":
Strong technology infrastructure. It is critical that the list services firms have the latest, most technologically advanced systems to conduct merge-purge, mail hygiene and postal hygiene processes, not to mention more sophisticated database marketing applications for targeting and audience analysis purposes. The pace of change in markets is rapidly increasing and shows no signs of abating. Companies must move swiftly and decisively. Having a strong technological infrastructure is necessary for your list services providers to conduct increasingly complex tasks cost-effectively, and with the greatest speed and accuracy.
Having the right technology infrastructure. It is easy to get caught up in applying technology for technology's sake. Many companies (in all industries) have invested millions in technology systems that do not support the basic business challenges at hand. Marketers must ensure that their list services firms have the technology systems to support such core direct marketing applications as performing selects and manipulating data. List companies that have invested heavily in technology ultimately pass those costs on to clients. Marketers must be sure that what they are paying for is technologically efficacious, not ostentatious.
Marketers have always contended with tight time constraints. An opportunity arises, and it must be acted on immediately or be lost. Certainly, companies in all industries must respond quickly to short-lived market opportunities. Still, the fast-moving nature of markets, and rapidly shifting buyer behavior patterns, heighten the challenge to marketers.
But time constraints can be mitigated by technology. That is why clients must be comfortable knowing that their list services providers are familiar with existing technologies and know how to deploy them to capitalize on time-sensitive marketing opportunities.
It takes more than knowing what is available. It will be increasingly important that list services professionals have the technological savvy to deliver the solutions that are cost-effective and, most importantly, meet the marketing challenge at hand. It is all about convergence conversancy.