CRM Meets Rich Content Management

We have all heard the trite phrase “The Internet changes everything.” To identify changes brought on us by this medium, we must dig beneath the rhetoric and look for subtle changes that defy quick observation.

Though powerful in its own right, the science of database marketing can benefit from the ease of managing and presenting rich content over the Internet (Web and e-mail). But, this benefit has not been fully used because of constraints introduced by the database marketing process itself.

To explore this premise, we must present a framework for understanding the basic marketing interaction. Essentially, this framework should present the right message to the right customer at the right time through the right channel. Supporting this presentation are two standard database marketing components: analysis and process management (campaign management); and tracking and reporting.

While this approach seems obvious, a major change has taken place. The Internet has dramatically reduced the cost of presenting personalized content and has dramatically improved the capability for doing so. However, the techniques for using this medium to benefit from this change have not kept pace.

In the typical direct marketing decision, three factors constrained the presentation of personalized content. First, it was difficult to make the physical machinery of direct mail or telemarketing personalize content individually. Printers, collators and sorters could not personalize the offer very well beyond a few characteristics (“Dear [Last Name]”).

Second, creating lots of personalized content was expensive because it was difficult to reuse over time, primarily because the content was not modular in nature (most creative designs are for the complete piece). Third, managing volumes of this content is a manual process and therefore is almost impossible to scale to the degree necessary to create a personalized presentation.

Because of this, database marketers have trained themselves to conserve content by creating scientifically segmented groups of customers, all of whom could receive the same offer. To database marketers, the first and greatest challenge in a campaign is analysis and segmentation to optimize response rates. This has created a blind spot to the utility of content management systems.

These content management systems have arisen with the emergence of Internet standards such as HTML, HTTP and XML. Their development has lifted the constraints under which database marketers have worked: They manage the publishing work flow, catalog the content and build personalized messages from many content components on the fly (or in batch for e-mail). Not surprisingly, these systems grew out of mass media and publishing, areas that have always had to address these problems. These areas have approached the Internet as a way to create the equivalent of a newspaper’s zoned edition for each customer.

Ironically, no two forms of marketing are more different in philosophy and approach than mass media and database marketing. This is one of the basic reasons database marketers have not fully leveraged rich content management.

Marrying customer relationship management and rich content management has created a tremendous challenge and a tremendous opportunity. The challenge is that what once was a few-to-many relationship between content and customers is now a many-to-many relationship. The opportunity is the ability to analyze both customer attributes and content attributes to create a “moment of personalization” more effective than was previously realized.

The implementation of a content management system with a CRM system is no trivial task. It requires approaching the personalization opportunity from two sides and building a robust mechanism for tracking and refining the process over time. Customer data are typically fielded and related through keys to other customer data. Content is typically unstructured and stand-alone. Mapping them together takes an understanding of the marketing process the content publishing work flow process and the creation and presentation of individualized Web content in real time and batch. These disciplines are not traditionally found in the same organization.

Database marketers will have to embrace rich content management as a critical part of the personalization equation and modify the process of creating campaigns to fully leverage the power of individual zoned editions.

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