From the growing regulation of telemarketing to the fear of anthrax-contaminated mail, direct marketers are swimming into uncharted waters. New mail formats, e-mail promotion, alternative media — everyone is looking at ways to get the job done in challenging times.
Yet, even as events propel us to new marketing channels, the need remains to ensure appropriate processes, operations and measurement techniques are in place. Simply put, you want results without the headaches frequently associated with entering a new medium.
As you swim into a new channel, use a simple approach called the “e-process” — four progressive steps to establish, examine, evaluate and ensure your marketing goals. By applying such an upfront approach, the e-process greatly increases your chance of success in the new channel.
Establish your channel strategy. Take a brief step back and examine what you are currently doing with your existing channels, such as direct mail, telemarketing, etc. Right now, you probably have direct mail campaigns that include multiple response mechanisms, such as business reply and inbound teleservices.
Most likely you have integrated the teleservices response mechanism completely into the overall campaign process. As the direct mail campaign is kicked off, there are teleservices activities (e.g., developing scripts) that must be completed and coordinated with the direct mail activities.
This integration concept applies to additional channels. For example, take a typical credit card issuer. Right now, the company sends its direct mail kits regularly via an existing and mature campaign process. Inbound teleservices are used in fielding response calls and signing up customers for new credit cards.
If the credit card company also wishes to use the Internet in its acquisition efforts, questions need to be answered. Should the new customers be sent an e-mail in addition to a direct mail kit? If so, when should the e-mail arrive? Should it have a link to a response Web page? Should that response Web page have the same look and feel as the direct mail kit? How do you ensure that the offer pricing, terms and conditions that are listed on the Web site match the direct mail kit?
The answers to these questions, among others, comprise your overall strategy for your marketing channels — how to use the channels, how to respect the fundamental differences among the media, and how the channels interrelate.
Examine and refine your campaign process and timeline. This tends to be the most difficult aspect. As you add new channels, your existing campaign process and timeline should change to address new activities that are required to support the channels.
Returning to the example, say the credit card company has decided simply to list a Web address on the direct mail kits. A prospect can respond to the mailing and sign up for the credit card simply by going to a Web page and entering a particular response code. Obviously, there is creative development involved in the components that are placed on the Web pages, e.g., banners, graphics, text, etc. The development of these online creative components must be addressed in the overall campaign process – similar, but different, to how the direct mail creative components are developed.
The overall architecture of your Web site also implies changes to your process and timeline. If the credit card company uses one standard generic structure for the response Web page, then the necessary creative will need to be developed and loaded into an appropriate database that can be accessed by the online application. If, however, the site has separate Web response pages for each type of offer, then each and every campaign will require redevelopment of those pages.
Evaluate data needs and refine existing tools. Another question that arises is how to tie the correct creative online to the appropriate offer for a specific prospect. This is typically done by some campaign specification document. This document outlines all the particulars for the campaign including the different offers that are being marketed, the pricing, terms, etc. The document also identifies which creative version is used for each individual population segment.
As the Internet channel is added, this specification document will need to be expanded to allow the specification of the proper online creative components as well. Each banner, button, graphic, text box, etc., will need to be uniquely identified, typically by some coding scheme. The codes associated with the creative components also must be included in the specification document to ensure the correct creatives go with the proper offers.
Ensure multichannel quality checks are in place. Most importantly, someone needs to double-check the specifications for accuracy because one tiny error can affect thousands, if not millions, of customers.
The details of the mailed piece — offer price, terms, etc. — must match what a prospect also sees on the Web page, if there is an Internet option. The glue that holds all of this together is the campaign specifications document. If an incorrect creative code is entered upfront, your prospect will be confused when the online screen does not match the associated mailing. Regulatory agencies may even take notice if this happens since marketing channel content must adhere to numerous requirements. One example of this is new legislation that affects pricing disclosures for Internet offers versus direct mail offers.
Additional quality checks also must be put in place that did not exist before. Once the Web site is built, the details pertaining to the direct mail kits should be compared with the actual Web pages that are developed prior to releasing the pages to the public for response. The first quality check described here deals with the data, but this quality check deals with the physical components, which may be different, that are actually put out there on the Web pages.
It is possible to have all of the information listed correctly in the specifications document, but then have human error enter the picture when physically building the Web pages and links. Now, multiply this whole scenario by 14 different versions of the creative that are tailored to individual population segments.
Current events require that we all move quickly to meet new challenges. However, setting the right plan in place upfront — and ensuring it is well executed — just might make the difference between those who sink and those who swim.