Prospect Relationship Management Is Crucial to Web Marketing, Yahoo Exec Says

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Jerry Shereshewsky of Yahoo told nearly 350 direct marketers yesterday at the New England Mail Order Association's annual spring conference here that they need to substitute the word “prospect” for “customer” and use the Internet to focus on PRM — prospect relationship management.

Building a relationship with a customer is just like building a long-term relationship with anyone, Shereshewsky said. Therefore, marketers should think of prospecting in terms of dating.

“You have to go on a lot of dates. You can't just ask the first person you meet to marry you,” Shereshewsky said.

The Web allows marketers to ask, “What's wrong?” and append their data accordingly if any or all of their criteria are not met.

The Internet now works on three basic principles, he said:

• It's persistent. It's always on, and it works when everyone else works.

• It's ubiquitous.

• It relies on interconnectivity, allowing everything and everyone to talk to everything and everyone else.

Unlike marketing of the past, which was remote and unaccountable, marketing of tomorrow will be intimate, immediate and entirely accountable, Shereshewsky said. In order for direct marketers to make money on the Web, “marketing and sales [will have to] become the same thing,” he said.

Finally, he said the future of catalogs is “huge,” since they represent “a physical thing” that customers can keep on the coffee table and refer to repeatedly.

The same goes for retailers. The goal for marketers should be to allow customers to use whatever channel they want to get what they want, whenever they want it. Web marketers also should expect customers to download information from the Web — if it is information they care about.

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