Push and pull for positive results

“So how is your company shifting, or even taking advantage of the current economy?” Amy Deveau asked the table of the Professional Insurance Marketing Association (PIMA) MarkeTTech attendees.

The question caused a few to stop. After all, most feel that they are limited to two choices: increase revenue or cut costs. Jim Fisher, president of IdeaStar, offered up his response: “We are focusing our energy on our most profitable segments.”

Amy then offered her answer. “We are aggressively investing in technology that offers greater customization for our customers’ communication. It has to be relevant, cost effective and fast.” She expanded on the approach, discussing the various technologies that her firm is buying or building in to achieve the mission.

If you weren’t surprised to hear that Amy’s firm is investing during the downturn, this fact might surprise you: Amy is the VP of sales for a printing communication and distribution company. Yes, printing. Freedom Graphic Systems literally produces 6 billion pieces every year, and it is Amy’s mission to make every piece as personal as possible.

That night, I thought a lot about her goal. Rather than be rendered obsolete, her firm is investing in technologies that will make a piece of direct mail as customized as a dynamic landing page from a search query. And, while the search is targeted response to a consumer pull, it is hard to argue that advanced data mining, coupled with Amy’s technology, would not make for a compelling offer.

“Could it be that push and pull marketing are more harmonious than the typical tug-o-war frequently described by online marketers?” I thought.

The media gods must have heard me, for not a second later a news program profiled Verint, a firm that adds a technology layer to perhaps the most offline of offline channels: the retail store. While we are all very accustomed to cameras for security purposes, Verint uses the same technology for what it calls ”workforce optimization.” In the case of retail stores, this means observing in store consumer behavior and optimizing the timing and type of interaction. This might mean sending a customer service rep over to a customer that picks up and evaluates two products, or approaching a customer that spends a certain amount of time in a particular aisle without picking up a product at all.

The next day I shared these thoughts with a few attendees over coffee. Being in the insurance industry, they invest equally in print and online. Furthermore, it was refreshing to hear that the approach is integrated; it is beyond them to suggest that one could do well without the other. 

Stephanie D’Amico of digital marketing firm SourceLink filled me in on PURLs, or Personal URLs with the customer’s name in it, one of the more popular tactics the industry utilizes to bring pull aspects to a push medium.

Not only does a PURL allow for a more personal piece of direct mail and a customized landing page, but it is a unique approach to tracking. In the insurance category, where customers might be reluctant to complete a form online, a PURL allows the marketer to track interaction with the website, and ultimately, ROI.  Be it offline, online, push or pull, Stephanie summed it up wisely, “Personalized execution always results in more conversions.” 

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