Your Place on the Marketing Timeline

Forging close customer ties takes time. So does development of sophisticated marketing programs. Yet companies often rush into both, mistakenly envisioning an all-or-nothing proposition.

Mass marketing and customer relationship marketing represent distinct stages on a timeline. To succeed, you must understand where your company sits on this timeline.

Generally, marketing programs follow five distinct stages. You cannot achieve your organization’s marketing potential without knowing in which stage your programs reside. Too often, marketing executives buy technology and create business goals to support an ideal that cannot be realized for several years. Their investments cannot deliver ROI, and the executives lose credibility.

Instead, marketing professionals should devote resources to perfecting their existing capabilities and developing needed skills as part of a focused, phased plan to migrate to the next level. Here is an overview of the five stages, accompanied by a list of objectives to help identify your place on the timeline and when you’re ready to take the next step.

Stage 1: Name management. Direct marketing requires managing mountains of data – names and addresses of consumers who move around the country, change preferences and enter new life stages. Clever campaigns to reach these moving targets rely on a never-ending cycle of sourcing, standardizing, cleansing and segmenting consumer and business data.

Though routine, this process is anything but simple. And because it often represents a good chunk of a company’s marketing budget, careful project management becomes crucial. Name management relies on securing proven prospect names, enhancing quality data and using advanced merge/purge functionality and accurate hygiene processes to achieve sound response at the lowest possible costs.

Nearly every marketing program includes direct mail. And for catalogers, publishers and many retailers, direct mail is their lifeblood. Name management comprises the constant effort to improve response rates by managing the vast amounts of data that fuel direct marketing.

Companies are in the name management stage if they seek to:

· Convert prospects into buyers.

· Gain a greater lift in response rates through quality prospect names.

· Rid lists of duplicate names, ensuring an accurately compressed campaign base.

· Match audiences to tailored direct marketing offers.

· Obtain cost savings through data hygiene and postal qualification savings.

Stage 2: Database marketing. With fine-tuned direct marketing processes, marketing communications improve through increased knowledge of consumer activities and preferences over time. A relational database best captures and analyzes such intelligence, explaining why most companies use an active database marketing program.

But a marketing database does not create intelligence automatically. Sound data management processes, such as customer data integration and industry-specific data architecture, must support it. And companies must tap expertise spanning campaign execution, marketing strategy and vertical industry know-how.

Database marketing provides the foundation for more advanced CRM. And nearly every marketing endeavor begins by capturing and storing information accurately in a relational environment to retain and accumulate intelligence. Companies are in the database marketing stage if they seek to:

· Collect, identify and integrate customer information to gain a single, consolidated view at a business-unit level.

· Turn data into action through premier business intelligence and campaign tools.

· Create more meaningful, timely offers through visibility across online and offline marketing activities.

· Boost campaign effectiveness through timely intelligence regarding customer promotions, activities and preferences.

· Let customers get their business questions addressed via online access.

Stage 3: Relationship marketing. To progress from database to relationship marketing, companies must integrate customer and prospect data across all business units and outbound marketing channels. This broadens and improves customer analysis and delivers rich intelligence to marketing and other company divisions.

Through relationship marketing, companies reap substantial improvements. Customer purchases in one business can open a cross-sell opportunity in another. A bedroom purchase from a home store, for example, might trigger a “white sale” promotion from a department store that serves the same geographical customer base.

Visibility into an entire organization’s customer base allows wide adoption of communication preferences. An e-mail opt-out for customers by one business unit likely represents a preference that other divisions should respect. This extended focus on the customer improves satisfaction for the divisions and brands and instills organizational loyalty.

But integrating customer and prospect data across data silos isn’t easy. It requires committing time, resources and executive support through a business’ professional silos: marketing, information technology, finance and the business units themselves. The integrated customer vision that results, however, becomes the cornerstone of any advanced marketing strategy.

Companies are in the relationship marketing stage if they seek to:

· Capitalize on cross-sell opportunities identified through customers’ visibility across business units.

· Understand a customer’s “organizational value” to deliver appropriate service levels.

· Share prospect names across business units to eliminate redundant rental costs.

· Reduce account delinquency, default and fraud by flagging risk management concerns on a central customer repository.

· Strengthen corporate brand and customer loyalty.

Stage 4: CRM-enabled marketing. Many companies pursue relationship marketing. But few have reached the next level, CRM-enabled marketing, which seeks to integrate all front-office customer and prospect touch points. This adds depth to the customer-centric vision used in call centers, on Web sites and by sales and marketing professionals, business leaders and other decision makers.

CRM-enabled marketing gives businesses a source of comprehensive data that makes real-time marketing information relevant. Through access to all touch points, companies can conduct trigger-marketing campaigns and personalized customer interactions. Companies then can support fully the customer intelligence required by call centers, service units and interactive Web sites.

For example, a service request can trigger a follow-up inquiry and prompt a call center representative to reinforce the company’s emphasis on satisfaction. Also, a fully integrated view of the customer better prepares companies to develop and use predictive models and more sophisticated analytics.

CRM-enabled marketing best serves companies that already have built a database management infrastructure, one that provides a persistent and reliable identification of customers and prospects across the organization.

Companies are in the CRM-enabled marketing stage if they seek to:

· Achieve customer-centric vision that includes all front-office customer touch points.

· Leverage advanced analytics and modeling resulting from holistic customer information.

· Conduct personal, service-oriented dialogues that customers find meaningful.

· Increase campaign effectiveness through reduced cycle times, event-based marketing and real-time decision making.

Stage 5: Enterprise CRM. Once CRM capabilities extend to marketing and front-office applications, companies are ready for the real deal: enterprise CRM. This stage captures and shares customer and prospect intelligence with all channels and all front- and back-office systems.

Companies can realize cost efficiencies by integrating back-office systems such as merchandising, inventory management and staff planning into their customer relationship solution. Predictive knowledge of how customers will react to an offer can be used throughout the business cycle, ensuring that necessary products are produced/purchased, inventoried and available through the desired sales channel. Furthermore, informed personnel before and after the sale provide the best company experience possible.

Companies that deploy enterprise CRM will realize near- and long-term financial returns and likely will operate as world-class businesses in their industry. But getting there requires help from systems integrators, marketing service providers and analytical and operational CRM tools providers.

Companies are in the enterprise CRM stage if they seek to:

· Execute a 360-degree customer view throughout the organization to achieve true customer relationship management.

· Drive real-time customer interactions as comprehensive intelligence is leveraged from all channels, front-office and back-office systems.

· Eliminate processing contention between real-time decisioning and high-volume data management.

· Bridge the gap among analytical, marketing and operational CRM through top-tier technology, tool and integration partners.

Use this framework as a guide to maximizing your current marketing capabilities and growing your future. The goal is not to rush forward because everyone else is, but to inject your marketing strategy with sound business sense.

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