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Four key steps for improving one-to-one marketing

24th Mar 2009
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The Holy Grail of marketing is to pinpoint the individual customer so precisely that they feel they are being offered a service rather than a sell. Marcel Holsheimer gives his tips on how technology can enhance this.

Marcel Holsheimer, Unica

By Marcel Holsheimer, Unica

Marketers are taking a pragmatic view of the recession as customer anxiety and cutbacks, along with slow, complex selling cycles and reduced consumer spending are becoming forces to be reckoned with. However, research shows that online marketing continues to dominate the agenda, so marketers increasingly need to find new ways to optimise their online and offline activities.

The holy grail of marketing is, as it has always been, to pinpoint the individual customer so precisely that he or she feels as though they are being offered a service rather than a sell. When budgets are under pressure, the range of activities will be limited, so a much greater focus will be placed on the retention and development of existing customers.

To do this effectively, high-value customers must be singled out, along with those with the greatest potential for upselling. Such one-to-one marketing has traditionally been difficult to achieve - segmentation can be expensive and last year's data will be of less value if a significant percentage of the people in the database have suffered a change in employment status.

The good news is that marketing technology has advanced to make it easier to make this vision of one-to-one marketing a reality, without the necessity of spending time and money on new research. Four key areas can be addressed by these technological advances and forward-looking marketers may find among them some ways in which they can turbo-charge their existing resources.

Targeting is of course the most critical component in one-to-one marketing as it is essential to identify, distinguish and reach customers effectively. Rather than re-populating your database, you can now use software to build a picture of a customer by drawing on data in various formats and from different locations and channels throughout the organisation. Integration with popular data mining tools makes it possible to perform complex customer analysis, segmentation, and profiling, while detailed browsing behavior from a website gives a view of the needs and preferences of an individual customer:

Messaging is the hook that captivates a customer's attention. If the marketing message is not relevant it won't garner a second glance. With the right technology, you can now customise a message's text, graphics, products and incentives at an individual level. Personalisation is taken to new heights when thousands of different offers can be based on customer attributes and business rules.

Additionally, messages within a particular communication vehicle may be tailored. For example, email or newspaper circulars may contain numerous sections of content that are personalised for an individual. These may be based on his or her preferences, product purchases, or recent life events, such as a new property purchase or the birth of a child. Marketing technology not only enables this but makes it possible to track responses personalised content as well as to the offer in its entirety. This analysis allows marketers to measure the performance and effectiveness of every marketing message.

Timing is everything. It is now possible to pinpoint more closely than ever the right moment to send a communication to a customer. The analysis of customer behaviour and events means that marketers can detect when customers are likely to be most receptive to a contact regarding a new offer, or indeed when contact is required urgently because there is a risk of losing them. Not only can technology be used to monitor obvious risk points, such as the approach to an expiry date or a change in address, but it can also be used to analyse unusual patterns in customer behaviour.

In this way, valid reasons to contact customers can be identified and marketing staff provided with opportunities to provide advice, new offers, and to prevent customer loss. By signalling when a customer is most likely to respond to a communication, this technology (known as event detection) can increase cross-sell opportunities and improve customer satisfaction.

Personalised messages
Delivering personalised messages whenever a customer connects with a company is powerful. If the customer feels that the contact with your organisation is not just a one-way process, their receptiveness to your messages will increase greatly. Today's enterprise marketing technology allows marketers to bring together all forms of marketing communications from scheduled campaigns, event-driven programmes, and real-time conversations with customers across multiple channels – from electronic and print to face-to-face and telephone.

A coordinated approach makes it easy for marketers to reach individual customers at the right time with the best offer on their preferred channel. Such an integrated approach not only builds loyalty but brings immediate benefits in terms of response rate and return on investment..

Success in 2009 and onwards is all about making the best use of limited resources. While it is widely accepted that companies should market harder in a recession to be better placed for the economic recovery, not all chief executives have the means or the conviction to follow this through in the form of increased budget allocations to the marketing department.

The marketers who can truly get to know their customers will find that the framework they put in place will serve two purposes: not only will it maintain and develop their existing customer base now, but it will also be fundamental to growth when the economic climate becomes more rosy.

Marcel Holsheimer is vice president of marketing at Unica EMEA


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