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Warming customers with integrated marketing campaigns

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5th Oct 2009
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Cold calling is one way to win more business but marketers know that customers are far more likely to warm to an offer if it’s personalised and relevant to them - and even more so if such offers are made in a consistent way, across multiple channels, during both inbound and outbound interactions. 

If your company already practices inbound as well as outbound marketing then give yourself a pat on the back. A targeted offer presented during a customer-initiated or inbound contact via the web, call centre, point-of-sale or ATM is 2-3 times as likely to be taken up than an offer made via targeted outbound campaigns – and according to various analysts, around 15 times more likely than with untargeted outbound campaigns.

But if you really want to optimise your marketing spend and the returns from your campaigns, you’re going to need to integrate inbound and outbound activities across multiple channels. Doing so is critical to ensure that offers you make to customers are always consistent, personalised and relevant.

Missing the mark

In reality, the offers companies make to their customers via different channels typically lack consistency. This is because most companies lack an holistic view of the relationship with a particular customer. Customer intelligence isn’t automatically and in real-time propagated between channels and campaign automation systems.

Even those companies that counter this statement and say their campaigns are in fact personalised are almost certainly referring only to outbound campaigns generated offline. Few companies are able to handle real-time inbound dialogues in a way that ensures that offers made are both personalised and consistent with outbound activities.

This is because, for inbound, few companies have real-time access to an up-to-the minute single customer view – one comprising cross-channel inbound/outbound offer history, complete interaction history, demographics, sociographics, expressed and preferred interaction behaviours. Instead, for inbound marketing campaigns, companies often use very basic pre-defined business/marketing rules to determine offers: cross-sell, up-sell and rather hit and miss ‘latest offer’ pushes.

A cold shoulder

In other cases, inbound campaigns are way too simple in conception and fail to take full advantage of the opportunity to hook the customer. For example, many cross-sell and up-sell inbound campaigns are reasonable enough, but are simply linked to the product the customer is showing immediate interest in. Or inbound operations might push one of a very limited set of offers to every caller or visitor, perhaps made just a little more targeted by first seeking qualification of a couple basic business/marketing rules (e.g. age, location).

Such examples are missing more valuable interaction opportunities, such as recommendations based on the broader interests the customer has expressed or implied over the total relationship. Being ignorant of customer intelligence and offer history held elsewhere in the organisation delivers an offer dialogue that’s far from optimal, perhaps missing the mark completely.

Irrelevant offers waste contact opportunities and can be annoying for the customer. Imagine being offered products you have already purchased or have turned down previously, albeit via another channel. Or perhaps you were offered the same item at a different price via another channel or have received the same offer four times already this month - a big brand turn-off and guaranteed to get the cold shoulder!

Slow to change

Increasing numbers of marketing directors have now recognised that service excellence as well as an optimised return on investment requires that offers should be both personalised and unified across channels, inbound and outbound, to present relevant, consistent, coordinated and synergistic campaign interactions.

But despite the increasing awareness of marketers of this better place, brands have been slow to change. Relatively few marketing directors can truly claim to have achieved unified inbound/outbound interaction.

Many continue to run inbound and outbound separately, each channel as a silo – perhaps because culturally and physically their marketing departments are structured that way. But they have also been slow to change because they have used single point solutions for campaign delivery since the supporting technology for interaction unification has not really been there for them. That is, until now.

Optimising interactions

The effective unification of inbound/outbound campaigns requires marketing automation software that’s capable of building and accessing a cross-channel, single customer view, as well as both outbound and inbound offers made to the customer and their responses. The software then has to be able to evaluate a database of perhaps hundreds of current offer possibilities and select and present relevant ones in ‘real-time’ during the inbound customer interaction.

It also has to select from and interface with outbound channels to deliver timely, personalised follow-up offers - for example, an offer by email or in next day’s post as a follow-up to contacting the call centre or browsing the web site.

Driven by demand from marketers who want to do better, marketing automation technology has moved on. Today, more advanced cross-channel solutions use sophisticated analytics to evaluate what can amount to hundreds of marketing rules to determine which offers the customer is eligible for, selecting those that appear relevant to the customer based on a cross-channel, single view of the customer and previous campaigns, and presenting them at an optimised frequency - not so often as to annoy the customer but often enough to best tempt take up.

It’s worth noting though that while many are actually restricted to coordinating campaigns just in outbound channels, the very latest systems extend to allow the real-time integration of both outbound and inbound communications, allowing interactions to be optimised for all of the customer and campaign intelligence the business holds.

Choose automation wisely

Marketing automation solutions that are able to unify inbound and outbound campaigns in real-time are typically based on a single platform, use a single database to serve all channels and offer the further advantage of a single style of user interface, irrespective of campaign channel.

But not all that are marketed as ‘integrated’ solutions offer quite the same degree of unification. Some are simply a bundle of separately conceived, often acquired applications that have been knitted together - ‘Frankensteinware’ requiring complex and risky technical integrations to deliver on vendors’ multi-channel marketing claims.

Often they present multiple user interfaces and use separate databases per channel and so simply create more silos. These weaker solutions typically exchange data only offline and, therefore, create campaigns that cannot take account of interactions rapidly enough to either ensure immediacy in real-time interactions or generate follow-up offline communications in a timely enough manner to catch the customer ‘still warm.’

Ultimately, marketing directors recognising the potential of unified marketing campaigns still face the challenge of confronting existing, often rigidly separate channel marketing processes and department cultures. But at least now the technology with the potential to unify and optimise inbound and outbound campaigns is out there to support that change.

Francois Laxalt is marketing innovation manager at Neolane.

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