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Recession-Busting Marketing
Customer retention in four easy steps.
Posted May 4, 2009
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Slashed budgets. Reduced staff. Increased pressure to deliver results. This economy is bleak and companies are working to do more with less.

Though difficult to endure, this economy presents an opportunity for companies to look for ways to work smarter. Companies are cutting budgets, streamlining workflows, and eliminating inefficiencies in every aspect of their businesses. For marketing, the mandate is great, yet singular in focus-keep the customers we have.

The marketing department is being tasked with the job of keeping the most valued customers and delivering value to those customers through more relevant cross-sell and service, all within the confines of reduced budgets and resources. In this economy where companies are experiencing declining campaign response rates, customers opting out of marketing programs, aggressive competition and increased consumer skepticism, is it possible for marketing to have a positive impact and meet management's expectations?

Marketers need to break away from traditional thinking in order to accomplish these goals with fewer resources. The art of marketing is evolving into more of a data driven science firmly based in business principles.

Creating a solid foundation is the first step toward meeting recessionary marketing goals.

Step 1: Get analytical

Marketers need to take a new, honest look at their current programs and processes. What is really working in today's marketing campaigns? What is not? The answers are critical in order to identify which aspects of a marketing program are delivering the true ROI. To do this, marketers must apply analytics as a critical lens and first step toward eliminating inefficiencies and processes that are not working and separating them from the rest.

Emotion and sentiment must be set aside. By identifying what actually works best, and then allocating reduced budgets to those most productive assets, organizations can take the very first critical step to weathering the storm. Best-in-class companies are also deploying predictive analytics to target their campaigns for still better results.

Step 2: Get automated

Cutting program waste is only part of the solution. Marketers next must face the reality that, in nearly all cases, they now have notably fewer budget, staffing, and other resources with which to execute campaigns. Yet there is still a job to be done. To rise to this challenge, organizations must get more efficient in their processes and reduce variability in their execution, getting automated to streamline workflows, remove waste and free up valuable resources.

The latest generation of marketing campaign management systems allows marketers to work with the ease of an iPod and deliver these critical efficiencies and automation to the program. However, as best-in-class companies have learned, there is a caution here-there is no benefit to automating processes that are not working to begin with. This can be counterproductive and even detrimental to ROI. To that end, it is critical to always complete the analytics described in Step 1 before moving on to the process of automating tasks.

Step 3: Get customer-centric

Individual customers are the key to an organization's ability to survive, and even thrive, during this recession. Organizations must make the move from the batch oriented, mass-marketing campaigns from the past to a practice that focuses upon truly individualized action. No longer is it acceptable to blast volumes of email toward customers at a time that is convenient for your company. Instead, recession-busting marketing requires that the individual customer's needs be placed paramount, and that communications be crafted around the individual, rather than a population.

This means talking when your customers want to be talked to, at a time that is most relevant to them as individuals. To this end, marketers must focus upon defining and automating best practices for the customer lifecycle (such as on-boarding and cross-selling), and then deploy at the individual level so that no customer falls through the cracks. The use of new "event triggered marketing" techniques is one of the easiest and most critical ways your organization can achieve this individualized action.

Step 4: Get engaged

In an era of choices, customers can easily move from one provider to the next in order to secure what they believe to be the best service, price, or product, so building an engaged relationship with your customer is the top goal. To do this, organizations need to take a step back and reach out to their customers not solely via low cost outbound channels such as email or direct mail, but instead ready their message via the engagement channels where and when the customer is actively reaching out to business.

In these inbound engagement channels, such as call centers, branches, IVR, kiosks, and Web sites, companies can now deploy real-time decisioning technology behind their existing customer-facing systems to help them offer up the most relevant message or offer, for each individual customer at the moment of interaction. The result is not only improved customer retention; this new method of engaged "inbound marketing" has been shown to produce response rates 10-15 times higher than those achievable via outbound marketing.

The current economic crisis has clearly changed the way companies do business. However, for those marketers who face this challenge head on, and deploy these four best practices, the promise for the future can be ultimately bright.

About the Author

Jeff Nicholson is the vice president of product marketing at Portrait Software, a provider of analytics, campaign management, and business process integration solutions. For more information, go to www.portraitsoftware.com.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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