Better Info Leads to Better Campaigns

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Five years ago SLM Corp., commonly known as Sallie Mae and the nation's largest provider of education credit and related services, was primarily a student loan wholesaler that worked through banks and other financial institutions. But when top management changed earlier this decade, executives started branching out to other services, including other types of lending to service the retail customer, says Keanan Hertz, Sallie Mae director of CRM and market intelligence. To service this new market, the lender needed more detailed information about the end customers of its credit and other products, Hertz says. "We needed an analytical tool to help us answer questions about our customers," Hertz explains. "We needed better information so that we could have a better penetration in the market, better marketing, and better strategic planning." Sallie Mae officials began to look at offerings from a few different companies, including SPSS and SAS. Similar products from competitors were more cumbersome and more expensive, according to Hertz. "We wanted to take baby steps before we took leaps," Hertz explains. "SAS is for larger corporations." SPSS was easy to implement and learn, with very little training necessary, according to Hertz. When Sallie Mae started with the application, Hertz had only one other person in his department. He and his staff were able to do all the reporting and analysis management wanted from the SPSS technology with little other in-house support. "We've been able to quadruple our workload without adding to the staff." They chose SPSS's Clementine enterprise data-mining workbench, because they could add functionality as necessary, getting comfortable with one module before adding another. Since installing the main product, Sallie Mae has added Text Mining for Clementine and Netgenesis Web. Clementine's interactive streams visually map the data- mining business process, enabling Hertz to quickly explore hunches or ideas and develop various business models. Text Mining for Clementine enables Sallie Mae to extract key concepts, sentiments, and relationships from this unstructured data, and convert them to a structured format for predictive modeling with Clementine. The application uses LexiQuest linguistic extraction technology to access and process unstructured data. After extracting the key concepts from the text, the text-mining function classifies, clusters, and models them. Netgenesis Web works much the same way for Web data. "SPSS provides us quick and simple tools for analysis and presentation," Hertz says. "It greatly simplifies our workflow, it allows for easy automation of repetitive tasks, and helps us uncover insights into our data that were previously hidden. It improves profitability of our products and helps identify ways we can decrease servicing costs." "We were able to create highly effective results for senior management, which ultimately led to saving my own sanity and [that of] my team, which is responsible for direct-to-consumer marketing," Hertz adds. (His team is responsible for sending out 10 million to 12 million emails per month, representing 40 to 60 different email campaigns, and about 75 ad hoc report requests every 30 days.) SPSS Model Manager helps by providing an integrated way to organize, find, and reuse predictive models. It would be haphazard at best and impossible at worst to track the results of these campaigns without the SPSS software, according to Hertz. "Model Manager helps maintain what we do and how we are doing it." The other modules and the underlying Clementine software help Sallie Mae determine the effectiveness of the email and other campaigns, Hertz adds. For example, Hertz can send out two different solicitations. With previous technology, the statistical information would be put into a Power Point presentation to show the relative effectiveness of each. But analyzing data this way was labor intensive because the information needed to be manually entered and there wasn't very good detail about the relative effectiveness of the campaigns. The SPSS software enables the information to be presented more quickly and provide a better analysis than the traditional Power Point, according to Hertz. The Payoff Since installing Clementine and subsequent Clementine modules from SPSS, Sallie Mae has been able to:
  • quadruple workload without adding to the staff;
  • get better comparative information on marketing campaigns; and
  • recover the cost of the implementation with the first marketing campaign.
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