CRM 'At the Highest Level'

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LifeWay Christian Stores needed to rely on more than prayer if it wanted to improve its marketing efforts. The company sells religious books, music, and videos to individuals and churches and was using RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) analysis scores to drive its direct mail campaigns by measuring how often customers buy and how much they spend. But the processes and technologies it had in place were too labor-intensive, according to Bill Nielson, vice president of merchandise and marketing for LifeWay. "We were not achieving the response rates and business results I knew were possible," Nielson says. "Our goals were to make customer information available to the average marketing practitioner for analysis, marketing, and ROI measurement and improve response rates by a minimum of 1 percent." Long-term goals included having greater insights into customer segmentations to improve interactions and develop and enhance loyalty programs. Also, the company had laid out "aggressive" goals, looking for the investment to pay off in the first year, according to Nielson. When evaluating solutions, LifeWay underwent an extensive RFP process involving 16 potential vendors and finally chose Epiphany Campaign Management, which became SSA Outbound Marketing after SSA Global acquired Epiphany in 2005. The implementation took about 16 weeks. Originally, LifeWay planned to run the application with its legacy system for an extended period of time, but because the implementation went so smoothly, that was only necessary for two months. Short implementation time is one of the biggest attraction points, according to Pradeep Amladi, director of CRM solutions for SSA Global, and formerly with Epiphany. If the process takes longer, the fault lies not in the complexity of the solution but in the allocation of resources, he says. "We exceeded our short-term goals starting the very first month. Response rates were up immediately and what used to take weeks was now done in hours or minutes," Nielson says. "Management was able to see immediate metrics and reports with little or no effort. Moreover, we were able to achieve our desired segmentation and loyalty improvements in the very first year. Most impressive of all was how the solution paid for itself in less than 12 months." The company saw a $2 million lift in sales in the first quarter of implementation. In the past year, during its first round of product direct mail campaigns it saw a 400 percent lift in average response rates with a high of 30 percent on some mailings, achieved its annual goal in 12 weeks, increased direct mail response rates by 25 percent, and drove 119,000 incremental visits into stores. As a religious organization, LifeWay's vision is to provide biblical products that can spiritually transform individuals and cultures. "Our customers are the reason for our existence. Knowing our customers, not just knowing about them, and meeting their expressed, unexpressed, and unknown needs is essential to achieving our overall vision," Nielson says. "SSA is helping us make this vision come true. At the highest level, this is the best advantage." The Payoff By using SSA Global's core CRM tools, LifeWay Christian Stores:
  • saw a 400 percent lift in average response rates with a high of 30 percent on some mailings;
  • increased sales by $2 million in the first quarter of implementation; and
  • drove 119,000 incremental visits to stores.
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