Making the Most of Marketing Money

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Shutterfly’s mission really resonates with me for a number of reasons. First, I’ve always been a big photo person, and as proof of that, both my home and work spaces are adorned with framed prints, photo books, calendars, mugs, and many other photo products that capture favorite memories with family and friends. Second, I feel our mission ties extremely closely to how I think about the ultimate goal of CRM, which is to build deeper relationships with customers.

What does CRM marketing encompass for Shutterfly?

True CRM encompasses more than just the set of marketing channels that interact with the customer. It spans all customer-facing teams, whether they fall within marketing or not. CRM at Shutterfly requires a ton of thoughtful collaboration across all of these customer-facing teams to ensure customers receive a coordinated, seamless experience no matter how they choose to interact with us.

There are four elements to how we approach CRM. It starts with having shared customer-focused goals across teams to ensure we’re all striving for the same outcomes. Second, it entails making sure we all have access to key data about customers and, more importantly, making sure we’re aligned on what that data is actually telling us about each customer. Third, it requires we coordinate our proactive and reactive customer interaction strategies across channels. And lastly, it requires collecting, sharing, and interpreting results data to ensure we’re aligned on the best path forward.

What distinguishes your CRM marketing program?

First, we think about CRM in a broad way. I know some companies think of CRM as limited to the marketing function—or even a specific channel within marketing. We think about CRM as spanning all customer-facing channels. And even though we are an online business, that doesn’t preclude us from interacting with customers via offline methods, like direct mail or more traditional channels.

Second, we’re extremely data-driven. Being an online consumer-facing business provides a huge advantage in that it allows us to collect large amounts of customer data, particularly behavioral data. We then use that data to glean insights that point us toward how to best engage with customers in the future. Additionally, our customer data set includes knowing which photos are most important to each customer; we can then use that information to market to these customers in very personalized and compelling ways by providing recommendations on how to best use their photos in our products.

Third, we have a heavy test-and-learn mentality. It’s in our DNA to continue to experiment with new approaches in a thoughtful way that allows us to ascertain whether these approaches are successful. It requires us to build in time for testing before we go full bore with new initiatives, but that extra time gives us a much higher degree of confidence that we’re evolving in the right way.

Lastly, we have a very talented team that is extremely seasoned in CRM and always ensures the customer point of view is factored into the decisions we make.

Can you talk about some of your greatest successes at Shutterfly?

In recent years, we have done a much better job of being relevant to the customer across all channels. We’re leaning more into marketing segmentation and one-to-one personalization, and that has resulted in an ability to engage the customer to a greater degree than ever before.

Second, despite a massive increase in competitive marketing over the past few years, we have continually grown the output of each of these programs. This is in part due to making greater strides in being more relevant to the consumer.

Third, our CRM organization’s mind-set—extremely data-driven and a strong test-and-learn mentality—has become much more pervasive over time, which I see as a major cultural achievement.

Lastly, the success of the CRM organization has in large part been due to our ability to effectively hire and retain a talented group of CRM experts. Given the competitive hiring environment in Northern California and Silicon Valley, my direct reports and I have worked extremely diligently to ensure our team members are continually provided career growth opportunities and are receiving effective mentoring along the way. We’ve actually retained nearly 100 percent of the team over the past two years, which has allowed us to stay focused on our strategic CRM initiatives instead of having to divert time recruiting replacements.

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