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Why a Good Marketing Experience Can Never Be Too Personal:
How to Communicate with Millions One by One


Customer-facing communications have long been used as a way for companies to reinforce their brand and drive key messaging. They also provide organizations with an opportunity to solidify customer relationships and enhance the customer experience. However, most customer communications efforts fall short of delivering any real value as organizations continue to deliver messages that speak to an audience of “many” rather than to an audience of one level that customers expect.

Companies spend millions of dollars annually producing and distributing documents and customer facing communications that fail to capitalize on what they know about their customers. Not only is this practice a terrible waste of money and effort but also a direct hit to the bottom line as a recent study shows that two-thirds of customers who end a company relationship do so because they feel unknown or unwanted. Conversely, customers who feel nurtured and connected to their vendors are more likely to remain customers and recommend the company to others.

To maintain a competitive edge, companies must move from generalized information to highly personalized and relevant documents. After all, studies show that customers spend double the time reading documents when they perceive them to be personal and clear. Given today’s competitive economic climate, there is simply no reason not to communicate with customers in a personalized manner – regardless of whether they have five hundred customers or five million.

Banking on Personalized Marketing
The benefits of personalized communications can be demonstrated by Handelsbanken, a full-service universal bank with offices across Europe. Like enterprise organizations across other industries, banks face the challenge of offering their customers personalized, differentiated and tailored information across a variety of mediums. While financial service institutions have been ahead of other industries in terms of delivering more effective communications, surveys show, there is still a lot to be done. According to a February 2007 research study from Nutshell Research, almost nine out of 10 (88%) of all bank customers state that they continuously receive service offers that are irrelevant to them.

As a leading provider of financial services, with more than 450 offices in Sweden alone, Handelsbanken wanted to maintain their leading position in the market. Handelsbanken implemented a dynamic document composition, management and delivery solution to improve the customer experience for its growing customer base. The system enabled the bank to create all customer-facing communications such as customer letters, account statements and invoice. Sounds like an easy proposition but as any marketer can attest it’s actually quite difficult. For instance, Handelsbanken had all the relevant information for each customer in its IT systems but they did not use it appropriately because they – like many companies - saw the technology as a barrier. By implementing a dynamic publishing system, Handelsbanken streamlined its business processes and consolidated information from systems that were isolated from one another, enabling them to successfully streamline, consolidate, and personalize information and dynamically deliver relevant customer communications.

Another benefit of the system is that Handelsbanken administrators could easily create documents -- complete with attractive designs and tailored content – without being forced to call on assistance from their IT department. Finally, bank customers were able to choose the method they would like to receive the communication in – be it electronically via the Internet or as paper document sent in the mail. For those that opted for postal mailings, Handelsbanken was able to implement multiple communications in a single mailing to consolidate communications and save money. In the long term, Handelsbanken’s investment helped the bank save paper, reduce its impact on the environment, and reduce postal costs. Most of all, it helped them retain its position as the bank with the most satisfied customers according to satisfaction surveys.

Transforming Documents into Marketing Opportunities
Analyst firm IDC coined the phrase “Dynamic Enterprise Publishing (DEP)” while Forrester, Gartner and Madison refer to this process as TransPromo (Trans-Promotional Marketing). Regardless of what it is called all agree that its value lies in its ability to transform transactional documents into personalized marketing channels. Even with millions of customers, businesses can easily control and personalize the content of each document simply by applying business rules at the onset. Based on a customer’s profile and the specifics of a particular document, companies can quickly and easily include additional relevant information – either embedded directly in the document or included as a separate insert. For example, a bank may offer one customer a more attractive rate; the next a suggested upgrade or cross- sell option based on account history, and the third a reminder of renewals or offer expirations. The possible combinations are endless and easily achieved with a sold technology foundation.

TransPromo or DEP solutions can play a significant role in improving the customer’s call center experience by providing call center reps with a duplicate image of the documents a customer receives. This allows the customer service rep to get to the point much faster and minimizes the possibility of confusion – both important factors in customer satisfaction. From the business’ point of view, every customer service call can also be turned into a sales opportunity. With documents in hand, the rep can see cross-sell, up-sell, and new sales opportunities to offer during the conversation.

But can this type of system really make a difference to a company’s bottom-line? It certainly can. Using the financial services industry as an example, one study showed that almost one in three (32%) customers say they would buy more if they received personalized recommendations yet nearly two-thirds of branch employees said they don’t have an integrated point of view of their client. Without a clear and accurate view, employees have no idea what they could be selling next.

Leveraging a browser-based environment, document composition, management and delivery solutions allow business managers to take direct control over marketing and other messages that are presented online. In addition, these messages can be dynamically included in documents based on specific customer information, transforming static documents into one-to-one marketing channels and communications that are more personalized and advantageous for both businesses and the customer. It also enables business managers to respond to immediate opportunities and develop, test and modify communications in real time– rather than relying on the already taxed IT department to implement their ideas.

The capabilities are endless and can be applicable to a number of industries. In a retail setting, the system can be used to adjust pricing or to offer incentives to move inventory in real time. While in a financial setting, it can be used to promote a loan for a hybrid auto if gasoline prices spike instead of the planned SUV push.

Ensuring Great Customer Service …and much more along the way
Organizations can also benefit for the ability to personalize its marketing efforts. That was the case for CZ, a non-profit provider of health insurance for 615,000 citizens of Southwest Holland. In 2002, CZ implemented a dynamic document composition, management and delivery solution to improve communications with customers through its call center, web self-service capabilities and traditional mailings. As a result, call center representatives are now able to easily trace and retrieve documents to answer customer inquiries. Agents can view documents exactly as they appear to their customers, thereby eliminating confusion, improving customer service, and giving agents complete information appropriate sales opportunities.

The solution has expanded CZ’s ebusiness initiatives as well. Today, potential customers can apply for insurance online in just a few minutes, compared to traditional wait times of up to two weeks. Today, customers email completed insurance applications to CZ rather than hand delivering and mailing applications. This allows CZ to process the applications automatically and return a personalized approval form via email so once customers acknowledge receipt, they are automatically insured.

CZ also leverages its document solution to consolidate traditional mailings, providing better customer service and achieving a ninety percent greater efficiency from time savings and fewer mailings supplies. In the long term, the benefits of personalized marketing go beyond the customer. While customer service is always at the forefront, CZ has achieved results in almost every area of its business - with one statistic summing up the change. Although CZ is smaller than seventy five percent of its competitors, it has been rated number one of the three most cost efficient insurance companies in Holland over the last three years.

In addition to the significant cost savings, CZ has also been able to reduce its paper usage by sixty percent or about six million sheets annually. Because all of the information is accessible digitally, CZ has eliminated the daily generation, printing and distribution of documents and as a result has saved $100,000 USD annually through reduced printing costs. CZ has a goal of providing customers with claim checks within 14 days of settlement. Prior to implementing their solution, this goal was achieved 50 percent of the time. Today, CZ meets its two-week window one hundred percent of the time and has established its goal of achieving greater productivity.

All told, CZ has achieved a return on its investment in just twenty four months. More noticeably the solution has played a key role in helping CZ achieve national distinction. Though its small size places it in the lowest 25th percentile of Insurance companies, the Dutch government ranked CZ as one of the top three most cost efficient health insurance providers in cost per customer, which is quite a feat for a company of its size. While overhead costs are high, CZ comes out ahead due in part to the implementation of its dynamic document management system.

With the right technology, organizations can improve the value of its communications while delivering personalized communications designed to improve customer satisfaction. So instead of opting for mass mailings, organizations should learn to leverage technology to just as easily communicate to customers at the one to one level. In doing so, you just might find you with your customer’s loyalty growing in concert with your bottom-line.

About The Author
Mr. Dennis Ladd is CEO of StreamServe, a global leader in dynamic document composition, management and delivery solutions. For more information, contact the author at dennis.ladd@streamserve.com or visit www.streamserve.com

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