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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
THE RELEVANCY REQUIREMENT - How Customers are Demanding Precision Marketing
By Sandra Zoratti

Marketers today face two key challenges. First, they are striving to interpret what key requirements like "personalization", "individualization" and "value" actually mean to customers and second, they lack the insights, tools, measurements and strategies needed to fulfill these customer demands.

Consumers, increasingly aware in this economy of where they spend their money, are looking for greater value as "payment" for their business and for their loyalty. They want to be embraced and known by the business they patronize. They don't want meaningless personalization that only goes so far as to stick their name at the top of a mail merged letter. They want companies to gaze into a crystal ball and know, based on their past behavior, what message will mean the most, and when.

If you were to apply this consumer thirst for individualization to how you execute a personalized campaign, it would translate into the difference between addressing a letter to Sandra Zoratti in Boulder, Colorado and instead sending targeted promotions online, in print and in person to an active gardener named Sandra who also loves fly fishing. Instead of sending Sandra an offer for a roaring rapids adventure in the sun-kissed California Mountains, a company that I engage with should know that I prefer the still waters and serene vistas of Montana for the peace and fly fishing.

What is clear from recent research released by the CMO Council is that consumers have truly become promotion-weary. Promotional offers are increasingly ignored just 41 percent of consumers open promotional emails, with a slightly higher margin opting to open promotional offers sent via traditional mail. What's more, email fatigue seems to be setting in as opt-in mailings, like e-newsletters, appear to be losing value. Just 40 percent consider these communications as "must-read" emails.

Consumers are keenly aware that they have the power to disconnect, often using the opportunity to opt-out, even when they may have originally opted-in. In fact, 54 percent of consumers were firm in their stance that a relationship defined by spam, irrelevance and low value would result in their total disconnection from the program.

The question we encounter when working with companies looking to maximize their customer engagements, retain their existing customer base and provide value and insight to their newly acquired customers is, 'OK, where do I start?' Sadly, many marketers stop here, at the point of intention, paralyzed by the mere idea of collecting data and leveraging actionable insights. But if there is anything that can, and should, mobilize marketing to invest in data-driven, targeted and individualized communication channels, it is the customer mandate for real connection.

Consumers agree that the era of mass messaging simply does not resonate, especially not in today's on-demand world. Today's consumer wants relevant, timely messages. They want engagements that are tailored around their history with companies they choose to do business with. They want companies to peek not intrude just below the surface of name, address and phone number. To personalize a greeting is simply not enough. Marketers must take that next step towards precision marketing and leverage whatever insights are available to deliver meaningful promotions and timely content to willing customers.

It is time for marketing to embrace a more targeted, predictable, forecasted, reliable and measurable system for customer engagement. And, thanks to the tools and investments that marketing has already made in loyalty programs, CRM, data management and customer engagement, many marketers are well poised and positioned to act today and transition from traditional, measure-less, mass-messaged tactics to an integrated system of Precision Marketing.

About the Author:
Sandra Zoratti is the Vice President of Global Solutions Marketing at InfoPrint Solutions Company, a joint venture between Ricoh and IBM. Zoratti is a pioneering force behind the adoption of Precision Marketing techniques to drive growth, engagement and loyalty with customers. To reach Sandra and continue the conversation, she can be reached at sandra.zoratti@infoprint.com. (www.profitwithloyalty.com).

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