Inside Edge

Mark J

Updated · Sep 07, 2001

In the offline world, sophisticated marketing practitioners link their brands to their customers through a variety of direct response channels: television, radio, print, mail, telephone (including cellular phones and PDAs, also known as “pervasive technologies”) as well as the Internet. This is all part of effective customer relationship management (CRM).

Sophisticated marketing practitioners also engender a dialogue with key target segments because they understand that 80 percent of any given company’s profits come from 20 percent of its customers. They also understand that unless the value of each stakeholder is quantified and then measured against the marketing investment, they’re probably not only wasting money but also not practicing sound marketing.

To work effectively, the aforementioned direct response channels require databases. It is the effective use of databases that enables marketers to do the following: segment targets, develop customer insights, define customer behavior models, refine message maps, create decision engines and the economic rules to help quantify customer value, plan offers through an optimal direct-response media mix, execute plans, and track performance so that predictive models and segmentation strategies can further be refined.

CRM in the Interactive World
A mastery of databases and the decision sciences is especially required in the digital realm, because databases are what drive the Web.

Today, more than ever before, publishing systems extract content and functionality elements (CFEs) from databases and publish them through personalization middleware in real time directly to the consumer or business target.

When managed effectively, the system builds the experience one user at a time, based on that target’s individual personality profile, engendered by tracking three key data points as users touch the corporate Web experience:

Attitudinal: What people say they like, captured through Web forms or online customer insight engines such as Recipio, which is a series of products and services designed to build and maintain online communities in order to extract both qualitative and quantitative attitudinal insights from key customer sets.

Experiential: What they really do in the site, tracked transparently with server-side tools such as Accrue or SAS, against which we apply “CyberAnalytics,” which are decision sciences and analytical tools designed to determine everything from a cybernaut’s propensity to converting that propensity to online “lifetime value” (LTV).

Behavioral: What our legacy systems and data reveal about their behavior, including offline sales receipts data.

Not only can the personality profiles derived from these three key data points deliver a “unique” Web experience to each user in real time, they can–and should–be leveraged to manage other communications channels, from direct mail to telephony (telemarketing and customer care) and digital printing solutions based on Web-driven personalization (for example, customized newsletters). After all, Web-based profiles are relatively simple to build, readily updated (every time a user touches the site, the profile becomes more robust), and extremely cost-effective to leverage.

Electronic customer relationship management
Today, relational databases auto-publish and personalize content to the Web for access by PCs. In the future, servers will parse this data flow and distribute relevant messaging through the Internet–one data source, split six ways–to print, phone, pervasive, PC, television, and point-of-purchase (POP) access devices.

The interactive realm not only represents a host of interactive digital channels (for example, the PC as access device), it also is a medium, a horizontal enabler, such as database technologies.

Indeed, there are interactive analogs or counterparts in each of the traditional media channels:

  • TV/Direct Response TV => iTV
  • DR Radio => iRadio (streaming audio)
  • DR Print => I-Media (an I-Media banner is just a DR print advert online)
  • Snail mail => email (both outbound and inbound)
  • The world of teleservices/customer care => WebPhone/I-Phone

Simply stated, this is “electronic customer relationship management” (e-CRM), the art and science of building dialogue, intimacy, and loyalty through interactive, digital means.

But our challenge is more than simply building relationships between our high-value customers and their brands. It’s about extracting the maximum value in that exchange, value for both the customer and the corporation. After all, this is about pull, not push. It’s about permission marketing. Unless you deliver value to your target, he or she will never deliver value in return.

To keep yourself steady in the digital stream, you need a mission that prescribes insight and innovation, a polarizing force, a wading staff: deliver world-class, best-of-breed electronic customer value management. This should be your mantra.

The Future: Dancing the Cybersalsa
One of the great lies many of us were told as children by adults concerned the imminent arrival of the four-day workweek and the challenge of leveraging leisure time.

In truth, we work 30 days more per year than we did 10 years ago. When you factor in the ever-increasing proliferation of Web sites, it becomes increasingly clear that–even if we wanted to–we don’t have the time to surf for all that we are seeking on the Web.

As a result, in the future, more consumers will be represented online by “bots” and other “intelligent agents” that will conduct their searches for content, functionality, services, and sales on the Net. As they refine their so-called avatars, the challenge for online marketers will become less about how consumers engender a brand experience through their visits to corporate Web sites and more about how their “cyberdelegates” search and harvest on their behalf, ultimately retrieving only that which is most relevant to the consumer behind the bot.

The consumer’s personal Net agent–his or her personality profile–will become the consumer’s brand, a cyberbrand representative, with attributes and characteristics as valid and reflective of the consumer as any corporate brand is of the corporation. In the not-so-distant future, successful branding will require mastering this dance between the consumer’s brand and that of the corporation, e-CVM through the digital brand exchange.

How well marketers dance the “cybersalsa,” and how well they shape and empower their corporate or product/service brands to meet–head on, in cyberspace–these foraging consumer “brands” ultimately will determine how effectively they can market in the new millennium.

Reprinted from NewMedia.

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