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My Latest Research: Marketing Beyond The Status Quo April 23, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing.
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I am very excited to announce the launch of my latest research, “Marketing Beyond The Status Quo.” The research, sponsored by my friends at Responsys, seeks to help marketing organizations assess and address the barriers that prevent them from being more customer-focused, relevant, and integrated. The report unveils the Marketing Status Quo (MSQ) Model – backed by a diagnostic self-test and step-by-step program guide – to help marketers determine their relevance maturity and develop a realistic action plan to become more customer-focused.

The MSQ Model assesses the fundamental competencies required for marketing relevance:

  • Strategic: How customer-focused are your marketing efforts?
  • Analytical:How strategic and actionable is your customer insight?
  • Technical: How well-suited is your infrastructure to support customer-focused marketing?
  • Process: How collaborative, efficient and error-free are your marketing operations?

MSQ Model

Each competency is equally weighted and combined to yield an overall Relevance Maturity Score, which defines a MSQ Level ranging from 1 (broadcast) to 5 (integrated). Marketers can leverage the model in conjunction with the MSQ Self-Test to assess their status quo, as well as identify the steps they must take in order to successfully move to the next level. 

For a free copy of the full report, visit www.responsys.com/beyond. I hope that you will find the research interesting and the tools useful. If you have any feedback, please don’t hesitate to comment here or contact me directly.

Integrated Lead Management Best Practices April 11, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology.
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Last week I participated in a Webinar — moderated by Bob Thompson of CustomerThink and sponsored by the good folks at Citrix Online. My portion of the event focused on helping marketers think about how to leverage Webinars as part of an integrated lead nurturing program. Here’s the overview: 

How to Retain and Nurture Valuable Webinar Leads

Don’t let your webinar prospects fritter away. View this on-demand Webinar to hear Elana Anderson, founder of NxtERA Marketing, and Beth Gilbert of Citrix Online discuss the tactics B2B marketers can use to leverage Webinars in an integrated lead-nurturing program.

View this on-demand Webinar to help you:
• Understand the role that Webinars play in lead
generation.

• Know how to leverage Webinars in an
integrated lead-nurturing program.

• Identify marketing tactics and technologies that
help integrate lead-development and nurturing
programs.

Not that I am biased, but the Webinar shares a lot of great content packed into 45 minutes. If your company leverages Webinars to generate leads or if you struggle with lead quality and lead management, I think you will find it time well spent. Here’s the link. Please feel free to contact me with feedback. Cheers.

My New Integrated Marketing Column On ClickZ April 11, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Strategy.
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Wanted to let everyone know that I am now a guest expert on ClickZ. Check out the new integrated marketing column and my inaugural article: Five Fundamentals of Integrated Marketing. I’ll be posting new articles bi-weekly.

See you in LA next week? April 1, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing.
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Busy, busy, busy! That’s the month of April for me. Sorry I haven’t been posting the last couple of weeks, but I have a ton of balls in the air at the moment. One of the major things I’ve been working on is a minor treatise aimed to help marketers systematically improve the relevance of their customer communications. My work on this whitepaper, “Marketing Beyond The Status Quo,” is sponsored by the good people at Responsys and we’re planning to unveil it together next week at Forrester’s Marketing Forum in Los Angeles.  Our session is Tuesday, April 8th at 2:25pm. I’ll be presenting along with Scott Olrich (Responsys’ CMO) and Randy Cuff (Director of CRM Development at Intrawest). Here’s the abstract for the session:

Few interactive marketers are ecstatic about their ability to deliver meaningful and timely marketing messages. In fact, most agree that more relevant and timely marketing communications will be better received by customers and increase response rates. However, when time is scarce, budgets are tight, and single channel campaign management solutions are already integrated and delivering ROI, marketers are hard pressed to change the status quo. In this thought-provoking session, Elana Anderson, former Vice President and Research Director leading Forrester’s marketing practice, and Scott Olrich, CMO of Responsys will unveil the findings from a first-ever study identifying the drivers of the “status quo” paradigm, and reveal the strategies and marketing technologies smart marketers are using to deliver superior marketing performance and ROI across channels.  

If you are attending the forum, please stop by our session. I’ll be there for the full two days, so drop me an email if you want to connect at some point during the event. Hope to see you there!

Recalibrating The Meaning of “Relevant” March 11, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Database Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Online Marketing.
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Have you ever refinanced your mortgage only to be bombarded by offers to lower your mortgage rate for six weeks after you closed on your new loan? This happens because financial services companies are purchasing “triggers” from credit bureaus that indicate you have had a recent loan approval. The problem with these triggers is that they are not timely. By the time the marketing communication gets to the customer, it’s too late.

Relevance = right message + right time + right place

Perhaps it is a cliché, but it’s a good one. Too many marketers focus entirely on the message component of relevance. For these marketers, “place” is typically an outbound channel and “time” is based on the internal campaign calendar – not the customer’s needs. To be relevant, marketers must step outside the confines of the functional silo that they are responsible for and think outside in – from the perspective of the customer. In addition to targeting the message itself based upon a customer’s stated or implied needs, relevance requires:  

  • Timely reaction or response to customer actions. Although some marketers are experimenting with trigger-based communications and on-site customized messaging, the prominence of these tactics pales in comparison to the weekly or semi-weekly campaign pushes. The beauty of these tactics, however, is that they can be automated.
  • Cross-channel integration. Your customers don’t care that you are only responsible for email and not the website or direct mail and not the call center. When a potential customer clicks on a search result or an online ad and lands on your generic home page or receives an offer in the mail and calls customer service to inquire further, he expects a seamless handoff. Yet, creative elements often dominate conversations about integrated marketing rather than a focus on what the customer is trying to achieve as he traverses the channels. The result of this oversight? For the customer, it often means dead ends and unnecessary frustration. For the company, it means lost opportunities and, possibly, damage to the brand.
  • A programmatic approach. Did you know that maximizing individual campaign response might be to the detriment of overall program ROI? That’s right. Sending more messages may generate a higher response, but how many others are simply tuning out? The current industry standard in the retail sector is 1-2 email messages a week. Amazon differentiates itself in the inbox by not always being there. An email offer from Amazon might be, “A brand new Leonard Cohen CD is available. Since you have enjoyed Leonard Cohen in the past, we thought you might want to know…” This programmatic approach requires different metrics than the campaign-centric approach – for example, program engagement over time or revenue per customer (not campaign).

CPM Pricing Will Ultimately Put EMSPs Out Of Business March 5, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Database Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Web Analytics.
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After my tirade yesterday against volume-based CPM pricing in the email marketing sector, I was disappointed to see the recent post on Bronto’s blog announcing the vendor’s move towards a volume-based pricing model:

For the last five years, we have priced our clients’ subscriptions by the number of the contacts stored in the application (i.e., list size.) This worked great in the early days because we primarily had small business-to-business customers. As we grew and our business and product became more sophisticated, we attracted more sophisticated clients that send at higher volumes. Since list size mattered less and sending capacity mattered more to them, the model became tougher to match with our clients’ needs and trickier to manage operationally.

My perspective? This may be a way to be competitive in the short term, but ultimately it will put the email service providers (EMSPs) out of business. Simply put, it makes the EMSP nothing more than what I have long referred to as a “dumb pipe” – a platform for bulk pushing out messages. Despite the economic challenges I addressed in my previous post, most (to use Bronto’s words) “sophisticated clients that send at high volumes” are actively working to improve their ability to target and customize their marketing communications in order to increase relevance. As I also noted, this requires tools and the necessary skills to understand and leverage customer data. If the email provider doesn’t provide these tools and services, you can be sure that other providers will be there to fill the gap. Carpe diem.

CPM Pricing Is To Blame For Bad eMail Marketing March 4, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Database Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online Marketing.
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One of the issues I am currently working on is to understand what it takes email marketers to move beyond “fire and forget” (or “batch n’blast”, whatevah) marketing. I find that while marketers intellectually agree that more targeted, timely, and relevant email communications will be better received by customers and increase response, basic economics is a major barrier to progress in that direction. Why? Because email marketing is so darn cheap that every campaign delivers ROI – even if the campaign is totally untargeted (You ever wonder why spammers still spam? They make money doing it).

Relevance Isn’t Free

I’ve spoken with a few dozen email marketing leads from large companies and strong brands in recent months. Their hearts and minds are in the right place. Broadly speaking, they:

  • Are concerned about opt-outs, unsubscribes, and long-term engagement with their email programs.
  • View email as a tool to develop customer relationships.
  • Are working hard to employ tactics – like multi-layer targeting, segmentation, and event triggers – to improve the relevance of their communications.

Unfortunately, as these marketers strive to improve their email communications, they inevitably run into a series of challenges including:

  • Availability of timely, high quality data
  • Access to skills that know how to turn data into actionable information
  • Operational knowhow to automate data-driven processes

Wait… I’ve heard these problems before! In the 1990′s, when I worked with catalogers, financial services firms, and telcos to build some of the first big database marketing environments. Interactive marketers today sound just like big direct mail marketers did then.

Unfortunately, for the interactive marketing folks, the similarities stop there… Even though the highest percentage of upside from a marketing database typically derives from new streams of revenue, direct mail is so expensive that the mailers can justify a marketing database and a top-notch analytics team to help manage costs. Unfortunately, since email marketing is so cheap, interactive marketers can’t make the same argument.

Email Marketing Grew Up Out Of Advertising, Not Direct Marketing  

Email CPM (cost per message) pricing was borne out of mass advertising which has historically focused on how many eyeballs see a message. Take a huge list, send the same message to everyone, and pay volume pricing – the more you send, the cheaper it is. OK – perhaps this made sense in 1997 when email marketing was a novelty but, let’s be honest, this pricing model is totally out of whack with how marketers want, and need, to leverage email today.

To their credit, leading email marketing service providers (EMSPs like Responsys, e-Dialog, Epsilon, and Cheetahmail) have been actively working on the applications that they provide to deliver:

  • Access to a richer dataset.
  • Tools that support data slicing/dicing and more granular targeting.
  • Improved campaign design and management functionality like event detection, rule- based dynamic content and dialog campaigns, and improved campaign automation.

But, as these vendors work diligently to provide their clients with the tools that they need to deliver targeted, timely, and relevant communications, they consistently struggle with downward pressure on CPM rates (which, today, are fractions of a penny per message). Last week I spoke with the CEO of a leading EMSP who told me that no matter what pricing elements they propose, prospects consistently turn the pricing into a CPM calculation to compare competitive vendors.

The Cost Of Relevance

While I am all for generating healthy competition amongst vendors, companies need to understand that boosting the relevance and sophistication of their email programs comes at a cost. What are the major cost components?

  • Analytic data mart: A “data sandbox” that provides an area to explore data, profile subscribers, analyze behavior, and identify key pieces of data that can be leveraged to increase the success of your email programs.
  • Analytics team: You have a sandbox, you need people that know how to play in it, develop business hypotheses, predict results, etc.
  • Marketing database: Different from the analytic sandbox, this operational marketing database is a simplified data structure and only incorporates the data required to define, execute, manage, and measure current email programs.
  • Campaign management and automation tools: These tools sit atop the marketing database. Marketing users (or service provider staff) leverage the tools to define, automate, and execute campaigns.

Recognize that all of the things I note above can vary dramatically in cost and scope and can be achieved in different ways:

  • In partnership with an email service provider.
  • In partnership with other providers (e.g., database marketing services providers like Merkle or Epsilon).
  • If you have the in house skills, internally in your own shop with support from your IT group.
  • A combination of the above.

Which way to proceed depends on a number of factors that I will be happy to address in future posts. But, the key point is… If you don’t do these things somewhere, you will not be able to improve the relevance and sophistication of your email programs.

Is eMail Doomed As A High Quality Relationship Marketing Channel?

Ultimately, I am trying to help email marketers build a business that will help them increase the revenues and longevity of the email channel. That case requires investment in improved data capture, data integration and management, and data analysis capabilities – all of which cost money. Email marketing specialists with deep knowledge of the channel are in a great position to offer these capabilities, but these vendors are stymied by CPM pricing. What will it take to truly move email marketing beyond its position as just another “mass advertising” channel?

Walking In The Customer’s Shoes February 20, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Experience, Customer Experience Hall of Fame -- and Shame, Marketing.
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In 2004, a Forrester colleague (John Ragsdale) and I published a report which we notoriously titled, “Why Marketing Should Own The Contact Center.” Our chosen title was not aimed at changing reporting relationships. Rather, the emphasis and urgency we sought to establish was recognition of the fact that, for many companies, employees play an absolutely central and crucial role in establishing the customer’s perception of the business and the brand. Our position in the report (which is still absolutely valid today) was that the purely operational metrics – e.g., # calls handled, average call duration, etc. – by which many companies measure the performance on contact center personnel run counter to the objectives that many companies have established around improving customer experiences.

The report was focused on the contact center, but the concept extends easily to all employees that interact with a customer at any level. While books can (and have) been written on this subject, I want to focus on one element that I believe continues to be overlooked and underemphasized as the industry attempts to develop processes and technologies to facilitate customer interactions and improve customer experience. That is: empathy – specifically, encouraging and empowering employees to engage and relate with customers as people and fellow human beings.

Encourage Employees To Relate With Customers As Fellow Humans

While I firmly believe that no company can make every customer happy 100% of the time, the companies that have really made strides towards delivering differentiated customer experiences are taking steps to help employees better understand and relate to their customers. Some examples:

  • USAA makes customers personal for its employees. USAA, well known for its customer service leadership, caters to military families. To ensure employees empathize with its members, the company hires a high percentage of former military personnel, encourages employees to read personal letters from deployed service men and women, and incorporates aspects of military life into its new employee training program.
  • Cabela’s doesn’t draw a line between employees and customers. Cabela’s, a top direct marketer of specialty outdoor merchandise views it employees as be valued customers. The company encourages employees to take gear home and give it a try as long as they submit a review.
  • HP rewards employees that put customers first. In her recent article on CustomerThink, Liz Roche how HP encourages employees to participate in HP’s in store Demo Days. In addition, HP does a number of other things to help employees to better relate and empathize with customers. The company has established a formal customer experience training program to help employees experience interactions with HP from the customer perspective, it includes customer metrics in employee evaluations, it encourages employees to surface feedback from customers and provides tools to facilitate employee efforts to do so, and it awards employees that go above and beyond “customer hero” awards.
  • Four Seasons gives all employees a firsthand customer experience. Four Seasons, the luxury hotel and resort chain, provides all new employees – from chamber maid, to maintenance engineer, to kitchen staff – with an opportunity to stay at a property with a guest. This helps employees understand the customer experience from the customer’s point of view.
  • Fidelity Investments encourages all employees to interact with customers. My husband is a technology guy with Fidelity. All Fidelity employees are also customers. In addition, the company encourages employees, regardless of their role, to interact directly with customers. So, several times a year, my husband volunteers in the call center to take customer calls. These experiences help my husband take the customer into account when he and his team are designing products and interfaces that will eventually land in the customer’s hands.

Allocate Marketing Budget To Build Customer Empathy

Consider the billions of dollars that companies spend on marketing and advertising each year. Consider the number of scenarios when companies that you interact with as a customer don’t live up to the promise that the brand makes in its external messaging. If your company is not investing to help employees better relate to the customer, perhaps you should consider allocating some marketing budget to do so, eh?

It is URGENT that you give us a call… February 8, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Customer Experience, Customer Experience Hall of Fame -- and Shame, Database Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Technology.
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Have you noticed an uptick in the number of robot marketing messages that you are getting? I have and it’s making me crazy! For the last several years I have worked from my home office 2-4 days a week. In recent months, the number of calls that I am getting with robot marketing messages has increased dramatically.

Some of the messages are “transactional.” For instance, we get calls from Blockbuster reminding us that we have an overdue movie. But most of the messages are pure marketing. Yes, my phone number is on the DNC list, but these calls are coming from firms with whom I have a “preexisting relationship.” The company I bought my car from, financial services firms I deal with, etc. The most egregious, from my perspective, are the messages that come from my credit card company which go something like this:

Hello, this is Amy from your credit card company! Now, nothing is wrong with your card, but it is URGENT that you contact us immediately to discuss how you can lower your monthly interest rate….

The first of these messages came just after my wallet was stolen last spring (see my post on that descent into customer experience hell). What did I hear? “URGENT that you contact us!” I like to think that I’m a reasonably intelligent person but I must admit that it took me a second to realize I was listening to a pitch, not a customer service call.

It may be legal, but it’s the worst kind of spam

As a marketer, perhaps you’re wondering what’s wrong with this. I’ll tell you. For me as an individual, these messages are highly interruptive, irrelevant, and unwanted — not to mention misleading. If this came to me as an email, I could delete it without a second thought. It would be a little annoying but not annoying enough to write this post. These calls require that I pick up the phone and listen. They take more of my time and attention and they make me mad! 

I am not debating that these calls reach some people that probably consider a lower interest rate to be a very good thing. But, if my credit company bothered to do a very easy query against its customer databsae before teeing up these calls, it would see that I pay off my bill every month and don’t pay finance charges. Therefore, the interest rate is totally meaningless to me. For a company that I know employs fleets of statisticians and has very sophisticated customer analysis, I find this absolutely inexcusable!

Be responsible with this technology

I’m not suggesting that you never use this tactic to reach your customers. I am suggesting that you recognize that the phone channel is one of the most interruptive of channels (just shy of door-to-door sales) and if you choose to implement these automated phone campaigns you need to make sure that you are properly targeting your calls. Some suggestions:

  • Don’t use “preexisting relationship” as carte blanche to call. While it may be legal, there are customers out there that just don’t want the calls, period. I recommend filtering contacts that have registered for the DNC list out of the call list particularly if your list isn’t well targeted to customers for whom the message is clearly relevant.
  • Use data to target the campaign. If you have good customer analysis and response modeling capabilities then, by all means, use them. Even if you don’t, use basic queries to filter the list in order to screen out those customers for whom the message is obviously irrelevant. If you don’t have this capability, then you should not be running these campaigns.
  • Be more genuine in the communication. If you are properly targeting the message, then you can make a more genuine appeal to your customer. Rather than, “it’s urgent that you contact us!” empathize with the customer by saying something like, “we notice that you have been paying high finance charges over the last few months and we want to offer you the opportunity to lower your rate for the next three months…” If I ever do get in a situation in which I am carrying a monthly balance, then this kind of offer would come in handy and I would feel like my credit card company was on my side.
  • Be transparent with Caller ID. I failed to mention above that the calls don’t even have proper Caller ID (most say “unidentified number”). Although the FTC requires that telemarketing calls have proper Caller ID, apparently the rule does not extend to marketing phone calls where a “prior relationship” exists. I believe marketers should take the high road nonetheless and give customers the opportunity to screen the calls.

Demonstrating The Brand Value Of Email January 29, 2008

Posted by Elana Anderson in Customer Analytics, Database Marketing, Marketing Measurement, Marketing Strategy, Online Marketing.
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I had the opportunity to catch up with Robert Raines, VP of Product Management & Creative Services at E-LOAN last week. I first met Robert several years ago when he was getting the company’s email programs off the ground. Robert shared with me some of the things that he’s accomplished since we last spoke and, as always, he had some great insights.

E-LOAN wanted to evaluate the impact of its email program 

Robert is a firm believer in testing and, more specifically, using control groups to measure the impact of email marketing activities. To determine the long-term benefit of its email program, the E-LOAN team created a randomly selected universal control group. While the control group still received transactional email communications (e.g., “We have received your application”), it received no email marketing treatment whatsoever for a period of 18 months.

To ensure that individuals selected into the control group were excluded from all email marketing efforts, the team created an exclusion table in its marketing database and automatically excluded the control group from any database extracts that were sent to its email service provider (Responsys).

What E-LOAN learned

What was E-LOAN looking for? The company wanted to evaluate the application rate of the mailed population vs. that of the unmailed population (the control group) over an 18-month period. As you might expect, at the beginning of the test there was very little difference in the application rate of the two groups. But, over time, the emailed population had a significantly higher application rate. So much higher that, according to Robert, the difference alone is enough to justify the total annual cost of the company’s email program.

Robert is also quick to point out that it’s not just about being in the inbox that matters. The E-LOAN team works hard to ensure that its email program is relevant and it uses a mixed strategy that includes broadcast messages (e.g., “The Fed has lowered interest rates”) and highly targeted, event-triggered communications.

Recommendations

Email marketers often complain that they don’t have enough staff and struggle to manage what’s already on their plate given the staff that they have. I believe that this complaint becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… Email is cheap, just blast it out, and we’ll keep the bare bones operation going… To break through this cycle, email marketing managers should:

  • Devote 6-8 hours of the team’s time to implementing a test and measurement strategy. As a manager myself, I know that it’s possible to squeeze some amount of extra time out of the week. If you are really committed to making email marketing more strategic in your company, find 15-20% of someone’s time and focus it on test and measurement as Robert has done at E-LOAN. Sure, the E-LOAN test that I’ve shared here took 18 months, so start with something smaller. For instance, test the difference between a broadcast newsletter and a newsletter with dynamically targeted content.
  • Trend results over time. A quick test to show that targeted content generates higher open and click rates is indeed interesting. But, it’s more interesting to trend this information over time to evaluate the sustained value of a targeted vs. untargeted program.
  • Document a business case. If your goal is to improve the internal stature of your email efforts, get more budget, and grow your team, then it’s imperative to document your case. Avoid doing this at an individual campaign level and comparing metrics — like opens and clicks — against industry averages. Focus on the bigger picture and build a case that exposes the real business value of your efforts. What is the ROI of targeted vs. broadcast communications? Or, as in the E-LOAN example, do your customers buy more if they receive email marketing communications from you? This is the kind of case that your bosses need to free up more resources.
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