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Explaining Customer Communications Management Technology For Marketing Communications Professionals

Customer Communications Management is a term highlighted by research companies such as Gartner Group, Forrester Research and Madison Advisors to define a convergent set of Information Technology solutions that together provide marketing communication professionals the ability to advance the way that they communicate with their customers.

Advocates of Customer Communications Management and its definition include Gartner Group, Forrester Research and Madison Advisors as well as a host of vendor organisations such as Pitney Bowes Group 1 Software, HP Exstream Software, Thunderhead, Xenos and EMC Document Sciences.

Initial Customer Communications Management concepts were focused upon the utilisation of company transactional documents. These documents such as bank statements, statement of account, invoices and other customer transactional documents were viewed as an ideal location in which to promote company products to customers.

The rationale behind this was cited in analyst research by Info Trends that, “transactional documents are opened and read by more than 90% of consumers. Because the average consumer is bombarded with advertising, e-mail, direct mail and other forms of solicitation each day, TransPromo can help you cut through the clutter and stand out.”

Not only are transactional documents more likely to be opened and observed than other types of document, they are also more likely to be studied for longer than say a direct mail piece. Thus, a company has an opportunity to communicate and promote its message to the customer.

The technology that supports customer communications management also allows sophistication in the content of the messages. Customer communications management technology may consist of the following components (of which you’ll find plenty of information on this site):

1. Data Extraction, Transform & Load software.
2. Data Management, Analysis and location intelligence software.
3. Data Hygiene database software.
4. Document composition software.
5. Electronic document archive software and perhaps payment processing functionality.
6. Print Stream Engineering / Post Processing Software.
7. Mailing compliance database software.
8. Printer Management Software.
9. High and medium volume production printers.
10. Envelope inserter machines such as those manufactured by Kern, Bowe or Pitney Bowes.
11. Email Marketing Software.
12. SMS Communication Software.
13. Mobile Media based content distribution software.
14. Entering the frame more recently social media distribution software.
15. Document Production Reporting Software

There are a number of key factors concerning the way in which the software assists the marketing communications professional.

The data extraction software presents marketers and business with an opportunity to combine data from multiple systems to enable a customer analysis. Through this customer analysis process it is possible for marketers to evaluate the marketing mix and position individual products to the customer in respect of relevance to the customer or the results of purchase propensity model.

The end result of this process will be the creation of a data model, data acquisition and decision rules that enable a document composition engine to follow its own set of document application rules to construct individual documents on the basis of data items contained within an individuals data record.

Thus the concept of one-to-one marketing is born.

It is theoretically possible at least that for a run of 100,000 statements, no statement will contain the same set of offers. Thus, clothing for women would not be marketed to men whilst ‘male gadgets’ would not be marketed to women.

But Customer Communications Management is not just about making offers to customers. It also provides companies with the opportunity to improve the clarity of their communications. Rather than producing line driven data in which it is difficult for a customer to extrapolate trends and a deepening of understanding in respect of his or her relationship with the supplying company, Customer Communications Management provides the opportunity for a company to deliver visual analysis through clear graphics and highlighted content.

The Document Composition engine is responsible for interpreting data and following a set of rules to create a set of documents that can either be printed or distributed electronically. The Document Composition engine usually produces either a print stream or, XML data.

Print streams are languages that printers use to instruct the print process. They are known as PDL’s or Page Description Language. Common print stream types include AFP, Xerox Metacode, VIPP, PCL and Postscript. There are numerous others but, in production printing environments these are probably the most common.

Sometimes the Document Composition Engine will output XML. The advantage of XML is that it may be repurposed either to print or to various electronic formats. Thus, XML provides a standard of interoperability between various computer software systems.

As documents move from the virtual data environment into becoming something physical, the may first need post processing. Post processing can be utilised to prepare a print job for production and distribution. This may include tasks such as the application of barcodes to deliver individual mail piece instructions to the inserters and to vary these in terms of the actual inserter being used. For example, one manufacturer’s inserter may require different barcode instructions to complete the same task than another.

Post processing does not only cover production preparation. One of the key cost considerations in Customer Communications Management is the cost of mailing. Various postal operators throughout the world offer discount schemes if a volume mail producer pre-sorts mail before despatch. As this process saves the postal operator considerable effort and cost, a discount is passed to the mail producer. Where mailing volumes are high, this discount figure can be significant to the mail producer where for example the Royal Mail in the UK will offer 18% discount to customers who pre-sort their mail into 120 ‘pots’.

Post processing may not suit all mail sortation needs however and for organisations who produce many smaller jobs, a Mail Sortation machine, situated as the very last element of the production process may be more suitable. Many smaller jobs can be aggregated through the day and then bundled together for a physical mail sortation process.

Sometimes, Post Processing may be an integral part of the document composition process and this may be more efficient from a production point of view because rather than creating a two step document creation and processing process, it can be delivered in a single step and as part of the major document application. This may save production time.

Print Management software controls the routing and distribution of print jobs to either a single production printer or a fleet of production printers. Print management software does not just provide routing as a benefit though, it also provides a mechanism for assured delivery (ensuring that all pages get printed) through communication and feedback from print devices and also provides management information that is useful for Document Production Managers.

Production printers in themselves have been a key driver in the development of Customer Communications Management as a concept. The advent of high speed, 90 page per minute and faster economic colour production printers in recent years has driven the usefulness and power of Customer Communications Management meaning that a company can produce ‘print shop’ quality documents ‘on the fly’ utilising data that may be infinitely variable as in one-to-one customer communications documents.

The final step of the process and the final major utiliser of data derived upstream in the inserting / mail finishing process. This is where paper documents are combined with envelopes and sealed. The inserter uses camera technology to read a barcode that provides a Piece ID, often combined with a data file produced by either the document composition application or the post processing engine.

By obtaining the Piece ID and performing a data file look-up, the inserter is able to determine factors such as the number of pages for a particular mail piece, whether any additional physical inserts are required (such as leaflets)and whether or not a piece should be out sorted for special human handling.

Thus the inserter is able to determine what should go in each envelope. Through further downstream cameras and sensors, it is also able to determine the integrity of a particular piece.

But this is not where Customer communications management ends. The provision of a document archive means that after a document has been created by the document composition engine, it can be made available to a company call centre or website. Call centre users benefit from being able to engage a customer by seeing the document that the customer has in his hand. This saves money in call centres speeding up call centre client query resolution times and meaning that call centres can handle more customers with fewer staff.

The delivery of documents via electronic channels is also seen as favourable, giving consumers a choice of document receipt method that suits their lifestyles. Combined with electronic payment, this may accelerate cash collection and thus improve a company’s cash flow position.

Relevance of communication is seen as key in overcrowded, competitive markets where service differentiation can be difficult. Documents that add value to the customer relationship add to differentiation and for many service oriented businesses and be a major factor in improving customer retention and acquisition.

Chief Marketing Officers are adopting Customer Communications Management because it heralds a world of new opportunity and a new way in which to develop customer relationships.

Farming Your Web Market

You’re going to get your hands dirty
A good farmer scoops up the soil in their hand and smells the earth, perhaps even taste the earth. The thing is that as a farmer you will be getting intimate with your market.

If the crop you plan to raise is made up of web users then your web page is the soil that they will grow strong on. The nutrients you add to your web page have a fragrance, maybe even a certain taste. And the richest addition you can add to your web page is your own personality.

Now, don’t get fearful
Perhaps professional marketers have told you not to get personal with your marketing, but that type of aggressive marketing is not what we are talking about here. To cultivate your market you need to talk to them in ways that nurture, and this means that you care enough to be yourself.

If you wanted to get to know someone based on a feeling of attraction would you analyze how to do this? If you overheard a conversation and the opinions expressed attracted you would you choose to get demographics and contact information before you introduce yourself?

The whole purpose of cultivating a market lends itself to casual and intimate conversations. And ‘intimate’ does not mean private and secretive, it means:

  1. Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity
  2. Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature

Most web marketing is done at arm’s length because the marketing people are not clear on the market being targeted. And the word ‘targeted’ is rather cold and disconnected emotionally. Targeting is an odd way to build relationships, but building relationships is exactly what we want to do.

Cultivating the market
The bigger portion of our market that we wish to cultivate is at earlier stages of the buying cycle and we are able to help them and build a relationship in the process. In this way we cultivate a much bigger market than trying to capture the smaller numbers that are ready to purchase.

Those members of our market that are ready to purchase have already been influenced. We cannot reach many of them now. On the other hand, the greater numbers that are early in their search can be cultivated, influenced and helped to make a smart choice and buy from us.

We need to design a web site that will allow us to be helpful and generous in sharing our information. Far too many small business web owners do not know what to share with their market. We are going to be different.

What do we feed our market?
We want our undecided market to choose our solution as their purchase. To do that we need to help them along, and this is where our web design comes into play.

Our page is jammed full of really good information but it doesn’t show everything at once. And then there are other pages doing the same thing. We are using HTML which stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. It is the hyper text that allows us to provide a selection and then deliver a choice.

We are no longer using limited space on paper, nor are we using limited time on TV. Web marketing needs to use HTML in its marketing to get the most out of the medium and yet the HTML in contemporary business designs is relegated to basic navigation and placeholders for content. Instead, we need to put HTML into our marketing methods and provide choices for all members of our market.

Talking all the way through
We will spend time talking to that portion of our market that doesn’t even recognize yet that they have a problem. We are going to help educate them so that they do recognize that their life could be better with our solutions.

We will spend time talking with those that are researching possible solutions and we will help them see all of their possibilities from all sides. We’ll look at the upside and the downside of various features. We’ll bring these people along our path of understanding so that they are ready to look at comparisons.

We will not be afraid to compare our solution with others available on the market. We want to nurture this stage of the buying cycle fearlessly and give them all of the choices available while building a relationship they can trust. We want to keep this stage engaged or they will leave our site looking for comparable products and solutions.

If we don’t feed them right now and right here their next stage of development is to make a decision to purchase and we could lose them at a crucial moment in the cycle.

Farmer or hunter
A hunter fears that the prey will get away. They target and shoot early when they can and short term goals are everything to a hunter. On the other hand a farmer has long term goals and works with the seasons. Six months can go by from planting to harvesting and a farmer knows that nurturing cannot be superficial or provided with impatience.

Our harvest will arrive and it will be our own if we provide the helpful nutrients. Spending time to create the best content is essential and the easiest way for our market to find the right content on our site is also essential. But it can all be for naught if we choke up at the end and impatiently push for the sale.

We need to honor our market and validate their choice even when the choice goes to our competitor. Most choices will come our way because we nurtured that market along and we have build up a relationship. All the rest will take care of itself. It does so because everything about the marketing process is as natural as sunlight and rain.

Pull Marketing
And when we market naturally we are attracting the best interest from search engines. We are providing volumes of our unique and original information that search engines and our market are attracted to. We are sharing information that creates growth while building relationships with our market. We are cultivating our market by solving problems and providing insight for our market. And the bulk of our information is work that does not have to be repeated over and over.

Our web pages may need some tweaking from time to time but our main effort is going to last for a long time to come. And perhaps one of the most valuable assets we develop with pull marketing is that nothing we ever do is lost. All of our marketing stays in place for years and as we build we grow stronger and stronger.

Unlike push marketing that requires constant feeding of cash for advertising, our pull marketing is more like putting money in the bank and building our reserves instead of spending them.

Farming our web market is a very different concept from that of an opportunist feeding off of the market. By farming we control our own market and build a richer relationship rather than rely on just the good seasons or good years to get us through.

Business Web Marketing 101: From Concept to Web Presence Creation

Whether you have an existing business or you are planning to start a new business, the business of web marketing should be high on your list of priorities. The Internet as we know it is vast, ubiquitous and, thanks to mobile computing, it’s in everyone’s pockets. If your business isn’t marketing its services on the web, you are likely losing out on serious revenue. The time to market your business online is now. The following is a short checklist that will help you get your business Internet marketing presence up and running quickly.

Market Research

Without the proper market research, even the most well-thought out business web marketing strategy will likely fail. A business must know its audience through and through and, furthermore, there must be a demand for the brand or the products and services that brand promotes. In the past, the business of marketing was much more difficult. To conduct the proper search, you would have to hire focus groups and design polls in order to put a finger on the pulse of your future prospects. Today, we have social media which makes the entire business of web marketing much easier.

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and popular online forums are great ways to get into the minds and aspirations of your prospects and customers. The business of web marketing requires you to get to know the men and women you will be marketing to. What better way to get to know your prospects and customers than by monitoring their conversations or even engaging them directly?

Thanks to the tools most people use to keep in contact with friends, family and (good for us) their favorite businesses, products and services, we now have a window into the lives of the very people we will be marketing to. What a time to be alive as a business-to-business or business-to-consumer Internet marketer.

Other Research

To effectively market a web presence online, you must conduct the proper keyword research. Knowing which keywords to use in your marketing materials will help you rank higher in the search engines thanks to search engine optimization (SEO). The proper keywords will also be used in future PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, which are essential for maximizing your business web marketing efforts.

Google AdWords is one of the most widely used PPC platforms and there is a built in keyword research tool that is free to use. Business web marketing experts from all over the world use this tool to find those keywords that are highly searched for, but that offer the least amount of competition. By competition, we are referring to websites and other online materials that may be using those same keywords in an attempt to garner attention from the search engines through SEO.

Competitor Research

Notice how we haven’t even begun to discuss a website or even graphics, which is typically where the beginner wants to begin. Right now we are merely discussing concepts, ideas and the concepts and ideas that your customers will go gaga for. This requires extensive research, both market and keyword, but it also requires you to research your direct competitors.

When you find the keywords that you plan to use in your business web marketing campaigns, start looking those keyword terms up using Google or similar search engine. Start researching the first few listings that each term yields. These are the websites and pages created by your direct competition. It is recommended that you take what works from these sites and make them better. Now you are ready to market your small business with a website and other materials.

Web Design and Development

Many people think that the business of marketing relies mostly on sight. It’s the images that count, a business-to-business Internet marketing beginner might say. That online marketer might have a point to a degree. The design of your site does matter, as do the colors. Certain colors have been known to elicit certain responses in people and if your website looks like trash, most people aren’t going to bother to stick around.

That being said, your business web marketing presence does not need to be flashy or laden with the best videogame-like graphics. Your website should be simple, pleasing to the eye and the entire presence should mesh together into one cohesive element.

If you are not artistic or if you don’t know PHP from HTML, it’s recommended that you hire someone to do this part for you. While there are many do-it-yourself open source web design platforms online, if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s usually going to show. Don’t skimp on the design. Let the experts do it for you and wow your audience with a design that flows with your overall message.

Content

A business web marketing site should be filled with content that is useful, well-produced and to-the-point. Nobody wants to read a website filled with a lot of fluff, nor does anyone want to read one that is filled with grammar and spelling mistakes. Keep your information short and sweet, go for shorter paragraphs as opposed to longer ones and always have a call-to-action.

State Your Goals

In the business of marketing online, you should always write down and memorize your goals beforehand. With so much information out there and so many techniques to choose from, it’s easy to get sidetracked. When you know where you’re going, you’ll be more likely to get there.

The goal of your website may be to garner more leads, sell a product or service or it may be a squeeze page designed to capture valuable information from your online visitors. Whatever the case, your business web marketing presence should always have a clear call-to-action so that your audience and web visitors always know what to do.