By Pat McGrew, EDP
There comes a time in every business when the marketing campaigns that have worked reliably month after month begin to return disappointing results. You can't put your finger on what is different, but clearly your customers and prospects are responding in smaller numbers. In fact, you may have noticed that your customers are churning at a higher rate, spending less and contacting the call center more often. If any of this sounds familiar, there are some steps you should consider that could help your messaging ring louder with targets.
Every form of customer communication says something about your company and your brand. Companies that send bills, statements or even packing slips rarely include these types of customer communications in the same strategy that covers their direct mail, mass media and web campaigns — and that is a mistake.
Treat all communications with the same care, imagination and meticulousness that mark your direct marketing efforts.
Your customers should always be able to relate any mailing you send to the messages and images they read and see in your other communications channels. Design is one of the best ways to build bridges between your mailings, your website and any other outlets you utilize.
Now, even as most companies that issue bills and statements are redesigning to meet regulatory changes, is the perfect time to redesign everything from bills and statements to those normally staid regulatory notices. Review them for use of the logo, inclusion of marketing taglines and overall adherence to the corporate style guide.
Remember that small changes count. Alter your logo placement. Change where your main message appears. Brighten the graphics. These changes will catch the eye of your customer.
An effective tactic, particularly for brands that engage in monthly conversations with consumers, is to enhance dialogue by adding information. If you can add information content where you have not included it in the past, you are adding incremental value to that conversation.
Maybe you're asking, "What information can I add?" Maybe you think that your brand, product or service is so well understood in your market that there is just nothing you can add. Or maybe you believe that your situation is too complicated.
Take a step back and think about what you would say to a new employee or your next-door neighbor about the products and services your company offers. Now consider having that same exchange with consumers. Billers around the world have found ways to add information about recycling programs, market trends and even community events to their monthly bills. Need more inspiration? Check with the team that runs the call center. What are people asking? Can you preempt the calls? Odds are you can reduce the number of calls by answering the most common questions on the monthly bill.
3. Targeted educational content
Every bill, statement, notice or amendment to terms provides an opportunity to create a more educated consumer: someone who recognizes the value of a relationship with a biller — or any company — that keeps him or her informed.
Consider investing in customized content relevant to particular aspects of a customer's profile. Start by mining information from demographics, psychographics, spending patterns and payment matter — targeted content that isn't focused on selling but rather on engaging consumers' personal interests.
Include static text content or dynamic content to add value. Ever see those utility bills with charts that graph the monthly bill against the ambient temperature? Imagine how much more valuable that info could be were it localized, offering charts graphing against, say, neighborhood averages and usage rates.
Build a library of valuable, relevant content. Use it to identify a range of triggers that let you include specific pieces of content with every outbound bill or statement. Over time, the education libraries and scripts expand and the range of topics covered grows more diverse.
4. Cross promotion
Marketing budgets are tight, so it's time to start thinking across party lines. Bills and statements, as well as regulatory notices and other communication, should be used to promote as many of your products and services as possible. It's especially important to do a bit of data mining to see what products and services each customer uses — and, critically, what they could use that they currently don't.
The truth about adding these marketing messages is that they will be competing with all of the other marketing messages coming at them. I recall one master marketer, more than 10 years ago, explaining to a business magazine that an average consumer would see a million marketing messages that year — and this was before the digital explosion and the increase in product placement in films and on TV.
The fragmentation of media only increases the burden on smart companies to avoid marketing a product or service to someone who already has it. It happens in my mailbox almost every day — and it makes me less interested in doing business with those organizations. But those that market to me as if they know me tend to hold my attention for a longer time, which turns into revenue for those companies.
Reexamine your customer care strategy. Which of your customers are most likely to leave? Which are most likely to respond to promotions? The promise of Customer Relationship Management was that companies would get to know their customers better and use that information to develop a 360-degree view of the consumer.
The truth is that most companies' knowledge of the customer extends no further than whatever information is in the companies' databases — and that information is often limited to only the most basic demographics. In the Information Age, there's no better time than now to consider deepening that database by acquiring more external information about your customers.
After some research, you may discover that many of your customers have common characteristics that you are not speaking to. Look at your own wallet to get an idea of the opportunity: If you have several accounts — credit, bank, insurance — you have customer profiles with each. Do you look the same to each of those organizations?
The goal of marketing is to grow both market share and customer wallet share. We know that personalized communication using a combination of good information architecture, good design and appropriate use of color forms the baseline for a customer communication strategy. What's in your strategy?
P.C. (Pat) McGrew, EDP, is the Data-driven Communication Evangelist in the Business to Business Solutions Group at Eastman Kodak Company. She works worldwide to support the needs of those involved in data-driven customer communication. With more than 25 years in the information-delivery industry, she has performed in a variety of capacities, most recently specializing in strategic marketing planning. E-mail Pat McGrew at [email protected], follow her on Twitter @PatMcGrew and read her blog at patmcgrew.growyourbiz.kodak.com.What Kodak Did
A sports-themed mailer shows how the company takes its own advice.
The Kodak Play Ball Campaign offered a chance to win a trip to the pro baseball championship in exchange for registering at a landing page designed to collect survey information from respondents. It also gives us a chance to show what the company did in the five key areas I outline.
- Design/Redesign: The variable design promoted the baseball theme by incorporating one of 28 great stadium images with the Kodak brand elements and logo. Respondents received an image of the baseball stadium closest to their geographic location.
- Product Information: The mailer included the value proposition for the KODAK NEXPRESS and KODAK DIRECTPRESS Solutions for a specific vertical market, such as education or health care, based on the recipient's area of interest.
- Targeted Educational Content: The lead focused on a topic based on the vertical market. For the education market, for example, the copy emphasized that educational institutions face competition in recruitment as well as budget pressures that require any print solution to come with a solid ROI. The content focused on opening the door to data-driven communication using digital solutions from Kodak.
- Cross Promotion: The mailer spotlights two solutions, but also identifies other services from Kodak, including business evaluation, business development and training services.
- Customer Care Strategy: Woven through the narrative is the concept of Kodak as the best partner to help grow your business. The concept of partnership is the lead on the website landing page and continues in the messaging of a follow-up reminder e-mail for those who do not immediately respond. The results? Closed more than $5 million in revenue and added more than 500 leads to the database while opening the door for opportunities for other KODAK Solutions, including workflow and proofing. — Pat McGrew