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This white paper describes the benefits and challenges of using e-mail marketing as part of a sales and marketing program for “considered purchases,” such as found in the sales cycles for business and industrial products.

E-mail has become a business tool that is almost as important as the telephone because it overcomes many of the communications problems of other media. It’s frequently faster to communicate with someone via e-mail than with voicemail and fax.

Email Provides Flexibility

Business marketers have found that e-mail has the flexibility to deliver a wide variety of messages, and it has the impact of a personal message. Of course, e-mail marketing cannot totally replace other forms of marketing and selling, but it can augment traditional sales and marketing techniques by increasing the frequency of exposure, delivering a high-impact message, and reducing sales and marketing costs.

E-mail marketing is proving its power to support both online and offline sales and marketing campaigns. Forrester Research recently interviewed companies about their results in using e-mail marketing techniques and found that the companies interviewed will triple their e-mail marketing budgets by 2004. It was somewhat surprising that these companies will spend half of their online marketing budget on e-mail marketing, but Forrester found that e-mail marketing is both effective and efficient. Their study reported that sending e-mail to in-house lists cost about $5 per thousand messages sent and that clickthrough rates average 10 percent. This means that e-mail marketing is much more efficient than practically all other forms of online or offline marketing.

While e-mail marketing has proven its value, it does present several challenges to marketers regarding implementation, such as:

  • Who should receive e-mail?
  • What content should e-mails contain?
  • How often should e-mail be sent?
  • How should an e-mail hosting company be selected?
  • What follow-up is effective for sales?

Permission Marketing

Regardless of how targeted, relevant, and informative you think your message is, unless the recipient specifically agreed to receive the information you send, you risk alienating a significant portion of your audience.

You’ve probably noticed that the unwanted e-mail you receive doesn’t come from large, recognizable companies who want to maintain their reputation. But large, well-known companies do send a great deal of e-mail promoting their products and services. So how do they obtain lists of interested prospects without becoming spammers? The answer is to send e-mail only to an in-house list of people who have asked for — or at least agreed to receive — e-mail newsletters and promotions from a company.

One of the easiest ways to implement a permission marketing e-mail program is to allow Web visitors to subscribe to a company’s newsletter. At the same time, visitors can be asked if they are interested in receiving promotions (sometimes called “solo mailings”) from the same company. In addition, a variety of offline techniques can be used to obtain approval to send e-mail newsletters and promotional campaign messages. Salespeople frequently obtain e-mail addresses from their prospects and customers. Other offline sources of e-mail addresses are trade shows, product registration cards, call centers, and other “touch points” where a company’s employees come in contact with prospects and customers.

One thing to keep in mind about permission marketing is that each individual’s permission only covers the type of e-mail explicitly mentioned when asking for permission. For example, if you change the format of your e-mail newsletter to resemble a solo ad or special offer, expect a large portion of people to unsubscribe from your list.

Frequency of Contact

Most marketing and sales executives know it’s important to contact prospects and customers frequently to create “top of mind” awareness. What’s not always clear is exactly why this is true and how to accomplish it.

In general, exposure to a message is cumulative, and each exposure to a message helps a person move above a “threshold of acceptance” where they will take action. However, impressions have a certain “decay rate,” which means that if not reinforced with additional exposures, awareness will fade away over time.

This means that it’s not just the number of exposures — it’s the number of times a person is exposed to a message during a certain time period.

Marketing research indicates that prospects need more exposures before they cross the threshold, while customers — who presumable are directly exposed to the product’s benefits — seem to require less frequent sales and marketing messages for them to remain loyal over time.

This means that it’s important to keep in frequent contact with both prospects and customers. The challenge, of course, is doing it inexpensively. In addition, it’s important to know when to increase the level of contact from primarily e-mail to a more intensive contact, such as a call from a salesperson. Fortunately, e-mail marketing techniques can meet both challenges at the same time.

As potential customers look for ways to meet specific needs, they move from initial awareness of their need through several stages of information gathering, and, hopefully, to product evaluation and selection. Traditional business marketing has called for mailing brochures and catalogs, sending direct mail pieces, and other expensive and time-consuming techniques to hopefully make the prospect receptive to a call from a salesperson. With sales cycles taking from 6 to 24 months, it can be expensive to have salespeople maintain frequent contact while waiting for prospects to become ready for sales calls.

A more efficient approach is to combine an e-mail newsletter and an e-mail promotional campaign with less frequent sales calls. Today, e-mail marketing can deliver a company’s marketing message more quickly and less expensively than many other customer contact methods. In addition, e-mail can accurately track when prospects are ready to hear from a salesperson.

Planning an E-mail Marketing Program

Creating a e-mail marketing program starts with determining the target market and objectives. In other words, who you want to contact, how do you want to help them, and what you want them to do next.

While e-mail marketing can be used to support offline marketing activities (such as calling your 800 number), its best use is to bring people to your Web site by including links to specific pages on the site. This can be done with a short synopsis of an article or a product description next to a link that takes readers directly to a Web page. Clicking the link in an e-mail, called a “clickthrough,” can update each reader’s profile to indicate interest in the article or product.

No other marketing medium compares with e-mail for immediate response to a promotion and the ability to track results.

Measuring Success

While the cost of actually distributing e-mail messages is very low compared to other marketing activities, it’s still important to test e-mail marketing campaigns and track results so you can measure and refine e-mail marketing activities. Even recipients of requested e-mail will only accept a limited number of messages from a company before becoming frustrated — so it is critical to track results to quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.

Most activities related to e-mail and Web marketing can be tracked, and it’s this feedback that makes it possible to determine what works and what doesn’t.

When using an in-house list, be sure to track mailings to customers separately from mailings to non-customers who subscribe to your newsletter. For e-mail newsletters we’ve seen the clickthrough rate for customers can be twice that of non-customers.

Until recently, e-mail messages were delivered in text format only, but that is changing. HTML messages heighten the visual impact of a message by using special formatting and images in newsletters, and many subscribers are choosing to receive HTML newsletters instead of text format. This not only makes newsletters easier to read, it also increases the clickthrough rate.

Relationship Marketing via E-Mail

One benefit e-mail marketing has over Web marketing is the power to deliver each message with personality. Most Web sites are written in “brochure style.” It’s appropriate to establish the size and stability of the company because it reduces concerns about dealing with the company. However, once those initial concerns have been reduced, it’s time to put some personality into marketing and sales activities.

Successful field and telephone salespeople let their personalities demonstrate that they are real human beings. It’s important to do the same in e-mail marketing because recipients are accustomed to receiving e-mail from individuals — friends, family and people with whom they work.

Traditional catalog companies learned many years ago that adding a brief personal message from the president increased response. Create the same impact in direct e-mail marketing by including a message from the newsletter editor, a top executive, or an enthusiastic product manager.

In addition to the choice of writing style, relationships with customers can be enhanced through using “personalization” software. By using profile data about each subscriber, the actual text of each message can be tailored to match the interests of each recipient.

For example, Providence College, Providence, R.I., uses both Web and e-mail personalization in marketing the school to high school students. Profile information supplied by students visiting the Web site, such as their high school and a potential major, is used to provide information on the Web and in e-mails about events near their home. The e-mail newsletter also automatically includes messages from faculty and student volunteers based on each individual’s profile information.

The relationship-building techniques used in the Providence e-mail newsletter are part of an integrated, personalized marketing effort by the school to help potential applicants learn about the people they will meet on campus. This familiarity with the people at Providence makes prospective applicants more comfortable in making a decision about applying.

E-mail marketing techniques can increase Web traffic, gain awareness, and generate revenue at a very attractive return on the investment.

Getting Started with E-mail Marketing

It’s relatively easy to begin using e-mail marketing through the use of an e-mail hosting service. One of the first steps is to select a hosting service that matches your service needs and budget (see sidebar). Then, design a subscription form for use with your Web site that collects names and e-mail addresses. The form will likely be hosted at your e-mail hosting service but will use the graphics and design of your existing site. This maintains your corporate image without having to involve your IT department to add a database or the other technical functions handled by an e-mail hosting service.

In addition to collecting subscriptions on your Web site, you should also involve your salespeople to collect e-mail addresses from existing customers and ask prospects if they can be added to the newsletter list, too.

Then, it’s a matter of developing short articles that show prospects how they can benefit from using your products and articles aimed at customers that show how to obtain greater benefits from products already purchased.

With the help of your e-mail hosting service, you’ll be able to contact prospects and customers more frequently and more efficiently. In addition, you’ll be able to track how well your e-mail marketing helps turn leads into qualified prospects, and how it helps your salespeople turn prospects into customers.


Case Study: Personalization Delivers Personality for Providence College

Selecting a college can be one of the most challenging tasks a high school student faces. From the time a college-bound student begins to think about higher education, brochures and catalogs fill the family mailbox.

When one college library starts looking like all the other libraries, it’s time for a little personal attention to prioritize the options. For Providence College, Providence, RI, personalized e-mail helps them tailor the message to their target audience — students seeking a New England liberal arts experience.

Their personalized Web site collects profile data about a student’s interests, potential major, and other aspects of college life. Then, e-mail messages tailored to each student’s profile help build a relationship as students gather information and make a decision about applying to colleges.

“Our e-mail and Web experience lets us tell our story over time to help them with their application and selection process,” says Brian Williams, Associate Dean of Admission.

When it comes to collecting e-mail addresses, Providence combines the Web with traditional direct mail. “If a student shares an e-mail address on our Web site we send out a personalized welcome e-mail message and encourage the student to sign up for our newsletter and create a personalized profile on our Web site,” says Williams. In addition, e-mail addresses are part of the information provided by outside agencies. Providence uses traditional postal mail to send a form requesting permission to send e-mail to that account.

Since moving to personalized Web and e-mail, Providence has seen the number and quality of applicants increase dramatically. They use the Web and e-mail software in an integrated Web and e-mail environment. “We use a Web-based content management system for the creation, editing, and delivery of our Web and e-mail communications,” said Williams. “Our goal is to allow our entire campus community to participate in creating our newsletter. This lets readers see themselves as a student here and decide if they would be happy here for four years. And, the system makes creation and delivery of this personalized experience an easy, fast process for our admissions team.”


Checklist for Selecting an E-Mail Hosting Service

Each e-mail hosting service has a different set of capabilities and fees, so it’s important to know which features you need to accomplish your marketing and sales goals. In evaluating e-mail hosting services, be sure to ask if they provide the following list of features and capabilities:

  • Maintain a database of subscription and interest data, not individual mailing lists
  • E-mail as many review copies of newsletters to editors as necessary prior to publication
  • Provide personalization based on each subscriber’s interest profile
  • Track clickthroughs in real time to monitor response to articles and offers
  • Provide Web and e-mail survey capability
  • Provide Web product registration capability
  • Enable Web-based management of the service and reports
  • Automatically handle unsubscribes and bounces
  • Provide for both newsletters and lead collection
  • Send both individual newsletters to subscribers and an ongoing campaign of messages to leads

Cliff Allen, cofounder of SureToMeet, president of Coravue

Web technology makes it very easy to quickly communicate with so many people that it’s easy to forget the overriding purpose of creating a powerful web site.

It’s cool to be able to interact with customers who come to a web site. We can share a great deal of information, gather more profile data than we think we can use, and provide an entertaining, informative, and educational environment.

It’s so cool that we sometimes lose sight of what we’re trying to accomplish with this technology. Sure, we want to sell products with e-commerce or generate leads for salespeople.

But how does this impact the audience? I mean, really impact them.

Many people involved in Internet marketing feel that they’re helping members of their audience improve their lives through the information and products provided on the web.

Some time back a series of TV spots ran for iVillage. They talked about women with real problems finding real help from people like themselves. Because many ailments are shared by very small groups of people, these groups are so small that local support organizations aren’t always available to help. The Internet provides access to those communities of people who share common interests and needs, and are willing to help.

Speaking of TV commercials, another company is advancing the concept of one-to-one marketing and mass customization. Xerox periodically runs a campaign with the theme, “keep the conversation going.” This campaign shows that providing personalized information to customers appeals to people – on paper, of course. Xerox makes a good case that profile data can be used to personalize more than just web sites and e-mails.

Influence Decisions

But all of these – from communities of like-minded people to personalized web, e-mail, social media, and, yes, paper-based communications – are done for one reason, and that’s to influence decisions.

Communication is a give and take. Whether it’s an online community where people share their experiences or an e-commerce site where merchants provide products (and get paid). We communicate when we want to influence those around us to be like us, respect us, and sometimes buy from us.

Internet Interaction

But how do we actually use the web to provide the kind of interaction that touches people and influences their decisions? The slogan used in the Xerox TV commercial has the answer: Keep the conversation going.

The conversation we use in everyday life is also aimed at influencing the decisions people around us make. We know that we need to speak the language of the person we’re trying to communicate with and understand what they’re feeling.

Have you watched a couple of Internet techies talk to each other? At first they ask a few questions to learn about the other person’s experience level and background. Then they shift into a very different level of talking that uses a language of their own, sometimes called “technospeak” (and sometimes called “technobabble”). They don’t care if the non-technical people around them don’t understand their TLAs (three letter acronyms), because those conversation shortcuts help them communicate better.

Building Relationships with Conversation

They can quickly form a bond of trust and understanding that frequently allows them to learn from each other. That respect can lead to learning something new that influences their decisions.

So how can we use conversational techniques on the web to influence visitors? Portions of the Xerox web site are written in a conversational style, but there’s more to making a site conversational than the style of writing.

A truly conversational site learns about visitors, saves that information in profiles, and then uses that knowledge to react to different interests.

Here’s a quick test to see if your web site is conversational:

  • Does the site ask questions aimed at learning about each person?
  • Can the site determine if someone is just starting to learn about products like yours or has researched the market and is about to make a purchase decision?
  • Does the text on the site change to match the interest and knowledge level of the visitor?

These are just a few of the ways that profiles about people can be used to make a Web site more conversational, but the real focus should be on getting in step with each visitor and matching what the site says with what people are thinking and feeling. The art of conversation is taught in books, classes, and seminars, so there is a procedure for doing it. Why not use the same procedure on the Web?

Intuitive navigation and great design help people find the right document. But taking advantage of meaningful profile data allows dynamic Web and e-mail to make an impact on members of the target market and influence their purchase decisions

Cliff Allen, cofounder of SureToMeet, president of Coravue

People visit Web sites for many reasons, but the quality and the depth of the content are the primary reasons people go to a company’s Web site.

Customers want to find out — whether through product descriptions at a consumer site or extensive product information at a business-to-business site — how products can satisfy their needs.

The quality and amount of content are major factors in the success of a site, because it’s the content — text, photos, and illustrations — that helps customers determine whether they want to do business with that company.

Can you imagine any commerce site being successful without describing the products it sells? Obviously not. Yet many sites have extremely limited product information. This leads to apprehension because customers don’t know if the product meets their needs or not.

Visitors are not interested merely in detailed product descriptions. They also want information about how people like themselves have used products successfully.

Here are several reasons why the quality and quantity of content have so much influence on the success of a site.

Content Builds Relationships

Many purchase decisions are “considered decisions” that are made over time as the customer weighs the alternatives before making a purchase. During the sales cycle, it’s important to continually provide additional content.

Some sites do this by continually providing new material, such as case studies and white papers. Another approach is to store the number of visits in the person’s data profile, then display new links to content each time the person returns to the site. This is especially effective when an e-mail campaign of messages is triggered by the number of visits to the site.

However new content is presented to returning visitors, the benefits become clear as the total number of sessions per person increases with the growth of the content.

Content Reduces Apprehension

Customers always want to feel good about the purchases they make. So any lingering questions about a product that go unanswered reduce the chances that customers will buy that product.

As they understand how they can use a product, and how it will help them, their anxiety about making the purchase is reduced.

So … the more questions you can answer, the more likely you will make the sale.

Content Creates Differentiation

You probably sell products that have a unique combination of features that make your products different from the competition’s. However, if your product descriptions are similar to those on other sites, customers can’t tell how you’re products are different from – or better than – the competition’s.

You can drive home your competitive advantages by making sure there is sufficient content on your site that appeals to people most likely to buy your products.

In other words, content should be meaningful to your potential customers. It should help readers solve problems, accomplish tasks, and, of course, help improve their lives.

A Content Case in Point

An example of how content differentiates two major competitors is the home-improvement market. The Home Depot and Lowe’s are similar in many respects. Both have large warehouse stores. Both sell everything from lumber to kitchen appliances. And, both have good prices. But when it comes to their Web sites, there is a significant difference.

The Home Depot home page leads off with products it wants to sell, but the top of the Lowe’s home page links to educational articles about how to use the products it sells.

In other words, the Lowe’s Web site is both a commerce site and an information resource.

While Lowe’s has a little less than half the revenue of Home Depot, the Lowe’s Web site receives about 85 percent as much traffic as Home Depot. If the amount of traffic to both Web sites is any indicator of future growth, it looks like Lowe’s is building a successful Web presence.

Every successful company has a continuous flow of new products and has new uses for existing products. Marketers can leverage such innovation to improve a company’s competitive position by continually expanding descriptive content about every aspect of its products.

The Content Management Challenge

Quickly creating Web pages that combine high-quality graphic design with compelling text requires exceptional teamwork and coordination. Combine that with the technology challenge of tailoring content based on profile data, and it becomes clear that new tools and production techniques are needed.

Coravue and other vendors have developed content management products that separate the design function from the authoring tasks. These content management products combine the text and graphics to automatically create Web pages and promotional e-mail messages.

Today’s content management tools help marketers take control of the workflow process of authoring, editing, approving, and scheduling content. This makes it easy for marketers to create the steady stream of quality content. But, more important, adding in-depth content to a site helps customers learn more about a company’s products and feel more comfortable making a purchase.

By Cliff Allen, cofounder of SurfeToMeet, President, Coravue, Inc.

i-biz-networking-skills

Customer loyalty is one of those elusive qualities that every company strives to achieve. While many companies have repeat customers, very few attain the goal of having customers that rave about their products and services.

One reason companies have a hard time achieving a high degree of customer loyalty is that they misunderstand why customers are loyal. And they use incentives and promotions in ways that don’t actually motivate customers to be loyal.

Loyalty Programs

Many times, marketers think loyalty programs and incentive programs are synonymous, but giving customers a discount or gift is just one way we can earn their loyalty. Understanding your customers’ various buying motives allows you to tailor a loyalty program so it’s a win-win.

Many marketers and salespeople are quick to cut prices to win customers because it’s quick and easy. Who wouldn’t like a price cut? However, savvy managers know it’s best to hold off lowering the price to ensure that a discount is actually required to motivate customers to make a purchase.

Salespeople have done this on a case-by-case basis since salesmanship was born. Retailers started using one of the best-known incentive programs in 1896 when S&H Green Stamps became available.

When American Airlines started the first frequent flyer program in the 1970s, the premise was “If you like flying for business, then you’ll love flying for fun.” Times have changed, and today it’s common for frequent flyers to be members of several programs.

So, how much loyalty do these frequent flyer programs generate if it takes a special web site or software just to manage the reward? It depends on how much traveling you do, which cities you frequent, and a number of other factors.

Incentive Programs

On the web, incentive programs such as MyPoints and Netcentives have become popular with some consumers because rewards can be earned quickly through multiple merchants. In addition, the S&H Green Points program will offer web merchants and consumers the familiar S&H Green Stamp brand of incentives.

But instead of offering incentives to every customer without regard to their profile, look at your marketing objectives and then use these tools to motivate customers to help you achieve your objectives.

For instance, take two components of a customer’s profile: how often they purchase and the size of their order. It’s easy to identify customers who place small orders often and customers who make occasional large purchases. Both groups can be motivated to shift their purchases from a competitor to you by providing incentives based on their profile.

Trying to get customers who make frequent purchases to buy even more frequently is probably not possible. So, the objective for this group would be to increase the size of their orders.

Likewise, trying to get customers who make large purchases occasionally to increase the size of their orders would be out of the question. Instead, the objective would be to motivate them to buy more frequently.

A generic discount or points reward system is not necessarily the best way to achieve these objectives because it doesn’t reward the customer for taking the desired action.

It doesn’t take a complex personalization system to make this work. First, segment customers who should receive different incentives. Then, e-mail the different groups and track their click-through back to the site and their purchases.

For customers who make large but infrequent purchases, you might offer a discount on any size purchase made within, say, 60 days. Customers who make small purchases about once a month could be offered a discount on any order that amounts to several percentage points over their largest order.

While these promotions are aimed at most repeat customers, there is another group that deserves special attention. So, what do we do for those customers who make frequent and large purchases? Thank them!

Nurture Loyal Fans

It’s customers like these who buy frequently and bring up the average order size. And, it’s customers like these who you want to feel special about your company because they are your loyal fans.

These people will go out of their way to tell others about your products or services. Would an ordinary incentive program motivate these people to spend more? Yes, but there is more potential in recognizing that these customers may be more motivated by non-monetary rewards. Try including their testimonial on your web site or inviting them to be part of a customer advisory council.

These fans treat their relationship with the company in a special way. They demonstrate their loyalty with their money, their mouths, and their e-mail.

You’ve probably had the same experience that I had recently when a friend raved about a particular web site. During lunch he told me about how  wonderful greatSmarterKids.com is.

He mentioned their referral program, where by having their site send me a $10 discount coupon, he also received a $10 discount coupon. After lunch, I received a personalized e-mail he initiated on their site which included a special URL that would give me a discount, and I knew he would soon be making another purchase to save $10.

While this particular program isn’t aimed at specific customer segments, it does provide customers with a way to share their enthusiasm for the company and receive a benefit at the same time.

Many times marketers talk about one-to-one marketing as if it were just segmenting a market into very small groups, then tailoring the marketing communications to those groups.

True one-to-one marketing goes beyond that by recognizing that we’re building a relationship with individuals. These are people who deserve our loyalty by our listening to their needs and desires, then looking for special ways to treat these loyal customers.

One approach to developing personalized Web sites allows marketing and content personnel to manage the Web site with a minimum of programmer and other IT staff assistance so you can react instantly to your market.

  • Profile your customers
  • Create customized content
  • Integrate the Web into the enterprise
  • Understand customer buying motives
  • Improve customer service

Tailoring Content Based on Profiles  

Your customers are looking for personal attention, and personalization can tailor your Web site for each individual. Providing personalized Web content based on individual needs and preferences helps you create loyal customers by providing extra value for the time spent at your Web site.

The application server selects appropriate content that will appeal to your audience based on rules stored in HTML template files. The template files also determine how content will be formatted, which means that the design of your Web site can be separated from the content creation – making it easier to develop and maintain a personalized Web site.

There is a well defined procedure for creating a personalized Web site that leads to a successful implementation.

  • Create a profile database to store user preferences and other profile information
  • Develop “content objects” that will be used repetitively throughout the site
  • Create a “content database” of material, such as catalog information, that will use consistent formatting
  • Create HTML templates that will provide a consistent format to pages
  • Add personalization rules to HTML templates that select appropriate content for each individual

Profile Management

Creating the profile database for a personalized Web site can be a challenge – not because of technology, but because we may not know how to segment our market. Fortunately, the process can be simplified by starting with the questions your salespeople currently use when presenting to prospects.

For example, if your salespeople usually ask prospects questions about where they use products like yours, preferred quantity in an order, and similar questions, then you are on the road to knowing the types of preferences to store in your profile database. Then, as new questions or types of preferences arise, you can easily add them to the profile database, so that every page in your Web site has easy access to an individual’s entire profile. This means that any page can be personalized based on any answer – from the current Web session or any previous session.

In addition to including questions within content pages for explicit profiling, Web developers can incorporate behavior-based profiling into Web sites. This implicit profiling technique means that you are not limited to form-based responses, but good systems can also observe Web behavior and tailor content.

Whether you need only a few profile characteristics or hundreds of preference indicators, personalization makes it easy for you to create customized content – on any page – with a minimum of effort on the part of your Web developers.

Creating Personalized Content

It is easy for Web developers to create customized content because personalization systems work the same way that sales professionals tailor their presentations. Creating personalized content  is done by defining the conditions when content will be shown, then tags are used to specify those rules.

For instance, you may have a promotion aimed at golfers, and the profile database stores information about their hobbies. While this is a relatively simple personalization rule, it is used frequently by most Web developers because it provides an easy, precise way to tailor content to an individual’s profile.

Of course, not every personalization rule is as simple as the golf promotion. Complex personalization rules are supported with minor variations in this example. In addition, many business rules lend themselves to being expressed in traditional SQL commands. That’s why some personalization systems support a full-range of SQL commands with their parameters. The SQL commands used most are:

  • Select – Choose records from a content database, an order processing database, or a database of special profile information
  • Update – Change existing records in any database permitted to the Web server
  • Insert – Add new records to databases of profile, content, accounting, or other information
  • Delete – Remove records based on a set of conditions, if system permissions allow

Content Management Options Provide Flexibility

The content on large Web sites has grown dramatically, causing a management problem that just keeps on growing. Material can appear on a single page or in a catalog of thousands of products, and all pages need to have a unified look and feel. Personalization systems can draw content from a number of sources, which means Web developers can choose the approaches that meet their needs.

Content may be stored in several ways:

  • Within the template file for use in that individual document
  • Stored in “content object” files that can be included in multiple documents
  • Database records of pure content that can be formatted by the template document

A variety of content management techniques are available, such as transferring content from traditional print-based tools.

In addition, database publishing techniques allow content developers to enter material via forms so they don’t have to use any HTML tags. This makes it easy for authorized people to add content that can be immediately available on the Web site.

Recognize Individuals Automatically

Most people appreciate being recognized, and Web users don’t like to remember IDs and passwords — they just want to be recognized and treated as individuals. Personalization turns static Web pages into dynamic content by automatically recognizing individuals as they move from page to page during a session, and when they return to your site in the future.

This is done by assigning each person a unique Coravue ID that is stored on their computer as a “cookie” and in every bookmark they save on your site. Since most people recognize the value of cookies, they can just enter your URL and Coravue will automatically sense who they are and use their profile to customize the site just for them.

For the people who do not allow cookies to be stored on their computer, their bookmark tells the system who they are, so the site is automatically customized for them, too.

Up-Selling in E-Commerce

There are many ways you can build a relationship with a customer when your site automatically recognizes an individual. For e-commerce sites that store product purchase history, customers who have purchased a popular product can see pages that promote related products, while new customers can be shown the popular product. This avoids the waste of promoting a product to a customer who already purchased the product, and it leads customers to products that complement existing purchases.

Serving Customers Like They’ve Never Been Served

The Web can reduce customer support costs – but only if the customer can find the support information they need.

As the number of products sold by a company increases, the number of customer support pages on the Web site increases – to the point where a customer can’t find the information they need. So, they return to the traditional approach of calling a support center and not only asking for help, but also complaining that the Web site was of little use.

The solution is to automatically recognize customers when the return to your Web site looking for help and display the support information only for products they have purchased. This reduces the time they spend searching for support information and reduces your call center expenses. It also provides you with an opportunity to sell related products to the customer by presenting them with “valued customer” specials based on their purchase history, interests, or Web behavior.

What better way to keep a customer than to solve their problem and offer a special on a product you know they can use!

Self-Paced Training Improves Productivity and Reduces Costs

As products become more complex, customers need more and more training so they can obtain the maximum value from your products. At the same time, your employees need additional training so they can sell and support customers.

A personalized Web site can provide self-paced training by storing in the profile database answers to questions about their understanding of the material that are included throughout the training material. This allows the Web site to adjust the level of training material “on the fly” as the student is learning, which provides instant feedback and direction.

Integrating with the Enterprise

While it’s important to treat your Web guests as individuals, it’s also important for your Web developers to have a personalization system that can be easily integrated with the existing enterprise computing environment. The Coravue Application Server uses industry-standard SQL database technology to store user profile data, as well as data for content, accounting, and control.

This not only means that personalized Web sites respond quickly, it also allows a Web site to be integrated with traditional SQL databases used throughout corporations. By extending existing database applications to the Web, corporations can now deliver applications to customers and employees around the world, and those applications can be automatically tailored in real-time to the needs and authorization of those individuals.

Compare Demographics to Web Activity

The ID is more than a way to personalize a Web site. It’s also a way to track each individual so you can learn how different profile characteristics affect Web behavior.

Personalization includes each person’s ID in a log that shows the date and time every page and every graphic was displayed. This means you can perform tabulations that have never been possible, such as:

  • How many men versus women saw each product?
  • Are different hobbies related to purchase behavior?
  • Is the person’s title related to the length of the sales cycle?
  • Do people with higher education use text links or graphic links more?

How to Get Started

With a good personalization system, it’s easy to take advantage of the benefits of Web personalization because you don’t need a dedicated staff of software programmers – you can begin by having your present Web developers use their favorite HTML tools to add tags to your existing Web pages.

This means there is no expensive re-design, no new dedicated server hardware, and no additional system administrative overhead.

What you do need is a desire to use one-to-one relationship marketing techniques to achieve higher customer loyalty and revenue, while you maintain control over your sales and support expenses.

As you can see, we’re more than a software company. We’re here to help you take advantage of today’s most powerful marketing technology by applying one-to-one relationship marketing techniques with Web personalization.

 

 

Personalizing Web and Email Content

The idea of personalizing Web and email content is becoming well accepted
because most of us already personalize the person-to-person communications that
we use every day. However, planning a personalized Web site has proven to be
more of a challenge than many marketers had imagined.

The first step is learning about customer motivation, which makes strategic
planning for personalization much easier.

One of the first challenges that many marketers run into when converting a
static Web site into a personalized Web site is deciding what to personalize.
There is so much personalization possible that it’s hard to determine which
items are actually worth personalizing.

Set Clear Goals

Early in the planning process, it’s important to establish clear goals that
can guide you in choosing what to personalize.

For instance, if the goal of personalization is to increase loyalty, then
adding features to increase return visits would be desirable. On the other hand,
if a company’s customers usually make large purchases that involve a significant
amount of research and evaluation – but customers don’t benefit from return
visits to the site after the purchase – then the personalization focus should
improve the ease and quality of the customer’s decision-making process.

Once the goals for personalization have been determined, the next step is to
look at how customers gather information and make purchase decisions.

Salespeople and telemarketers who talk with customers every day learn from
experience how to gather information and tailor their presentation to match each
type of customer and the stage of the purchasing process. They’ve learned how to
tell the difference between people who are just starting to investigate making a
purchase and those who are on the verge of making a purchase. Sometimes the
difference is which questions they ask. At other times, it’s the order in which
they ask them.

It’s not yet easy to carry on a voice conversation with a customer through a
Web site, so we need to anticipate the various ways to profile customers so a
site can select the most appropriate marketing messages.

Listen to Your Salespeople

One of the best sources of information about the different types of customers
and their motivations are the successful salespeople who are in constant contact
with customers. Visit with your salespeople and product managers, and you’re
likely to turn up some very interesting insights about what customers are
looking for.

Some consumers are brand-conscious and want the reliability and consistency
they associate with the brand – or something about the image projected by the
brand appeals to them. Consumers look for brands they recognize and value, and
are not necessarily looking for descriptive content educating them on why they
should buy particular brands.

Other customers want to be educated about a product category or informed
about specific products. These customers may need to be guided through the
information-gathering process by helping them compare the features, functions,
and benefits of similar products.

Between brand buyers and consumers who want to be educated are prospective
customers with a mix of attitudes, needs, feelings, and fears that we can deal
with using personalization. But before we can implement marketing techniques on
a Web site, we need to know the paths that customers follow as they prepare to
make a purchase decision.

For example, if a company sells to some people who are brand-conscious,
others who are price-conscious, and a third group that seeks the best value,
then messages need to be tailored to each buying motive. In addition, some
people may just be investigating the product category, some know what they need
and are comparing products, while others are making a final decision.

When you take into consideration the three different buying motives and the
three stages of making a purchase decision, there are nine ways to personalize
marketing messages! Below is an example showing the nine different message
themes that would be appropriate in each situation:

Once you have mapped out the different themes that appeal to each segment of
your market, it’s much easier to plan the actual personalized Web site and
supporting personalized email marketing. Then you’re in a much better position
to know just what to personalize on your site, and that will pay off in making
people feel comfortable buying from you.

 

Peppers & Rogers: Return on Customer Maximizes Value

It’s always been difficult to plan effective marketing programs because we can’t accurately project how much a program will contribute to the bottom line. There are several reasons for this, including

  • Lack of data about past marketing programs
  • Uncertainty about future programs
  • Lack of clarity about how marketing campaigns work together to affect actual customer behavior

With that lack of detailed data about past results, it’s amazing that strategic marketing plans can be developed at all!

Another issue that’s even larger than a lack of past data is forcasting the future. It can take years for strategic marketing plans to be fully implemented and have a significant effect on revenue. However, all marketing programs, such as advertising, promotion, and sales are expected to produce results in the current period.

So, how can marketers plan for long-term growth when they’re measured on short-term results?

There hasn’t been an effective way to evaluate the overall long-term benefits of current and future advertising, promotion, sales, and other marketing activities. These are the problems that are dealt with in the new book by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Return on Customer. Peppers and Rogers provide the financial building blocks we can use to measure the long-term value of all marketing programs.

If you’ve read their previous books on one-to-one marketing, you’ll recognize stories about airlines, banks, and retailers that focus on their customers. However, if you’ve not read any of the Peppers and Rogers books, this is a good one to read to understand their philosophy.

The book Return on Customer is filled with the concepts of identifying the needs and problems of each individual customer, and how to treat different customers differently, which is the key concept of one-to-one marketing.

Their idea is that “return on customer” can be calculated in the same way that the financial health of a company is calculated using “return on investment” techniques.

Peppers and Rogers define “return on customer” as the sum of a firm’s current-period profit from its customers, plus any changes in customer equity (the sum of the lifetime values of all current and future customers served by the firm), divided by the total customer equity at the beginning of the period.

The concept of return on customer sounds a lot like the concept of lifetime value of the customer, mostly because they use customer lifetime value as part of their equation. Then, they apply the same financial metrics used in return on investment calculations to calculate a return on customer.

Sounds simple enough — just measure the change in the current and future profit from each customer, then sum all those profits. But you also have to include the expected future profit from each customer you don’t yet have.

It starts to sound like an impossible task, but Peppers and Rogers include a number of concepts in the book Return on Customer on how to accomplish this.

Even though it’s hard to implement, the benefits of adopting the return on customer concept can be tremendous. Peppers and Rogers make the case — quite convincingly — that their concept can help marketers identify how much to invest in each customer, how much to expect to get back from each customer now and in the future. And, yes, they have a rather sound approach to calculating future profits from future customers.

The return on customer concept is built on thinking about customers as economic assets — much the same way that CFOs think about whether to invest in a new warehouse, a new plant, or a new type of manufacturing equipment. For CFOs, their financial analysis consists of projecting the future expenses and revenues for a new plant or piece of equipment. Then, calculating the compounding “interest rate” that would produce the same result, which is called the Return on Investment (ROI).

In Return on Customer, Peppers and Rogers encourage marketers to do the same thing for each customer. This means we need to allocate revenue generated by a customer, and the expenses incurred in obtaining and supporting that customer, in order to calculate the net cash flow from each customer — for every activity, response, behavior, and interaction with each customer.

The challenge, of course, is in obtaining the revenue and expense data attributable to each customer.

Step 1
Customer Tracking
The first step is to implement tracking techniques so you know what each customer costs — from the very first contact through every interaction at every touchpoint. This requires a unified approach to tracking responses to advertising, direct marketing, and sales activities.
Step 2
Marketing Cost Allocation
The second step is to allocate all marketing costs to each customer who makes a purchase. Determining the marketing expense of obtaining each customer requires knowing which customers responded to, or were influenced by, every ad, direct mail piece, and sales call. There are a number of techniques that can be used to allocate marketing costs depending on whether you sell to consumers, through distribution channels, or directly to business customers.
Step 3
Revenue Allocation
Determining the revenue from each customer is relatively easy — that’s an accounting function that already exists. One of the more difficult parts of implementing the return on customer concept is allocating future marketing costs and revenues to future customers. Peppers and Rogers suggest using historical data on response rates, per customer costs, and per customer revenues to project what similar marketing activities will generate in the future.But of course, there is no “typical” response rate for an ad or direct marketing campaign. It’s important to look at historical data by market segment, product category, and stage in the product life cycle, and other factors.

By calculating the sum of all cash flows from all present and future customers, you can estimate your customer’s “customer equity.”

As you collect more and more historical data on revenue and marketing expenses by customer, it will become possible to develop a return on customer model that can help you predict how proposed marketing programs will affect both short-term and long-term customer equity.

This is important because total customer equity — the present value of all future net revenues — is a key component in determining shareholder value.

In other words, by calculating the long-term future benefits from current marketing programs, you can more easily justify investing in, say, a brand awareness campaign, adding a new product line, or expanding sales into a new country.

The basic concepts in Return on Customer are not new — CFOs have been using financial metrics like net present value, discounted cash flow, and return on investment for years. What is new is the idea of applying these financial metrics at the individual customer level.

It’s challenging to implement because every company implements marketing activities differently.

Don’t expect individual departments to implementing the concepts in Return on Customer because it requires a strategic decision by top management to apply these concepts across all marketing functions — advertising, promotion, sales, and customer service.

So, if a company is to have long-term success, and not be buffeted by short-term variations in the market, it’s important to take a long-term view toward increasing customer equity — and, therefore, shareholder value.

By Cliff Allen, cofounder of Coravue and SureToMeet

Tips for business networking

Many organizations add networking events to their programs to encourage members to meet one another and build relationships. These networking meetings can be as small as 10-30 people or as large as 300-500 people.

Unlike small networking meetings where each person can easily visit with all attendees, large networking events present a special challenge for event organizers: How can we help attendees meet appropriate contacts when the room is filled with hundreds of people?

It’s impossible for anyone to meet every appropriate contact at a large networking meeting, so it’s important for the meeting organizer to create opportunities for everyone to meet appropriate contacts.

The challenge is not just the size of the event, it’s also the diversity of interests among attendees. There are a number of reasons why people attend networking events. These include:

As networking events have grown larger, these groups have a hard time finding valuable contacts at large networking events.


Improving Connections at the Event

To help attendees overcome this problem, an event organizer needs to make it easy to connect with compatible people. Two of these techniques are to:

  • Identify each person’s interests on their nametag
  • Provide locations throughout the meeting room for each interest

Some event planners identify an attendee’s interests on their nametag. This can be done by using a different colored dot for each interest. As an attendee moves around the room, it’s easy to spot the colored dots representing their interests, which makes it easy to identify who to approach.

However, some people do not want to be labeled as a job seeker or salesperson because it keeps other people from wanting to talk to them. Also, people who are especially desired, such as job recruiters and investors, attract so many people that they cannot easily network.

This makes the use of tall signs throughout the room much better because people can move through each section of the room without necessarily indicating a strong interest in that particular topic.

When it’s not possible to use tall signs, consider using colored helium filled balloons, with each color indicating a different interest. The difficulty here, of course, is letting each attendee know which color represents which topic of interest.

Electronic Networking Before and After the Event

In addition to helping people connect during the event, it’s also helpful to provide ways for attendees to connect electronically prior to an event to plan connections. This can be done by using a Web based RSVP system such as SureToMeet.com that allows people to make their profile available to others interested in attending the event.

One problem with trying to connect with specific people during a networking event is not knowing whether they are actually there. One technique that networking event organizers can use to help attendees is to suggest that each person post their business card on a large bulletin board. Then, as each person arrives, it’s easy to scan the bulletin board and see who has already arrived.

If you’re unsure of the interests of the people expected to attend, you can ask attendees which interests should be available on signs or other indicators at the event. This can be done by using an RSVP system, such as SureToMeet.com, that allows people to enter a note or comment along with their RSVP.

Even the best networker cannot meet every attendee who was appropriate for them to meet. To help attendees obtain additional value from the event, an RSVP system should be used that allows attendees to connect electronically with each other after the event. For example, SureToMeet.com allows attendees to provide their profile to each person at an event so they can contact people attending the event. This makes it easy to follow up on connections made during the event.

Increasing the Value of a Large Networking Event

Networking has become an important part of building a career or a business, which means that networking events will become larger and more valuable to attendees.
As the size of your networking events grows, so does the need to create opportunities for making connections quickly and easily before, during, and after each event.

These techniques can help attendees make a large networking event much more valuable — and increase the loyalty that attendees have for the event.


Cliff Allen is the co-author of the book One-to-One Web Marketing; 2nd Ed., published by John Wiley & Sons., and was co-founder of SureToMeet.com.