Category Archives: internet marketing

CRM and Email Marketing

Since CRM (customer relationship management) is supposed to mean any one or any system that interacts with customers one would logically think that email marketing would be an integral part of any CRM solution.

But it isn’t.

Email marketing has been around as long as email itself has.  Yet most companies who do email marketing for customer retention (up selling and cross selling) or acquisition (acquiring new customers) do so blindly using third party lists or hobbled together lists.   Some may use Templates found on Microsoft’s template section of their website.  Others use a variety of software or internet based solutions — and there same to be a plethora of them out there.

Most companies seem to use the axiom:  throw enough mud on the wall and some of it is bound to stick when sending out corporate marketing emails.

No tracking of the ROI (return on investment).  No knowing if you are “ticking off” your best customers.  No knowing how many hit the SPAM filter.  No knowing how many people get multiple emails from you (annoying them).  Bad email marketing hurts every other aspect of CRM, and does more damage than good.

This is mass emailing.  My friend, Sundeep Kapur (other wise known as the Email Yogi) has been an email marketing guru since around 1999 and he has outlined “Seven Stages of eMarketing” in a  Whitepaper – available, with just a simple request.  The first is exactly what I outlined above:  mass marketing with the hope someone, somewhere will read it.

I don’t want to “give away” everything in Sundeep’s excellent paper, but suffice it to say that email CRM isn’t any different than CRM in general — know thy customer.  You must target your existing customers and potential customers by market segment (customer segmentation), by demographics, by buying history, etc.  None of this is rocket science, but it is all hard work — that results in qualified leads that generate new customers.

The more you can customize the email to the prospect the better.  And if you can make it FUN even better still!

Customer segmentation allows you to target your email messaging.

Once you’ve created an email offer, newsletter, etc. it is a good idea to set up two separate tests with similar, but not identical, offers.  The test audiences must be the same segmentation for this to work.  Try to make an offer that requires a response (buy in) before the scroll down point (above 400 pixels in height) and if this is the first email one of those should be an opt in to get more emails from you.

Design the email using HTML and a plain text file.  If you start getting fancy with CSS or flash — even Java — many email programs won’t read it properly.

When CRM and email marketing work together it is a beautiful thing.    Email marketing can also extend into social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) via RSS and SMS.

Sundeep works for my old boss, NCR — a leader in retail and hospitality solutions.   Software solutions vary based on your own corporate needs (and budget).  RWD uses Constant Contact.  The design of emails is pretty easy, but it isn’t your standard Windows “look and feel” so there is a learning curve and difficulty if you want to copy or paste from it into another program.   They do offer a free 60 day trial, so if you are new to email marketing take a look at them and try them out.

More mid-range companies might look at Gold Lasso.   The UI is also not the easiest to use, but they do have some analytics thrown into the mix.  Also good in the mid-range and even enterprise (big) company range is ResponsysJupiterResearch awarded Responsys the highest combined score in “market suitability” and “overall business value” among all enterprise-oriented email service providers.  It also ranked high with Forrester and Gartner (in a niche category).  The Enterprise level also includes the market leader, Cheetahmail (now part of Experian).

Cheetahmail is the most entrenched, and it is very feature rich.  The UI (user interface) suffers from some of the same issues as Constant Contact and Gold Lasso.

In a future blog I’d like to delve into how well email marketing soltuions tie into legacy systems (the back end CRM, ERP and industry specific apps which hold the wealth of customer data) — both from a push and pull perspective.

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The World is Upside Down

This blog spends a lot of pixels on the topic of CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  How can companies manage their customers.  How can we keep current customers loyal and retain them?  How can we find new customers who will be profitable and love us and stay with us?

Simple answer?

You can’t.

You don’t really manage customers anymore — if you ever did.  Perhaps the idea was always unreasonable.

Customers are people.  Newsflash.

People are unpredictable.  People are not, by nature, loyal.  If they were the divorce rate wouldn’t be at 50%.

People only care about what they care about NOW.  Today.  If you are selling Christmas trees to Jews they won’t care.  They don’t use them (well, some do but not many).

Customers buy what they WANT to buy and the key today is not in trying to manage your customers but in understanding who they are, what they want (or need) and making it easy for them to be in the right place at the right time with the right story.    Story is key here — because customers need to be able to find what they need when they need it.

And it needs to be simple.  Simple for customers to understand what your widget is.  Easy for them to understand why it matters to THEM (not you, they could care less about you) and then make it easy for them to get to the end result of what they want.   Intuitive (like a iPod, like a GUI (graphical user interface) versus a c: prompt).

The customer is now in charge of the world.  Realize it.  Embrace it.  So now more than ever is “know thy customer” and realize that while you need them, they don’t need you.  Unless you give them a reason to need you.

Happy 2009!

Times are tough.  Businesses large and small are shutting down or looking for government hand outs.   Will GM and the other auto manufacturers survive?   Are we facing a depression??  Job loss is rising and it seems that daily we see new layoffs reported.    It is even rumored that Microsoft may lay off up to 17% of its workforce.  Link.

I’m not picking on Microsoft, simply highlighting the situation that our economic down spiral is just that — when one thing goes bad it impacts another line of business. . . from the mom and pop restaurants who lose customers, and thus so do their suppliers to the big firms who are household names.

Yet I started this blog saying “Happy 2009” and I really am optimistic.   As FDR said so many years ago “All we have to fear is fear itself.”

There have to be opportunities — and with the new Obama administration about to take over it seems there will be a number of attractive areas.   Obama has promised global Internet access — so the network providers have a golden opportunity to come out of this downturn quickly.  The new administration is also very pro “green” — so if look for environmentally friendly solutions in your field.   The other attractive markets?

Government itself as a customer (federal for now, as the local governments who rely heavily on property taxes are “hurting”) and health care.  Baby boomers are aging and putting more and more stress on health care.  Again, the new administration is very interested in universal health care.  Keep in mind that Hillary Clinton, slated to be our new Secretary of State, was in charge of the Clinton Administration’s health care vision about fifteen years ago.  Back then I was working closely with the Chairman and CFO at Adventist Health System Sunbelt, and the CFO was on Hillary’s committee.  A lot of the visions then (electronic patient records that are patient-centric, not owned by individual doctors) are part of the vision yet today.

Tom Daschle has been named as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new administration.   In his book Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, he  discusses price controls (meaning health care providers need to find a way to improve quality to reduce costs).    Daschle is a big fan of Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which has a two tier approach — everyone has access to a base level of health care and you can pay for private access if you so desire.

Time will tell what the Obama administration will do, but the time to begin exploring how you can take advantage of the new opportunities is now.  Welcome to 2009!

Internet Marketing — at home at work and on your cell phone

July 2007 McKinsey published a report on how companies are marketing online.

The results are intriguing.

Although most savvy companies are using some form of online marketing (about 2/3rd per the report) online and offline marketing are often separate and non-communicative. Doesn’t that seem odd in light of the whole “clicks and mortar” concept of combining the power of the internet with good old fashioned outlets?

A major reason for the disconnect is the old “silos of information” problem we’re so familiar with. The systems that run traditional businesses don’t have the necessary capabilities for Wiki, Blogs, viral marketing, etc. Even with today’s sophisticated CRM software solutions that allow a prospective customer entry via the Internet, “click to chat”, call center, email, fax, etc. most companies haven’t implemented that technology — let alone the next step that ties the Internet itself to their back end ERP or industry specific applications (such as HIS in health-care, BSS in Telecom, etc.).

So many companies have sophisticated “front end” marketing for their Internet presence — SMS coupons to the cell phone for example — but the back end is a little chaotic and highly manual.

Today when most people think of Internet marketing (if they think of it at all) they picture email SPAM and banner adds that may be linked to previous sites they’ve visited.

Thought leaders have long been blogging (hey, you’re one of them — you are reading this!) and using SEO (search engine optimization) to try and get their websites higher up on the coveted search engines like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live Search, etc.

We’ve moved from purely informational websites and B2C or B2B (business to consumer and business to business) to massively multi-player game sites (like World of Warcraft or Disney’s ToonTown) and social networks (like FaceBook and MySpace).

Virtual worlds are the next phase past social networks. The are multi-dimensional sites where users can interact with each other in a cross between IM (instant messaging) and social networking.

Podcasts and ad hoc Webinars are another new marketing venue where the information is multimedia and folks can watch them online or download them. These can take the form of demos and infomercials and can be a very effective form of online advertising.

We’ve barely scratched the surface — how about Wikis (like Wikipedia where anyone can contribute content) or Widgets (if you have Vista you probably have widgets showing the time or the stock market) and web services that do the work of making it all seem like magic. . .

Everyone seems to agree that online marketing is important and here to stay. 83% (per the McKinsey report) are using it for service management and 44% for pricing. The real trick here is to decide which form of online marketing makes the most sense for your company. To do that you must decide what your goal is (driving sales, improved customer satisfaction, leads, etc.) and then examining not only the various forms we’ve discussed here but which best suits your business model.

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