Another Tool in a Marketer's Response Kit
Merging Offline Tactics With Online Methods Makes For Better One-to-One Campaigns
By Matt Graham
E-fulfillment, an electronic response to a direct marketing request, can be an important part of a company's overall one-to-one marketing strategy. In the right situation, and to the right customer, it can offer several advantages. The marketer who employs a blend of "e" and traditional, or land-based fulfillment, will likely realize the most potential from their marketing campaigns.
The three biggest advantages of e-fulfillment are:
• Speed—You reach targets quickly.
• Cost effectiveness—In some instances, it's less expensive to reach the customer.
• Control/customization—It provides the capability to adjust your campaign in real time—test, adjust and move forward. When blended with traditional fulfillment, it creates a highly customized campaign.
True one-to-one marketing—when content is completely personalized, including the cover letter/note, types of attachments and the content of each attachment—is expensive and time-consuming using land-based methods. But not all situations call for a solely e-based fulfillment system. Careful consideration of the type of target being reached and the company's marketing objective, will determine the appropriate combination of e-based and land-based fulfillment components to utilize.
For example, if a credit card company's database identifies a person with outstanding credit and a high income, that person might get a customized e-mail that includes an offer to upgrade his/her card and links to the Web sites of exotic vacation destinations. Someone else with a good credit history that tends to carry an outstanding balance on credit cards might get an offer for a balance transfer to a new card company.
Flexibility: Getting It Right, Right Now
Flexibility is an important benefit of a fully integrated e-fulfillment system. Such a system makes it easy to evaluate a campaign's roll out in real time—watch the pick-up on the first cell, tweak the campaign, watch the second cell go out, make another adjustment, and so forth.
With the proper systems in place, e-fulfillment offers direct marketers a wide range of options. It permits increased analysis and customization of future messages, allowing marketers to see when people open the e-mails, and track as they click through to Web site links. Real-time Web reports of hits are available, detailing soft bounce-backs (server is temporarily down or a mailbox is full) and hard bounce-backs (service no longer exists or e-mail address is not valid). If an e-mail bounces back with a bad address or full mailbox, companies may have a call center representative double-check with the intended recipient to confirm how he/she wants to receive the information.
Insurance companies frequently use the most advanced type of e-fulfillment available to deliver a custom quote or actual policy. As they add initial or renewal subscription capabilities to their Web sites, information captured can be converted into an e-mail quote or policy. A fully integrated (blended) fulfillment system can guarantee 100 percent mailing, starting with e-mail and following up with traditional mail when electronic mail is not possible. When you are talking about providing insurance quotes and policies, it is imperative that the message gets through.
The following examples from current e-fulfillment users offer an overview of today's capabilities and a preview of where things are heading.
Fewer Reminders … More Completes
A liability insurance company was using mail fulfillment as a marketing tool with its professional services clients. Names and detailed information were generated daily, with policies printed and mailed twice weekly. Incorporating e-fulfillment, and maximizing its effectiveness, was simply a matter of designing a system that converted content into a PDF file at the point it would have "gone to print" in the traditional fulfillment process. These files are created in the same preprinted format that customers would have received in hard-copy form.
Like its traditional counterpart, the body of the e-fulfillment text message is highly personalized based on a client's insurance history, with rate and coverage information, policy type and brand and payment method received/requested—but it also includes a link to the insurer's Web site for more information. The policy itself is attached to the e-mail and incorporates the same client-specific information.
At the moderate volume level of this program, the e-method is just slightly less expensive than traditional fulfillment methods. As in many instances, however, cost is not the primary driver of this program—finding the preferred communication channel for a particular consumer is what counts. In addition, the insurance company finds that e-mail enables it to send fewer reminders to get policy renewals, and it is receiving more payments at a quicker rate.
I Need Coverage … Now
In this example, prospective customers visit an auto insurer's Web site, enter personal information and receive an electronic quote in just a few minutes. This quote can be converted into a binding policy once payment is made, which is also processed on the Web site.
Timing considerations for the consumer drive this e-fulfillment program. For the individual without auto insurance, obtaining a quote and binding policy as quickly as possible is the highest priority, making this process a competitive advantage for the insurance company that has this capability.
All elements of the contract, formatted to meet each state insurance commission's approved language and placement of sections, are in place. To the customer online, the process takes just minutes and the involvement of a third-party fulfillment company is transparent. The recipient can pay online and receive immediate proof of payment, which makes the quote a binding contract. While a traditional printed copy of the final policy will be mailed, the customer can simply print a copy of the quote, which includes coverage detail and proof of payment. The new customer can then immediately secure a license plate and/or vehicle sticker.
Information captured from the insurer's Web site is sent in real-time to the e-fulfillment system. Customized e-mail text messages are created along with complete policy quotes based on one of thousands of file templates covering every possible variable—demographics, coverage types and levels and the specific requirement of a particular customer's state of residence.
Talking Directly to Your Prospect
In many instances, customers and potential customers can request information through a variety of channels including a call center, Web site or mail. In one such instance, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer generates data daily from these sources. Based on the depth of information in the marketing database—gender, age, products requested and used—the development of highly customized text messaging and rich format attachments is possible. The system also enables custom e-mail messaging with links to specific parts of the company's Web site. For example, if a 35-year-old woman requests information on a particular nutritional supplement or medication, collateral material attached to the return message could feature photography of a woman matching her demographic description.
In this case, the company is developing a true one-to-one marketing campaign that, over time, can be further refined, based on this ongoing interactions loop.
Building on the Momentum
Today, in most cases, companies using e-fulfillment with rich content are also engaged in parallel mail campaigns. They are not looking to abandon traditional fulfillment methods, but rather are looking for new ways to get closer to their customers.
As consumers click through company's Web sites via electronic message links, each visit adds to their individual profile for future e-marketing efforts. As the file on each person is enhanced, marketers can cost-effectively move into more focused cross-selling and up-selling campaigns.
Overall, the trend is for companies to implement one-to-one marketing tools. More and more, they are looking for expertise from direct marketing service providers that enables them to reach customers and prospects within a very structured campaign, but target each one with a specific package of information via their mailbox, e-mailbox, over the phone or on a Web site.
E-fulfillment enables you to watch a campaign unfold in real time and improve it as needed, including the way individual follow-up is done. And blending e-fulfillment—with its reporting and campaign management capabilities—with the appropriate traditional fulfillment methods is the key to optimizing a company's one-to-one marketing efforts.
Matt Graham is director of Network Systems for Communication Concepts Group (CCG). He oversees all aspects of computer, network and Internet technologies and is a Novell Certified Network Engineer and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (215) 672-6900.