Make Your Creative Work Smarter by Using Dialogue & Data
To make your marketing communications smarter and more relevant to customers, work on getting the most out of the two Ds: dialogue and data collection. They represent two key ways to learn about customers' wants and needs and to truly personalize those communications to them—enabling your communications to achieve higher response rates, change customer behavior and increase sales.
The Missing D: Dialogue
In business, a dialogue is the give and take of information between a customer and company. Mailing a piece of communication or persuading a customer to visit a Web site does not constitute a dialogue. It must be a two-way flow of information in which you get information a customer has given you and respond with value-added information.
The aim of dialogue is simple: By having an ongoing conversation with customers, you can build a relationship with them. As that relationship grows in time, you gain that customer's trust. And with that trust comes higher retention and greater incremental sales.
For virtually every piece of business on which you work, you can begin a dialogue with customers the next time you talk with them. Start by asking them to complete a survey. Keep it short, and motivate people to complete the survey by offering an incentive. Following are a few basic questions you might ask:
• Do you prefer to receive communications via e-mail or regular mail?
• What are your (insert your product/service here) preferences?
• Would you be interested in getting information on other products/services from our company?
• Would you like to receive updates on new products/services?
As soon as a customer replies, you're ready to begin a dialogue. Because once you know about a customer's personal preferences, it gives you the opportunity to deliver relevant, tailored messages via opt-in e-mails—or lasered copy in snail mail. Yes, snail mail. While much has been made about personalization in e-mail, you can offer the same kind of compelling messaging in laser-printed letters and inserts.
Your follow-up communications can include detailed information on specific products or services in which your customers are interested, cross-sell messaging, news updates (e.g., upcoming sales on preferred items) and even coupons. Just be sure the information you give back is relevant and shows that you've paid attention to what the customer told you.
The Under-used D: Data
Dialogue can take you only so far. As much as we all would like to engage customers in an on-going conversation, some customers don't want to spend the time or don't have the inclination to engage with us. And some marketers simply won't pay the incremental costs to collect the necessary data.
But you may know a good deal about your customers from data you already have. While you must always respect a customer's privacy, you can carefully use this information to personalize your communications in ways that are unobtrusive and invisible to the customer.
By leveraging these data, you can create communications that are compelling and personally relevant to your customers and their needs. Following are just a few of the things you can do with the data you may already have:
• Identify customers by name, business or geographic region.
• Recognize customers based on past buying behavior, enabling you to promote the products and services they want and need.
• Identify high-value "best" customers, and offer them special benefits and treatment.
Not sure where to find the relevant data? Talk with the data or analysis employees in your company. You may discover these folks have more information about your customer base than you ever imagined.
Make It Real
When can you begin offering customers more relevant, compelling, effective communications? Today. No matter where a customer may be in the product life cycle, begin this two-way conversation, and start developing a stronger company-customer relationship. Start by looking at each new project and business opportunity as the chance to begin a dialogue with customers, as well as a chance to leverage the data you may already have. You'll not only lift response rates, change customer behavior and increase the profitability of your client's brands, you'll also be offering a smarter, more unique creative product that truly sets you apart from your competitors.
Tom Rapsas is VP, creative director at Frequency Marketing, a loyalty marketing firm with a client roster that includes Verizon, Exxon-Mobil and Office Depot. Rapsas is based in the company's Princeton, NJ, office and can be reached at email@example.com