"We're into some really deep black magic here," warns Sterne. "There's an awful lot that's possible; the question is: 'How valuable is it?'"
From simple recognition ("Welcome back, Dave"), to customizable pages (like My Yahoo!), to personalized extra-nets, there's a world of options. But are there any rules about how and what to do?
"No," says Sterne. "Everybody's experimenting as we go along."
Since personalization is such a vast frontier, the best way to proceed is to stick your toe in.
"First you look at your budget," offers Sterne, "and then you start trying things and see what works. There's nothing that says you absolutely have to have personlization. Can you afford it? When you try it, is it working? Are your competitors doing it?"
You're a direct marketer, and testing online is cheap, so test different approaches to see what works and what flops.
Are You Interacting?
While the spam deluge means that e-mail prospecting will remain problematic, the Internet still is magic when it comes to dealing with your house file.
Where your Web site factors into your customer service and CRM programs is through cost avoidance. Think of your Web site as a 24-7 customer service rep.
"Pulling a number out of the air, say it's $10 to talk to somebody on the phone," reasons Sterne. "But if I put up a FAQ document and that answers your question and you don't call me, I've just saved $9.50," assuming the document costs 50 cents per view to maintain.
"The thing people are forgetting is they have to figure in customer satisfaction," continues Sterne. "If I can go to your Web site and get an answer at 11:30 at night, I'm a happy camper, and that's worth money."
Sterne offers Cisco Systems as an example. "Every time you run through a problem situation, you open up a case, work it through either on their Web site or with their people. The last interaction is, 'Was this good? How can we make it better?' If you do it all on the Web, the last interaction is, 'Did this save you from a phone call?' Half the time it does."