CRM Is Forcing Our Morphing to a Direct Response Mentality.

As we review the IMC programs we're developing for our clients, we see that virtually everything we do now in advertising and promotions has a response device attached to it. Why? For one thing, it's because we can. And because conversations with our customers are valuable, we will. These ongoing conversations are the lifeblood of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). CRM is a mindset. It's not something you can departmentalize. It must be infused throughout the entire organization.

Tom Duncan warns, "CRM is too often used to find new ways to bombard and push good customers to the point where they want to tell the company to shove it."

As a consumer, I agree with him.

Cynthia Clotzman, our CRM coach, wrote:

"At its core, CRM is about maximizing the value that a business gives the customer while maximizing the value that the customer gives the business."

CRM focuses on customers across all areas of the company, integrating sales, marketing, and customer service functions – basically any function that “touches” the customer.

Computerization, aided by the Web, is making it more feasible to track customer behavior and company performance to allow more accurate analysis.

Because of demand for accountability and because direct response has permeated virtually every marcom discipline, we want a direct response mentality to permeate every individual and account team in our agency. Less so for media relations, because there is no guarantee that an editor or producer will run a phone number or Web address. But editorial placements often do generate immediate sales results. Rosie O’Donnell featured the Tickle Me Elmo doll on her show and the response to the manufacturer was immediate. Another example, is when our agency’s PR work for Teva Sandals increased Web sales exponentially via traffic generated from editorial placements.

This focus on CRM has had numerous effects on our company, our mindset and the experience and skills required to deliver the service our clients deserve.

Regarding our mindset: This relates directly to the first tenet of our mission, which is, “To do great work….” We define great work as that which builds the brand while creating sales impact. The mindset that traditional advertising is basically for brand-building is obsolete.

Traditional advertising increasingly will be expected to illicit response. So as we’ve pursued our holy grail of great work, we’ve discovered and proven that the typical “junk mail” look of direct marketing is not necessary or even desirable to create response. We’ve proven that we can create image-building campaigns that have strong direct response elements.

An example of this occurred when Renaissance Cruises came to us for help with its direct response campaign.

Its direct mail piece was designed in the spirit of the often-used direct mail adage “ugly sells.” Which in some cases, it does. Renaissance, however, was selling a quality product to high-income, highly educated people. In our first test, we used the elements from its control (best performing) piece and designed them into a much cleaner self-mailer. When we tested the new design against the old design in a split run, the new design beat the cluttered one by an increase in responses of over 30%. This was reassuring for us, because it was more valid proof that direct mail doesn’t have to look schlocky to be effective.

Regarding the talent required to create this double-duty work (build brands while generating sales). It is essential that every member on our teams understands the need to produce measurable, results-generating work. Our copywriters and art directors know, respect and use the basic principles required to generate response. Because of the information that now is flowing back to us from our clients’ customers as a result of our work, each team has developed, to differing degrees, the ability to analyze the data and apply it to the next round of work.

It’s this analysis of behavior that can deliver insight for better customer understanding. It measures and predicts actual consumer behavior, as opposed to the less accurate method of measuring consumer attitudes from which behavioral activities are predicted. For example the correlation between “intent to purchase” and actual purchases is not nearly as accurate as predicting future purchases based on actual purchases.

 The premise here is that for maximum power, direct response no longer can afford to be a discrete discipline within an agency. It’s become apparent that every marketing communications specialist must, to a degree, become a direct response specialist in their area of expertise to excel.

  • Art directors must know how to build brand with images while guiding the eye to the response mechanism.
  • Writers must know how to build the desire plus trigger the action.
  • Media specialists must buy for response, as well as reach and frequency.
  • A promotional offer is, of course, measured by its response level, as well as its brand-building power.
  • Journalists want to give their readers, viewers and listeners more information. So media relations specialists need to inform them about free brochure offers or websites with more information.

Direct mail, direct response TV and e-commerce are not necessarily discrete disciplines. They're simply related to the specific delivery systems of the mail, broadcast, cable and the Web.

Client-based, self-directed teams are in alignment with this mindset. Stop and think for a moment how hard this level of integrated CRM would be to achieve within a company organized in functional departments.

It's probably obvious by now – you can't separate CRM from IMC. It all needs to work together in one seamless system. As the data from our clients' customers flows back to us at an ever increasing rate and volume, we must be able to organize, analyze and extract fresh insights to discover new market segments and measure demand for new products and product modifications. To this end, we are experiencing increased demand for people who can analyze this data and deliver  insights into customer behavior. After all, successful creative strategies are usually triggered by new customer insights.

Is this analysis the front end or the back end of the process? It's both, because as you can see by our chart at the beginning of this section, the continuous improvement process is circular in nature. The results (back end) feed directly into the development of the next program (front end). This is where the past meets the future. Er, uh, I guess that would be now?

This is marketing's flash point. Proper focus on this area can turn incremental improvement into perpetual evolution.

Database management is at the heart of customer relationship management (CRM). And it's an integral part of every step in the marketing communications process.