To keep up with the proliferation of channels containing this customer activity, businesses have for years now been forced to purchase systems to help optimize their channel activity. One system manages email, another manages direct mail, a third manages web data, and still a fourth manages search engine optimization and search engine marketing tactics. The result? A clump of disparate operations that contribute no understanding of your marketing strategy's big picture. But, consolidated, those avenues lead the way to the best customer picture we've ever had.
How do we catch up to these moving targets?
Integrating the full customer view is key to understanding how effectively you are marketing across channels. Take, for example, search engine marketing. Using just the data that you get from Google or your web analytics team, you can determine which search terms drive the most traffic or the most conversions and continue to invest down that path. But is this really the right investment?
A search term may drive more traffic, but is it the most desirable traffic that you are seeking? And what percent of offline transactions are affected by the search engine marketing? Now, if you were able to overlay the search information into the marketing database, you can see how many offline transactions were affected by search and apply lifetime value and profitability analysis to the keywords to make a more informed decision. The picture starts coming to life.
The good news is that, while customer interaction channels have grown, there has also been an explosion in integration technologies such as SOAP-based web services that underpin our ability to programmatically pull together these new channels. Solutions providers have proven resourceful in using web services to create application programming interfaces that help integrate the cross-channel action. Now is the time to discover the power of those capabilities and create a comprehensive view of your customers that reveals how to accurately and effectively market to each of them.
Some businesses are fortunate to have IT departments help them take advantage of this opportunity. But those of you operating without that luxury might be considering outsourcing; looking for a solid marketing automation provider that offer a good hosting option.
You'll want a database structure that supports online and offline channels as well as an extensive capability to integrate with downstream execution engines such as email, behavioral targeting, POS and call center applications. Your goal? A single source to manage your entire marketing eco-system -- consolidation that can cut your marketing infrastructure budget by 35-50%.
Smart organizations deal with tough economies by searching for new ways to become more efficient. This time around, one of the best ways is to adopt new technologies to help consolidate decisions and effort into one source. For all the challenges it presents, the economy of 2009 can also help usher in a new era that empowers marketers to make better decisions across their channels and become more efficient with their marketing budget.
Today's customer is more than ever a moving target that can be difficult to reach and understand. But the knowledge and technology to catch up to them is ready to be used, so that, ultimately, we can be there waiting with the right offer when they arrive.