As marketing budgets are being reallocated from traditional media to digital channels, many email marketers have a real opportunity to drive program optimization. Our clients hear a ton of chatter around "sexy" email concepts like heat mapping, social media, Web analytics integration, etc. All of these can offer incredible value to a marketing program. However, I would argue that the real optimization opportunity lies in the way you leverage customer data.
As email marketers anxiously wait for the "thaw" of winter and the economy, see if you can take some of those dollars that your organization had spent on TV and direct mail and use them to optimize the following:
Database of Record
What database of record is your organization leveraging to manage customer relationships? Is it a CRM system, a sales-force automation tool or some other system developed internally? In many cases, email applications have been forbidden to connect to these systems directly, forcing marketers to live with latency in the form of data transfer between the database of record and the email application. As THE preferred method of communication between consumers and businesses, I would argue that there is no more important application to integrate into CRM than email.
The real challenge this direct integration addresses is not latency of data transfer but the issue of having to recreate a data schema within the email system every time new attribute information is added to the CRM application. Integration will always have its challenges, but the benefit to the customer in the form of a more personal relationship with your brand and for the business in more profitable direct email programs is undeniable.
Creating a Data Mart for Email
Many companies do not have a single database of record; critical customer information exists in a variety of locations across the organization. In these cases, marketing often falls into the trap of managing flat files from various systems and very rarely combining that data into a flexible format that can drive relevant messaging.
In recent months several companies have thrown their hat in the ring to help these organizations better collect, access and action data through centralization. Specifically, Teradata (the industry leader in enterprise data warehousing) has announced a new line of Data Mart and Data Warehouse solutions to address these challenges for medium and large businesses. Netezza, which pioneered the data warehouse appliance approach, is also making an impact in assisting companies in data centralization and access. As you look to optimize email programs and do not have direct integration with your database of record, look into how these solutions can help you build a data source that's just as powerful.
Connecting to Business Applications Across the Organization
I always drop this into my discussions about data management and access. Too often, data-driven email marketing is restricted to CRM systems or datamarts that have been created by marketing to drive the email campaigns. What about all the other, real-time business applications that are triggering communications to your customers as you read this article?
Is your email application leveraging data feeds from these applications? Are you enhancing those communications with data and content that benefit your email campaigns? Allowing data from business applications to drive marketing communication is possibly the best way to enhance the return on your email programs. Before you try to make your existing programs better, take the time to optimize the communications your business is sending that have never had the benefit of your marketing expertise.
Bottom line, it will warm up, spring and summer will arrive, the economy will eventually thaw. The question is, what has your organization done while waiting for the seasons to change? Stop looking for small, incremental advances and tackle the core driver of successful email programs: data and how you leverage it.