By Nick Evans, Consultant at Jaywing
Recessions serve a purpose - they force efficiency. In boom times many companies think only of pulling in revenues without worrying too much about costs, focusing on volumes rather than the individual value of each customer they are acquiring.
HOwever, when a recession hits, and every cost is under the microscope, brands have no alternative but to reassess the way they examine customer value.
For years we’ve championed the position that a rounded view of revenues and taking all costs (marketing, credit, risk etc) into account is the only way that companies can successfully manage customer acquisition.
Yet it’s only now, when marketing budgets have been squeezed and costs are being micro managed, that any thought is being given to the quality of the prospects being acquired.
We’re now seeing movements towards value based acquisition, where targets are set on customer profitability rather than volume, and internet acquisition teams refusing to pay keywords that attract unprofitable customers. But this is itself highlighting deeper rooted problems.
Risk departments have constantly been put under pressure to go below credit cut offs as a means of enabling marketing managers to satisfy volume demands set for them by senior management.
But if they were to do this, the intelligence achieved through credit risk modelling would be negated; in many organisations the recommendations of credit analysts have in the past been seen as an annoyance, and a barrier to marketing.
However, the recent economic events have been instrumental in turning this perception around.
In fact, a complete 360 degree view of customer performance based on their value in the short and long term, versus the cost of acquisition and the risk they constitute, has never been more important. And with the recession biting, marketers have a positive catalyst as a means of embracing this necessary change of tack.
You could say we’re on the cusp of a ‘marketing renaissance’. Examining each customer through data and analytics can build a powerful view of them, and crucially when, how and even if we should interact with them.
In doing so we can not only identify and act on the quality of each prospect (and every existing customer we have), but we can begin to reverse the misguided marketing activities of the last few years.
We can avoid future bombardment of customers and prospects with ill thought out and badly executed direct mail, email and outbound telemarketing campaigns.
We can invest our time and budgets more intelligently in areas where we know there is a genuine appetite for our products and services.
We can also examine our customers in the round – taking account of their risks and revenue potential and focusing on those with the greatest value for the long term. And we can make more intelligent use of data, responding to customers’ needs based on our understanding of their requirements.
The opportunities to act on these objectives are unprecedented, particularly as we begin to integrate behavioural data across channels, and associate this with requirements for products or services.
By adopting concepts like ‘synaptic marketing’, where online and offline behavioural data are combined in real-time to generate the most appropriate interaction through the most relevant channel, we will be ideally placed to further marshal this change. As long as significant value is placed on analysis and targeting, we can make well informed, intelligent judgements about current and future needs and motivations.
We won’t be right all the time but data provides the power to understand our customers and prospects better, and it is this that will form the basis of mutually beneficial relationships between provider and customer in the future.
In this future we might choose to invest in developing relationships via the use of inbound call centres that are incentivised on customer satisfaction, customer data collection and not simply on average call time and sales per advisor; combine our knowledge of offline behaviour and customer value to provide a truly personalised web experience when our customers arrive on our web site; create opportunities for our customers and prospects to ‘hand raise’ as opposed to the marketing equivalent of shouting loudly and hoping someone might be listening to our crass and irrelevant message.
This is true customer relationship management - not just ‘lip service’ until the next opportunity to make a fast buck comes along.
The question is will we now begin to take a longer term view? Many of the issues we now face are a direct result of previous short term focus.
Surely the industry is now recognising the need to view customers in the longer term, developing a true picture of their value, based on an understanding of their revenue potential from existing products and cross sales, balanced against the costs associated with servicing, marketing, credit risk, fraud and attrition.
Customers aren’t stupid and marketers are in a better position than ever to understand them – all it takes is integrated data, great analytics and some respect for the people you want to sell to.
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