2013 Strategy: Embrace Cross-Channel Marketing or ‘Big Data’?

If you are seeking new ideas to increase your sales in 2013, look no further than Cross-Channel Marketing, aka CCM. Is cross-channel marketing the next big thing or more of the same? In actuality, CCM incorporates today’s popular media and marketing channels along with established direct marketing practices and cutting edge multi-channel triggers and “back-end” reporting.

For the uninitiated, CCM refers to using a communications or media channel, such as direct mail or e-mail, to support a Marketing Channel, such as retail or e-commerce.

Knowing Which Combination of Channels Works Best Is “Bank”

Communications Channels (Media Channels) are commonly used by direct marketers to push sales messages to potential customers or donors. Once an action is generated from one or more media channels, that information can be stored in a database for post-campaign analysis or even re-targeted –as is the case with direct mail, e-mail, or “behaviorally” targeted online display advertising.

In comparison, Marketing Channels are distribution channels that are used by advertisers to make products and services accessible to consumers, businesses, institutions, and public agencies. They include Retailers, Wholesalers, Services, and Crowd Sourcing companies like AccuList USA®.

For a reality check, has your company or non-profit organization recently utilized any of the following media channels to garner attention, “likes,” sales, or new donors?

Co-Registration (aka Co-Reg)

  • Direct Mail
  • DR Radio (We offer pay-for-performance programs that work for B2B and B2C)
  • DR TV
  • E-Mail
  • E-Newsletters
  • Insert Media
  • Lead Generation (aka Lead-Gen)
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Online Display Advertising
  • Outdoor Advertising
  • Package Inserts
  • Social Media
  • Triggered E-Mail

In case you were wondering, AccuList USA provides all of these cross-channel marketing services as a Data Innovator, as the Direct Marketing Association refers to us nowadays. The term list broker is passé.

As some of our clients have downsized their marketing departments, they are utilizing “The A Team” to help them with their cross-channel campaign planning, execution, analytics, and even back-end reporting.

Here are two recent examples of how cross-channel marketing can help your company or non-profit generate superior results:

  1. http://www.business2community.com/marketing/effectively-using-direct-mail-within-your-b2b-lead-generation-and-marketing-strategies According to Ken Pikulik, who is the Director of Process and Strategy at ResponsePoint, his firm has “seen a 12% lift in response rates by incorporating the use of letters and other mailers to supplement our e-mail communications.”
  2. http://chiefmarketer.com/direct-marketing/make-mail-part-your-2013-integrated-marketing-plan Grant Johnson of Johnson Direct, LLC, reports that “mail can still play a crucial role in generating quality leads, converting prospects and past buyers into lifelong customers. Its new role as a key tactic used in an integrated marketing campaign is increasing.”

In light of this authoritative information and past articles, direct mail should garner your attention and more of your budget dollars in 2013. Did you know that it is still the primary driver for Fundraising along with Health and Financial Services offers?

Experienced catalogers and multi-channel retailers are acutely aware of direct mail’s importance for their integrated direct marketing efforts. These savvy marketers know that, unlike online advertising, the most profitable customers and donors are still generated from direct mail. If you have reduced spending on direct mail or eliminated it from your plan, it’s time to reconsider postal mail along with triggered e-mail in 2013.

Why Is “Big Data” Top of Mind Today?

Before you get too excited about Big Data, I have a true story to share with you. Once upon a time, there was a pop-culture phenomenon called “dot coms.” In the late1990s, e-commerce was prognosticated to be the successor to brick-and-mortar locations, aka retailers. At that time, marketers of all stripes were pitched by data aggregators and enterprise data warehousing companies. They touted multi-channel data warehouses to facilitate one-on-one communications with site visitors. Their most gullible customers were executives at newly minted internet-based companies who spent VC money to the tune of billions on e-commerce platforms and hard drives while collecting visitor information from any Tom, Dick, or Harriet. When they succeeded in building humongous databases, they patted themselves on the back. There was one problem. The sales and profits did not follow, and these same companies began their inevitable swan songs.

Let’s face it: The phrase Big Data is trendy, just like Cross-Channel Marketing. Major companies and fundraisers gravitate to Big Data, and in some instances proprietary cloud computing platforms. They are literally generating petabytes of structured and unstructured data that streams in real-time via APIs to data centers and/or cloud-based partners. (If you are wondering, a petabyte is 1,000 terabytes. A terabyte is 1,000 megabytes.)

Inaccurate Data Can Get Your Company Into Trouble

If the data you are collecting isn’t squeaky clean, what’s the point in trying to repurpose it as Big Data? Doing ECOA, NCOA or DMAchoice processing are basic steps. AccuList USA can help you further improve the accuracy of your data and append verified information to your files. A lot of erroneous information is collected and stored. What’s often lacking is fully validating its accuracy before it is either archived or leveraged for a marketing campaign. Aside from wasting paper and postage, bad data can get your company blocked on the web and blacklisted as a SPAMMER.

Bigger Is Not Always Better When It Comes to Building a Robust Prospecting Database

Supersizing marketing databases doesn’t render them more profitable. Unless you know who buys, recommends, or specifies your products or services, or who is a sustaining donor along with their RFM, method of payment, seasonality, and other attributes, what’s the point in collecting non-predictive information that will not help you build long-term relationships with customers or donors?

Big Data is massive and requires more that an Excel spreadsheet or Microsoft Access to tame it. In reality, you need industrial strength hardware, software, and IT to make the data orderly, so it can useful on a future campaign.

Beware of Predators Who Will Promise the Moon and Have Yet to Prove Their Concepts

As is the case today with Big Data, there is no lack of sharks smelling blood from a new generation of media buyers of business intelligence and data warehousing software and services, and they are making many of the same inflated claims that contributed to the millennial Dot Com bust. The companies who survived the Dot Com fiasco embraced proven direct marketing tactics and focused on managing their transactional RFM and category-level data with testing multi-channel marketing along with analytics. That kept many of the old-timers above water, while others running high-flying tech companies were on the precipice, as the economy sputtered in anticipation of Y2K. Successful companies utilized cross-channel marketing before it became the next big thing. Thankfully, measurement tools have improved in the past decade, along with data storage options.

Your Most Active Customers or Donors Should Receive Special Attention, With a Caveat

If you rely on Big Data, you may be tempted to inundate your customers or donors with a plethora of messages or tweets, or ply them with reactivation offers or posts via social media. Aside from increasing the likelihood of losing consortium with those customers, they may tell their friends and followers not to do business with you! Today, that’s referred to as Reputation Management. It’s a lot worse than someone opting out of your mailing list because reputation loss is public, viral, and everlasting.

Big Data Meets Big Brother

Big Data has even attracted unwanted attention from Big Brother, aka “The Government.” For example, in 2013, if your company relies on online advertising to generate a steady stream of personal identifiable information that you may save or share with other companies or affiliates, the government may restrict data sharing, unless it is opt-in. Offline cooperative databases may be next on the Government’s hit list.

Parting Thoughts From “The A Team”

Cross-Channel Marketing is highly scalable and has a long history of working for small and large companies. It can be facilitated with off-the-shelf software and/or capable Crowd Sourcing partners like AccuList USA. We are list experts and know how to buy quality offline or online media.

The jury is out on the efficacy of Big Data solutions. If you are considering the possibility of hooking up with a high-profile software company or data provider who professes to know its way around Big Data, ask for testimonials — ideally sourced from direct competitors. That exercise can save your company in more ways than one.

As a final note, please be sure to add AccuList USA to your bid list for 2013 for any media buying-related service.

On behalf of “The A Team,” we wish you and your co-workers a healthy and prosperous 2013.