How 'transpromo' can improve on relationships

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 1, 2008

Attracting and retaining customers has never been more important to a company's bottom line and overall financial health, particularly in today's challenging economic climate, according to StreamServe's president, Chris Stone, who explains here how to use trans-promotional messaging to close the gaps between a company and its customers.

Companies have spent a fortune on customer relationship management (CRM) implementations in an attempt to provide a better customer experience, but these systems are not able to automate the numerous customer touch points in a consistent manner - one that's capable of leveraging and protecting their brand and providing a truly unique and informed customer experience.

Missed opportunity
It's a missed opportunity, and it's one that organisations are keen to address. While marketers now understand the benefits of a technology platform that addresses these issues, they also realise that the effort often involves a number of challenges, including managing the many sources and formats of input such as enterprise data and content and the many formats and channels of output.

Today, most organisations simply want a platform that allows it to publish relevant and highly personalised content, leverage existing technology and employee skills, and manage all customer communications regardless of channel. And all of this is expected without having to involve the over-worked IT team.

Time and money
Fundamentally, companies already understand that in order to increase operational efficiencies they must minimize the time it takes business managers (i.e. those who are developing the revenue generating programmes in areas such as marketing, customer service, and fulfilment) to act upon these ideas in ways that are meaningful and relevant to customers.

More specifically, businesses are seeking solutions that can address the particular needs of communication-intensive units such as marketing, legal, and the call centres while also enabling the delivery of customised messages across a range of channels in both high-volume and ad-hoc scenarios.

And customers' expectations have grown to the point that they expect organisations to speak to them as an "audience of one", and convey high quality communications at each and every touch-point. Companies such as Amazon have excelled in personalising the customer experience to the point where customers are now asking themselves, "If they can do it, why can't the others?"

The transpromo opportunity
Techniques such as dynamic enterprise publishing and transpromotional marketing are earning respect in many organisations as they enables the company to reduce costs while at the same time increasing revenue-enhancing activities.

These offerings tend to centre on interactive content and transactional output with proactive marketing. They allow the organisation to maximize existing document white space, manage and leverage multi-channel distribution, and combine content from multiple sources while creating interactive two-way communications. Many multinational companies are already delivering personalised and customised customer communications through 'transpromo'.

What is transpromo?
Forrester Research analyst Craig Le Clair defined transpromo as "a growing segment that combines transactional and promotional content in order to leverage predictable and long-term customer communications". Put simply, transpromo documents place marketing messages (the more personalised the better) on transactional statements, which makes it more likely that the customer will see the promotion (because about 95% of people open and look at all of their bills and statements). Considering that most direct marketers strive for a 5% conversion rate from unsolicited mailings, the almost-100% open rate achieved by communicating through bills and statements is a significant opportunity.

Companies are adopting transpromo as a way to make static documents more relevant and dynamic and, in some instances, to turn costly document distribution into a revenue generating mechanism by selling white space to compatible business partners (e.g. a car dealer selling space on a monthly car payment statement to a car insurance company).

Driven by the opportunity to provide better up-sell and cross-sell initiatives, streamline operations, reduce errors and assure compliance, organisations are adopting transpromo solutions at an impressive rate. In fact, transpromo solutions are one of the few application areas that are expected to be relatively immune from the economic downturn and technology cut-backs that analysts are predicting for 2008 and beyond.

Closing the gap
As organisations look for ways to bolster their CRM and loyalty initiatives in an effort to generate as much revenue as possible from existing customers, many recognise the need to bridge the gap between employees and customers. According to industry observers, every 1% drop in operational costs can contribute an extra 1% to the organisation's overall profitability.

According to IDC analyst Melissa Webster, "Companies today are focused on engaging their customers in order to increase customer loyalty and the commitment to the brand. We are seeing a tremendous opportunity for companies to leverage a dynamic enterprise publishing platform to create an electronic conversation with the customer-essentially, to enable sophisticated mass-personalised customer interactions."

The process problem
But despite the recognised benefits of more effective one-to-one communications, most business managers are separated from customers because of their inability to respond in a timely manner and because of process filters. For example, a marketing vice president may be responsible for creating the latest new product plan and for directing the content development, but they are expected to hand off the actual implementation to other support resources. Depending on workloads, support expertise, and the complexity of the enterprise's infrastructure and business practices, new or changed business communications strategies and materials could face major delays and multiple revisions and approval cycles.

Apart from constraining the enterprise's ability to engage in a timely and relevant way, existing processes are responsible for non-revenue generating efforts-resulting in lowered productivity and increased costs. Instead of requiring business managers to hand off routine implementations to other team members, organisations are adopting enterprise-wide correspondence management environments that enable all lines of business users to directly create and launch personalised content while maintaining all necessary rules that govern its use such as approvals, roles and stylistic requirements.

Through more effective correspondence management, companies could simultaneously cut the time-to-market for new and revised customer communications, simplify the workflow process, and reduce the involvement of the IT staff. And with more personalised, dynamic communications, businesses can ensure that their document contributions (from customer letters and statements to notices and claims forms) are both accurate and current.

Innovations reduce costs
Recently developed web-based design and document composition capabilities can enable business managers to directly create and control dynamic enterprise publishing content. Such a hands-on environment eliminates the "lag time" between idea and action by replacing the traditional development and production processes that use to require involvement from the information technology group or other departments. Specifically, content from multiple systems can now automatically feed multiple streams of data to create a single, unified document while authorised updates can be made effective immediately.

In a January 2008 report by IDC, entitled 'The Future of Content Applications Revisited: A Survey of Market Readiness and Technology Trends', the company warned that the majority of the information that enterprises must manage today is unstructured (e.g. textual information and rich media content that doesn't fit neatly into the rows and columns of a relational database management system). But companies need to find a way to use that information to automate business processes and, to do that, the content itself must be prepared and managed in such a way that it is intelligible to a computerised process.

Content convergence
The convergence of content creation, model creation, document definition, and document design takes full advantage of the varied knowledge and expertise that typically exists within the company. It enables the corporate legal team, for example, to create and control the necessary language defining the company's commitments and responsibilities, while the marketing department can define and present new promotional offerings, and the manufacturing division can develop instructions and shipping directions, and so on.

According to Webster, users need to assess how their current business processes - both collaborative and transactional - can be better automated through more effective use of unstructured information. Business processes that include multiple transformations into and out of paper form, or that require information workers to manually assemble information from multiple sources and manipulate it to support decision-making, are areas where organisations can reap a good return on their investment in content applications.

Web-based environments
Separately, a web-based design environment can allow the content designers to create 'master document' templates that can be used throughout the production cycle. The design environment reflects the familiar conventions used by other design systems and should dovetail neatly into the company's existing infrastructures, forcing little or no change in existing systems, applications, and business processes.

So, while every company understands the need to manage its own customer-related content, they also need to take into consideration their unique circumstances, infrastructure, and organisational considerations. The best way to maximize the benefits from a correspondence management or transpromo solution is to identify the right capabilities and configurations based on how developed the organisation's current infrastructure and processes are, and then work out how they would like their future channels and output to develop.

The real power and value of the transpromo technique is its ability to integrate and manage communications across all channels, to generate a unified and meaningful customer experience that also meets regulation requirements. Then, having created a consolidated strategy that supports reusable content, companies can achieve a more meaningful customer relationship that translates into long-term loyalty and improved profitability.

Chris Stone is president and CEO for StreamServe, a global provider of dynamic document composition, management and delivery systems.

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