Back to Full Site

Connections

The Harte Hanks Blog

How to Optimize Spend with Fractional Attribution

Database

 

When traditional “database marketing” first took off in the early 1990’s, marketing performance measurement and attribution was quite simple. We generated sales and direct mail campaign performance reports using a handful of dimensions. Attribution was easily derived through business reply cards (attached to direct mail pieces), phone numbers or tracking codes. We also used indirect attribution rules by making control group comparisons. We were fairly accurate and the process was easy to execute.

The Current State of Attribution

We all know that the marketing landscape has changed … and it continues to evolve with massive channel proliferation. With so much data and so many options regarding how to best apply a limited marketing budget, how can a CMO receive richer insight to influence tactical decisions that will improve media/channel performance?

Let’s first examine the various states of attribution from the viewpoint of the modern day marketer:

  • Direct Attribution: Still used widely today and still relevant. A specific customer behavior (e.g. a purchase) can be “directly” attributed to a given marketing stimuli via a unique code, landing page/URL, response device, etc. However, other marketing stimuli may have created momentum and been a significant contributor to the consumer’s ultimate decision to purchase.
  • Last Touch Attribution: Attributing the desired customer behavior to the last “known” marketing touch. Similar to “Direct” Attribution, but not always the same, here the marketer attributes the desired customer behavior to the last known touch. This method is very common when there are no specific tracking codes/tags that tie a desired customer behavior directly to a specific marketing stimuli.
  • Multi-Full Attribution: Channel proliferation has led to individual channel/media silos, each with their own unique attribution rules. The separation of traditional offline data and online data is very common. For example, direct mail data is stored in a traditional customer database, email data is stored with the email service provider, and online data is stored by various DMPs, by vendors/partners that are contracted to capture it, each often with their own siloed attribution logic taking FULL credit for the same desired behaviors.
  • Rules Based Attribution: Building on the “Multi-Full Attribution” described above, here marketers use what is often called a “common sense approach” to proportionally assign attribution to very siloed marketing stimuli. For example, a business had recently identified the large overlap between their direct mail and digital channels. For the overlapping purchases identified in both groups, 100% of a given purchase was attributed to direct mail, while simultaneously 100% was also attributed to a combination of digital channels. A rule was then quickly implemented to assign 20% of the attribution to the direct mail channel and proportionally reduce the attribution by 20% across the various forms of digital media. So, it is “fractional” by the simplest definition, but no real math or analytics was being used to assign the “fraction” to each media/channel.

Each of these options contains significant attribution bias towards channels/forms of media, that when taken for face value will result is less than optimal decision-making.

Database-1

What’s Next and What is Fractional Attribution?

Marketers must now leverage math, science and statistics to analyze and derive insight from large pools of data, much of which can now be integrated across channels to inform decisions across touch points during the customer journey. Fractional Attribution is a necessary tool for understanding campaign performance across a multitude of touch points.

Through advanced (and proven) analytic techniques, a weighting calculation is developed and applied to the various marketing touches during the customer’s buying journey. In short, you are attributing a portion of that customer’s purchase to each of the marketing touches that impacted the customer’s decision to buy.

Harte Hanks has a team of analysts that work with marketing organizations to create a fractional attribution model through a collaborative development process:

  1. Define the overall objectives and identify the behavior metrics you want to positively impact (e.g. response, sales, conversion, product registration, etc.).
  2. Define and implement the roadmap including identification of key performance indicators (KPIs) and setting the overall attribution approach. Companies have used both “quick start” fractional attribution solutions and more robust solutions that require dedicated data stores and data integration tools.
  3. Collect and compile the data.
  4. Execute the fractional attribution solution and create the scenario planning tool.

The “scenario planning tool” is what enables the user to optimize media/channel performance. Using the tool, the analyst or marketer can quickly run “what-if” analyses to estimate the impact of reallocating marketing spend across channel/media or removing a channel/media from the mix altogether. The end result is a much more informed decision that can result in significantly higher returns from your marketing budget. Performance data and insights from the optimization exercise are then used to calibrate and refine the attribution engine going forward.

Fractional Attribution rooted in proven math and statistical techniques is a critical tool to accurately improve and optimize the performance of an incredibly fragmented and complex system of channels and media, both online and offline.

database-2

It’s not perfect – no marketing science or advanced marketing analytic solution is. But a robust modeled attribution solution is proven marketing science, and those that leverage it appropriately will generate higher return from their marketing spend and outperform their competitors.

Has your company used fractional attribution to better analyze your marketing spend? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience with us.

How Pharmaceutical CRMs Can Lead to Healthier Relationships

Boosting physician and patient engagement

pharma CRM postCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) software offers a great deal of potential for the pharmaceutical industry. However, this is a complex sector, riddled with regulations surrounding sensitive data. It is not easy to find a solution that fits business needs while complying with relevant laws. This is especially true at an international level when different rules need to be observed for different countries.

Purchasing a standard CRM solution and trying to adapt it to various business and regulatory requirements is time consuming and difficult. Inevitably it involves compromise and hidden expense.

Instead, many pharmaceutical companies could benefit from international CRM programs that are purpose-built from the ground up by a marketing services provider.

Bespoke CRM for pharmaceuticals

A truly customized approach uses business goals as a starting point and builds a CRM framework around them. This ensures variations across different countries can be accounted for and embraced at an early stage, rather than being bolted on later. The result is a highly specified solution intrinsically optimized to meet business needs. It can have built-in scalability and the flexibility to handle international differences in data laws or standard practice, such as call centre versus nurse-led activity.

Ultimately, custom-built CRM offers better value and efficiency. Adapting existing systems is expensive, license fees can be high and product release cycles can delay the implementation of certain functionalities.

Using an MSP to build, manage and implement the solution brings multiple advantages. Since all aspects – from database management to phone calls, emails and SMS to direct mail – are handled by one organization, the program is more cohesive and affordable. What’s more, sensitive data is all held securely in one place.

Physician and patient communications

The best pharmaceutical CRM programs empower physicians and patients to make better, more informed choices – whether they’re prescribing treatment or following it.

Meeting physicians in person is becoming increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies. Physicians are often under pressure to see a certain number of patients per day, leaving limited time for meeting with third parties. Some countries also have complex regulations surrounding personal interaction between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. In many cases, direct marketing can play an effective role alongside or in place of face-to-face meetings. It enables physicians to keep abreast of the latest developments in treatments and processes such as pharmaceutical-led patient support.

Patient-focused activity varies depending on the nature of the patient’s condition, where they are in the treatment cycle, the level of data available and nuances of their country of residence. Naturally, when more is known about a patient, activity can be better tailored to their current needs and communications become more meaningful.

A central aim of pharmaceutical CRM should be fostering good relationships between patients and physicians. This means acknowledging the authority of the physician in prescribing drugs, while enabling patients to get more out of their appointments and the overall treatment. Ideally communications should operate progressively, supporting patients as they move from the initial awareness that they may have a certain condition, to actively acknowledging it, then learning to live with it. The latter stage is vital to boost adherence to treatment regimen and enhance overall patient outcomes.

Overcoming challenges

There are many challenges facing the marketing of pharmaceuticals today. However, deeper engagement rooted in custom-built CRM can help navigate many of them.

Direct alignment of patient and physician communications is complex from a data perspective, but with care and attention it can usually be achieved. Bespoke CRM programs can incorporate specific opt-in language to overcome many of the barriers surrounding sensitive data. This ensures that patients who are happy to share their data can access the wider support that is on offer should they need it.

Achieving buy-in from physicians and patients is not easy – nor should it be. Pharmaceutical organizations need to earn trust and loyalty over time. Striving for better, deeper engagement is a critical factor. An effective way to realize this in the short- to medium-term is through the empowerment of patients and physicians, arming them with knowledge and information so they can make informed choices. In the longer term, improved patient outcomes will speak for themselves.

 

Harte Hanks handles CRM programs for leading global pharmaceutical companies. Patient data is handled sensitively and an integrated approach ensures improved patient support and outcomes. Natalia Gallur has more than ten years’ experience in the sector.

 

Smarter Demand Gen Awakens

Convergence of Tech and People Will Amplify Demand Generation in 2016

UnknownThe B2B demand-marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace. It’s driven by emerging technologies, tactics and buyer behaviors, alongside other well-established factors that continue to shape the discipline.

Industry influencers and analysts such as SiriusDecisions and Forrester identified a raft of demand generation trends and requirements in 2015. These range from better use of analytics as a foundation for demand planning to buyer journey alignment and operationalizing personas.

The notion of operationalizing personas involves integrating persona intelligence into demand generation efforts. At a fundamental level, it involves dynamic delivery of persona-based content, messaging and offers across email, landing pages and websites. It was first mooted by SiriusDecisions in 2014, but began to take hold last year. During 2016 it will occupy a more central role as we enter the next stage of the journey: smarter demand generation.

Why do we need Smarter Demand Generation?

Many B2B organizations find their demand generation efforts are characterized by small pipelines, missed targets and failure to respond to the needs of today’s buyers. It’s not surprising when you consider the seismic shift in buyer behavior over the past few years.

B2B sales and marketing is becoming increasingly complex and far less linear in its nature. There are multiple influencers, decision makers and stakeholders. There are multiple online and offline marketing channels. And there are multiple interactions and conversations taking place.

In this fractured, multifaceted landscape we need to find a path to more effective, joined-up demand generation. We need an approach that embraces the complex realities of the B2B sector today and handles them with ease. Smarter demand generation is the answer.

What does it mean?

A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology. This is true throughout the process. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation and operationalization of personas. It also shapes the development and substance of programs that are augmented and delivered via sophisticated technologies. Finally, individuals at the receiving end of smarter demand generation are served with optimized, highly personalized communications. Content is relevant to their current and future professional needs and it is delivered at an opportune time via the most appropriate platform. The upshot is finely tuned buyer engagement and a more robust pipeline.

This might sound a world away from traditional demand generation. And it’s true that it requires a deeply analytical and intelligent approach expertly integrated with technical capabilities. But every journey begins with a single step. Marketers who set their sights on smarter demand generation can quickly realize benefits at a micro level that can later be replicated at a larger scale.

Exploring smarter demand generation with one segment of your target audience can be a good place to start. Integrating data, technology, people and tactics for the first time isn’t easy – but it is more manageable and achievable at a smaller scale. Ring-fence a project that leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and optimization. Then closely monitor the results to track the impact on the sales pipeline. Spotlighting the effectiveness of smarter demand generation in this way, and sharing it at a Board level, can create an appetite for more. It might help secure investment in the technologies and skills required for a wider rollout.

The B2B sector has strived for precision marketing for decades. With the awakening of smarter demand generation, it is finally within reach.

 

Alex Gill explores this theme in a B2B Marketing webinar on 27 January: How to align your marketing for smarter demand generation and stronger ROI. Book your seat here.

Four Simple Ways to Amplify Your Customer Support with Social Media

Social Media-BlogSocial media is quickly becoming a critical factor in augmenting and enhancing your customer support strategy. Last week, I participated in an industry roundtable hosted by CRM Magazine on the subject. When businesses think of social media, it’s often in terms of marketing or public relations. And while social media is a great tool to help extend both, its impact goes beyond promoting and marketing your company. Increasingly, social media has become a powerful contributor to customer service and support. Customers are now powerful influencers. They take to social media to talk about brands and products – positively and negatively – in an attempt to influence their peers and the brands they buy from. So how do you influence the influencers, and utilize social media to enhance your customer service?

  1. Start by listening.

The first step in extending your customer support system through social media is to listen – and learn. Start by scanning social media channels for complaints, compliments and questions about your brand. Find out who is talking about your brand (customers, prospects, competitors?) and what they’re saying. You can learn a lot about customer pain points and perceptions that you might not learn through your contact center customer support. You will quickly identify areas of opportunity and then you can build a cohesive strategy, start to engage with your customers and prospects – and begin to influence the conversation around your brand.

  1. Set the rules of engagement.

Social media can be a bit like the Wild West – an unpredictable place where anything goes. As such, it is important for brands to devise a set of rules and operational goals. Who will be authorized to speak for your company on social media? How will they go about engaging customers? At what point should a public conversation be moved to a private conversation? Will you have a proactive presence as well as a reactive one? How will your social presence support your brand promise?

A defined social strategy is paramount. Social media is a free-flowing, casual platform that requires 24/7 resources. A single poor choice of words or an ill-timed post can damage your brand. As an example: If a consumer posts a message that your product injured them and you respond by apologizing, you may have implied guilt without knowing any of the facts. Your rules of engagement will ensure that your social customer support benefits both your brand and your customers.

  1. Ready, set, engage.

Your strategy is set, and you’re ready to go. Now it’s time to engage. Find someone who is talking about your brand and start a conversation through authentic engagement. It’s not unusual to find that customers are already reaching out to you using social channels. Whether it’s thanking someone who complimented your brand – or engaging with someone who is seeking assistance with your product or service – a simple conversation can go a long way in changing the perception of your brand. And you just might learn something you hadn’t previously considered. More often than not, the audience you engage via social media will be completely different from those who contact your customer service center. They may have a similar issue or topic, but they are approaching you from a position of influence. Consider it an opportunity to become an invited contributor into a public conversation. When handled correctly, social customer engagements can turn antagonists into fans who will spread the gospel of your brand.

  1. Inject helpful content.

Social customer support should be as proactive as it is reactive. Helpful content – like “how to” guides or useful tips about your product – will help you engage with your customers after the sale, positioning your brand as one that is consistently connected with and cares about its customers. When injecting marketing content into your social presence, be careful not to push hard sales messaging. Imagine social media platforms as a conversational dinner party. It is OK to talk positively about your brand, but hard sell tactics go against what is considered to be a good “social citizen.” Social media audiences can spot a pitch from a mile away and nothing will turn your community away faster.

The Harte Hanks contact center teams and agents utilize these techniques to manage social commentary and customer support for many of their clients. If you would like to dive deeper into how social can enhance your customer support, you can view our roundtable discussion on Destination CRM here.

Technology Is Not a Substitute for Creativity

Tech-Creativity

Marketing has always been a blend of art and science. But the rise of marketing technology has tilted the scales heavily towards the science end of the equation. This is not necessarily a bad thing – the digital revolution has armed marketers with information and techniques that drive more accurate, cost-effective campaigns. Essentially, technology has eliminated a good portion of the “guesswork” traditionally associated with marketing. Again, this is a wonderful development for marketers. Technology allows us to personalize our approach to better connect with audiences and do a better job of meeting their needs and desires. But too much technology can have negative effects – namely, the erosion of creativity.

Marketing automation programs are rapidly becoming “cookie cutter” strategies that rely too heavily on the medium of delivery. The “three emails and a landing page” approach can (and often does) work, but as marketing automation becomes more and more prominent, the impact of a “basic” campaign will quickly dissipate. The deluge of analytics available to the modern marketer is a veritable treasure trove of information. But too often, marketers are held hostage by data points, finding themselves afraid to venture outside of the established thinking.

Going forward, brand marketers must rely more on intuition and creativity to avoid becoming just another source of noise in the market. And brands must embrace creativity and avoid the “safe” approach of standardized campaigns. Great ideas have always been the bedrock of great marketing campaigns. Technology will never change that fact. Technology – if developed and implemented correctly – can help marketers amplify creative approaches. Real-time response measurement can quickly let marketers know what’s working and what’s not, allowing them to adjust and mold ideas into messages that get results – and prove beyond a doubt what consumers want to see, hear and, ultimately, buy from brands.

Marketing technology allows brands to paint a clearer picture of their audiences and develop a deeper understanding of their desires, needs and behaviors. Rather than playing it safe, marketers should harness this information to help them develop great ideas that make a lasting impact on audiences.

As we approach the New Year, my advice to marketers for 2016 is: be bold, lean on your intuition, and create smarter, more personal customer interactions.

The Campaign is Dead, Long Live the Campaign

HarteHanks_Campaign-is-Dead

The evolution of the customer journey from vendor-led to the modern, customer-empowered experience has all but killed the idea of a “campaign.” Marketing to today’s consumer is not a short-term affair – it requires a sustained effort that provides the consumer with relevant and useful information at the right time and place. This “long” approach has seemingly ended the usefulness of the traditional campaign, with the thought being that the modern consumer is acutely aware of when they are being marketed to and are turned off by campaigns. While this is partially true – consumers are more aware – the rumors of the campaign’s death are unsubstantiated.

Traditional Campaigns

When we think of the word “campaign” in the traditional sense, we think of short-term, targeted efforts and messaging designed to spur action, like voting for a political candidate or driving consumers to a holiday sale event. In the past, these campaigns were singular efforts, and while not completely disconnected from the brand, existed largely outside of the overall brand message. In essence, the customer journey was brief. Those customers targeted by the campaign were targeted specifically for the campaign, but not necessarily for an ongoing relationship.

It’s All About Semantics

The massive customer journey sea change in the digital age has painted the campaign in a negative light. But the rumors of the campaign’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The campaign is alive and well – if viewed as a tactic rather than a strategy. After all, “campaign” is just a word. Campaigns – no matter what you call them – do have a place in the modern customer journey. But they must be seamlessly integrated into a larger, more macro approach to customer engagement.

The Tactical Approach

To successfully promote your brand and its products or services, simply marketing to consumers is not enough. You must build relationships and build trust. Today’s consumer knows a pitch when they see it and tends to be turned off when approached with a purely sales-driven message, especially as an initial communication. Consumers are, however, receptive to individual campaigns within the larger context of an existing relationship with your brand. Those consumers who already have a level of engagement with your brand – particularly those who have shown increased interest by opting in to your communications – are likely to embrace a campaign for your product or service, or at the very least consider the message.

Consumer engagement communications should never be stagnant – simply promoting the same thing in perpetuity will eventually lead to message fatigue and a loss of interest in your brand. Injecting timely, targeted campaigns into your customer communications can breathe life into your customer engagement and drive revenue for your brand.

Marketing Technology: Where’s My ROI?

HarteHanks_MarektingTechnology_ROI

The modern customer journey is consumer driven and often fractured. Unlike the linear, vendor-led customer journeys of the past, the buyer is now in full control. With endless options – and a bevvy of information about each product or service readily available for consumers – marketers must devise new ways to attract customers and secure brand awareness and loyalty. A slew of new marketing technology, including CRM, marketing automation and inbound marketing platforms, have risen up to solve the new customer journey riddle. But despite the effectiveness of these platforms, too many B2B companies are reporting negative ROI for marketing technology investments. There are a number of reasons why.

Failure to Launch

The B2B sales cycle is a complex process. Unlike B2C products, there is no such thing as an “impulse purchase.” Buyers typically spend weeks, months and sometimes even years researching and deliberating before deciding on a purchase – particularly where big-ticket items are concerned. Marketing technology can help significantly simplify this process, but it isn’t a magic bullet. Marketing platforms aren’t plug and play; they are a set of interconnected tools for marketers to utilize as part of an overall strategy. Too often, B2B companies purchase marketing technology, but fail to allocate the resources necessary to realize their benefits. Marketing systems are a great delivery system, but engaging and strategic content that guides prospects along the customer journey must be created first. You can buy a car, but if you don’t fill it with gas and get behind the wheel, it isn’t going to move.

Scratching the Surface

Most of the marketing technology platforms available today come equipped with an array of features that justify their cost – intelligent analytics, A/B testing, easy integration, etc. Companies who fail to realize ROI on these products are often utilizing only a fraction of the features available to them. These features can significantly enhance the power of the platform and should be utilized whenever possible.

Stove Piping

With so many different types of technology available, B2B companies often have more than one system for sales and marketing. Failure to integrate these systems – particularly marketing automation platforms and CRM software – creates a confusing environment where systems are not communicating with each other and often duplicating efforts. In order to get the most out of marketing software and a favorable ROI, marketing platforms and CRM software should always be integrated.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Too many B2B companies dive head first into marketing technology – purchasing platforms without a full understanding of the system or a plan to implement it. B2B marketers often find themselves tasked with becoming technology experts trying to implement and integrate systems they know little, if anything, about. Additionally, systems are often purchased before a strategy has been developed to utilize them.

Boost Your ROI

To fully realize the benefits of marketing technology platforms, B2B marketers must view these platforms as an important tool, but as only part of the process. Creative campaigns, strategic plans and actual customer conversations are all an integral part of the modern customer journey as well. Before purchasing a new marketing technology platform, B2B companies should perform due diligence on the products they wish to purchase and have a plan in place on how they will be utilized.

And if you need help boosting the ROI of your marketing investment, Harte Hanks has extensive experience integrating marketing technology with marketing strategy. We’re here to help!

Back to the Future: Predictive Analytics

Predictive-Analytics_HarteHanks

What if you knew what your customers wanted, when they wanted it? With predictive marketing analytics, gazing into the future is entirely possible. While predictive analytics is not a new concept – marketers have often tried to use past performance to predict future behavior – the dawn of the information age has amplified its effectiveness and usability. Predictive analytics allow marketers to focus efforts and maximize their budgets by identifying targets who are ready to buy and by eliminating those who aren’t.

Big Data

 To accurately predict consumer behavior, you need more than focus groups and surveys. The era of Big Data has armed marketers with a deluge of information on consumers – including engagement with marketing automation platforms and “intent” data from across the web. The technology to crunch this data and make sense of it is rapidly evolving, providing marketers with a roadmap to reach the right audience at the right time.

Data in Action

The Big Data era has produced an incredible amount of information about habits, desires and tendencies of consumers. Marketers who follow these digital footprints can optimize their marketing efforts to target individual audience segments and personalize messages to speak directly to potential customers. Predictive analytics can help create incredibly specific buyer personas – marketers no longer need to rely on broad demographic data and guestimates of what a particular buyer prefers. Enhanced buyer personas lay the groundwork for highly personalized messaging for nurture campaigns, which multiple studies show leads to significant increases in conversion and revenue. Predictive analytics also provide the benefit of targeted spending. Knowing what audiences to target and which platforms to target them through significantly increases the impact of marketing budgets.

B2B Adoption

B2B marketers have lagged behind their B2C counterparts in the adoption of marketing technology ­­– predictive analytics included. And while it’s true that personalized data from individual consumers offer a more clear view into purchasing habits and tendencies, plenty of data exists for B2B customers that can be utilized to implement more intelligent marketing tactics. Purchase history, for instance, is a great predictor of current and future behavior. If a customer has recently purchased a software system that won’t need an upgrade for three years, targeting that customer with marketing messages is not only inefficient, but could negatively affect that customers’ perception of your brand. Existing software licenses, log-in frequency, help desk calls and firmographics can also help B2B companies predict the need and desire for their products. Normally this kind of data will predict the type of customers that buy your products. Add social data sources to the mix, and you can predict customers that are ready to buy.

Implementation

Depending on the level of sophistication and budget resources, B2B marketers can deploy analyst-led solutions or automated “black box” solutions to perform predictive analytics. For larger, more comprehensive data operations, an analyst-led approach is preferred. Computers are wonderful, but a human touch – specifically when there are oddities in the data – can more accurately utilize the information output to design programs and messaging that take into account both the customer and the nuances of the company. However, there are various automated solutions that are more than sufficient for less sophisticated marketing automation programs. Both approaches have their own merit, but one thing is clear: predictive analytics allow businesses to focus on what’s important and discard what’s not, leading to amplified revenue growth – and happy customers.

 

Elevate Your Contact Center Through Smarter Agent Workspace

contact-center-3This is my third blog post on contact service solutions this month. This blog series has been designed to help our readers understand and create “smarter customer interactions” including recommendations on customer experience technology solutions. This week, I want to share insights and tips on how to improve customer experiences through the creation of strong agent workspaces.

As Andrew Harrison notes in his blog post on building customer loyalty through contact centers, a well-trained agent can be a make-or-break touch point in the customer lifecycle. Creating a smart agent workspace can be one of the best investments you make when it comes to customer experiences. And that doesn’t simply mean hiring strong agents. We can take the experience many steps further once the customer is connected to an agent via chat, email, social or voice.

Create a Smarter Agent Workspace

So what is the first step? It is to create one single solution for support agents to use. Most customer support programs require agents to access more than one system to solve the customers’ problem, such as order management systems or any other source customer database. Once you are in an environment where agents have to log in and launch multiple systems to handle an incident, you have instantly increased the time it takes for the agent to help the customer. If these systems require the agent to re-enter the same data you have also decreased the integrity of your customer data as a whole, due to manual errors that occur when reentering data into multiple systems.

Knowing that most programs will require multiple systems, there are a few easy steps you can take to simplify the process:

  1. Implement a single sign-on strategy. Give the agent one login for all the systems they need to access to immediately reduce training issues and interaction time.
  2. Expose those external systems into the CRM. Using browser controls you can launch external systems inside the CRM, allowing agents to work out of one system to reduce handle time and decrease redundant data entry. This saves money and improves data integrity.
  3. Make sure to design your workspace to keep relevant customer data on display throughout the interaction. Customers are most satisfied when the agent is able to concentrate on the interaction and not struggle with the systems. Handling an issue quickly and on the first call improves your customer satisfaction score. Dock key data points for viewing at all times. Exposing relevant customer data to the agent at call arrival and enabling the agent to see the entire customer picture on one screen increases their ability to resolve the customers’ issues quickly and during the first interaction.

Putting Our Tips Into Practice

Let me walk you through a real world program that required us to implement all of the best practices I just described. Harte Hanks was helping a large entertainment provider launch a new subscription service that allowed viewers to watch their programming via online streaming. The support had to cover phone, email, chat and social channels, as well as subscriptions, billing and technical support. Harte Hanks had to launch a support system less than 30 days prior to the first major online event, and we had to make sure our solution and agents could handle a peak of up to 240,000 calls per hour. No big deal, right?

We quickly implemented Oracle Service Cloud, our preferred solution and a great platform to use as a foundation. Then, we trained agents to handle the interactions as quickly as possible to address the massive amounts of call volume. To do this, we loaded the Service Cloud with ongoing data from all of the streaming service customers to ensure our agents had access to information on any customer that contacted us. We immediately applied CTI functionality that would automatically bring up the customer’s record and history when a call was connected to the agents. This reduced the amount of time agents spent searching for customers in the system. We had to make the work flow fast to handle the volume.

Next, we set out to find ways to reduce the expected volume. We wanted to deflect calls while still keeping the customers satisfied. Using the customer portal, we designed an easy-to-use customer support site that allowed customers to find the answers to their questions quickly and easily. We published the “Contact Us” information inside the support site to drive customers to the site before reaching out for live support. Then we integrated our IVR to offer up automated services such as “Forgot Password,” allowing us to identify the subscriber while in the IVR and see if they had not logged into the service recently. If it had been a while since they last logged in, the team assumed they may have forgotten their password and offered an option to reset it from the IVR.

These technologies allowed us to reduce the volume, but what else could we do? Using our call and screen recording solution, we were able to evaluate how the call flows changed over the course of the program. We noticed that data elements we had placed on tabs inside the workspace were now relevant earlier in the interaction. So we redesigned the workspace to match the new flow, keeping not only the customer data but also the device information docked and visible to the agent at all times on the workspace.

Lessons learned? As programs evolve, technology should as well. Watch how your agents are using your solutions and make adjustments that will continuously improve the quality of your programs. If you invest in a great customer support site, use the insights from that site and apply key integrations and technologies to the agent workspace.

We’ve covered a lot these past few weeks in regards to improving customer experiences and satisfaction through the contact center. Using the technology solutions that I’ve outlined will help get you on well on your way to creating smarter customer interactions.

The 4 Biggest Challenges Facing B2B Tech Marketers Today (Part 3)

Maximizing ROI with Fewer Resources and Smaller Budgets

4-biggest-challenges_illustrations_2-1_v02-03

If you’ve been following my four-part series on the biggest challenges impacting B2B tech companies today, you’ll have already picked up some tips on maximizing your tools and technologies and generating high-quality, real-time data.

In this post, I’m going to address one of the most pressing and urgent pain points that marketers face today: how to show an increased return on investment for marketing activities despite shrinking head counts and budgets.

CHALLENGE #3: How do I Maximize ROI with fewer resources and less investment?

With the rise of data analytics, there is more pressure to measure results and account for ROI on ever dollar spent. At Harte Hanks, we’ve found two complementary solutions that work best for driving ROI without hiring a team of marketers or straining existing budgets: Marketing Automation and Centralized Tele-services Programs.

Marketing Automation: Marketing automation platforms help plan, coordinate, manage and measure all of your marketing campaigns, making them more personalized, effective and efficient. The best part is they are executed just as the name suggests­­ – automatically, with minimal need for resource oversight.

Marketing automation has been a buzzword for a few years now, but according to Sirius Decisions, in 2014 85% of B2B marketers using marketing automation platforms feel they are not using them to their full potential. My colleague Anthony Figgins recently wrote about creating more relevant, personal customer interactions using marketing automation as well as some tips for getting started, which I’ve summarized here:

 5 Tips for Implementing Marketing Automation

  1. Pick the tools that best suit your business needs: Identify a tool that fits your goals and budget. We suggest tools that prevent unhealthy data and support better conversion rates, progressive profiling and social integrations.
  1. Select the right team: Because of the complex nature of many marketing automation systems, training will be crucial to success. Empower your team to know, understand and follow best practices and spend an adequate amount of time with vendors to fully immerse with the systems.
  1. Integrate your automation marketing platforms with a CRM system:Many brands use marketing automation solely as an email platform and then sync data with a CRM system. Your marketing automation platforms should work in tandem with your CRM to tell a holistic, cohesive story to and about your customers.
  1. Engage your sales force: Your sales team is the eyes and the ears in the field. They know what is happening with your customers. They can be an excellent source of knowledge about what is working and what needs to be re-evaluated.
  1. Have a plan, process and goal for your tools: Integrate and build processes early to ensure the success of your marketing automation systems. Take a crawl-walk-run approach: Start with an email, then test and refine based on real-time data.

Centralized Teleservices Program: While automating your marketing processes is a sure path to increase ROI, a complementary hands-on approach through a consolidated telemarketing program can also contribute to the bottom line. By simplifying engagement through a central point and single CRM, companies can drive and support both inbound response management to ensure quality customer experiences and outbound lead generation to drive new business.

I’ll give you an example. One of our B2B tech clients was challenged with a waning sales pipeline and declining brand awareness. They had a decentralized model with multiple local agencies, which led to inconsistent service, process, pricing, training, reporting and management. With all of these inefficiencies, the sales pipeline was clearly suffering and the customer experience was fragmented and inconsistent.

Harte Hanks collaborated with the client to design and execute a centralized telemarketing program. The new program offered marketing efficiencies and a commonality of process through a single CRM. Customer experience and sales ROI improved dramatically through simplified engagement with one central support system that drove inbound response management and outbound lead generation.

Through handling 128,000 calls and 30,000 customer and prospect interactions in a centralized manner, the client increased its sales pipeline 300 percent and qualified leads to pass to sales by 500 percent.

With marketing automation and centralized tele-services, marketers can save money and time while still driving ROI.

Join me next week for our final installation of this series: How to unify communication strategies across channels to drive customers through the buyer journey.

 

Tips to Create Smarter Customer Interactions Using Innovative Technology Solutions — The Voice Channel

contact-center-2Last week, I published a blog post to help our readers create smarter customer interactions from a custom experience standpoint, including recommendations on customer support websites. This week, I’ll share some insights and tips on how to improve customer experiences through the voice channel.

 Using the Voice Channel to Create Smarter Customer Interactions

A crucial second step in creating smarter customer interactions via contact center solutions is through the voice channel. There are three common technologies that you can use in new ways to take your support to the next level:

  • Integrate interactive voice response (IVR) services with your CRM. Since most CRMs have easy-to-use APIs to access customer and incident data, this has become a quick and inexpensive solution. When you are able to identify customers in the IVR by accessing CRM data you can provide them with smarter IVR features. Once you have a view of the customer and possible reasons for the call you can tailor your IVR self-help options in real time or apply custom routing to get the caller to the best-suited support agent.
  • Most of you are aware of computer telephony integration (CTI) / screen pop technology because it has been available for quite some time. Leveraging CTI technology can help populate the customer’s information (way beyond just a name) to the agent as the call is connected. You can instantly display open orders, tickets and account status. These can come from inside the CRM or from various systems via API calls. This puts all relevant customer data in front of the agents, reducing the search time. The agent now has insight into the customer before they have asked the first question.
  • Expose all relevant customer data to your CRM. This can be done by importing the data or exposing it via APIs. Good examples of data sources you should be tapping into are the marketing database and order management systems. By integrating your CRM with your marketing database you now have the ability to identify the customers needing support even if they have never contacted the support team before.

Check back next week as I will be sharing more insight into contact center solutions, including how to create smarter agent workspace.

Tips to Create Smarter Customer Interactions Using Innovative Technology Solutions — The Customer Support Site

contact-center-1A few weeks ago, I participated in a webinar with CRM magazine, and discussed how to create smarter customer interactions and more effective contact centers. I have dedicated the last several years at Harte Hanks specializing in Customer Experience Support solutions, leading a team of technology experts who specialize in Oracle Service Cloud for Contact Centers. Today, I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences on defining what a “smarter customer interaction” means, as well as suggestions on customer support tools that can improve your overall customer experience.

Defining Smarter Customer Interactions

At Harte Hanks, we have been specializing in smarter customer interactions for 80 years. But what do “smarter customer interactions” actually look like? I’d suggest the following:

  • Enable your customers to find answers to their questions quickly and accurately.
  • Allow them to find answers using their preferred method of communication whether that is social media, digital chat, self-help, email, voice or video
  • Require that customer support representatives have easy access to data and tools that enable them to focus on the customer interaction and solve any issue in a timely manner
  • Improve your Contact Center continuously via learning from previous customer interactions and observed behaviors

Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to create smarter customer interactions.

Start with a Great Customer Support Website

Your starting point should always be a customer support website. When executed properly, a great support site can allow customers to self-help by finding the answers they need quickly and efficiently. Remember to make your site more robust than just a traditional FAQ by including website tracking mechanisms that allow you to analyze and improve your knowledge base over time. You can then use that data when customers decide they need to interact with a Contact Center agent multiple times. This is a big step towards creating a smarter customer interaction because it gives insight into where and when your customers give up on self-help and reach out to an agent.

Here are a few other tips for executing a top-notch customer support site:

  • Select a technology that allows you to integrate all of your channels. Harte Hanks uses Oracle Service Cloud for this, which creates consistency by using one knowledge base on the public support site and across all agent channels. This ensures consistent, reliable responses to questions regardless of the customer’s preferred channel.
  • Format answers differently than traditional FAQs. One simple trick is to reduce the length of a written article and replace it with pictures or video instructions.
  • Improve the success rate of self-help by adding guided assistance logic to knowledge base articles. This changes a long written answer into a step-through guide to ensure the customers’ questions are answered and they are not overwhelmed with too much information all at once.

There are no shortages of customer experience solutions available to help create smarter interactions. Check back next week as I will be outlining how to improve the voice channel, and how it can contribute to improved customer interactions.

Demand for the Demand Waterfall: Your Colleagues’ New Sophistication

Something exciting is happening in demand planning. It’s subtle, and quiet, more of a “slow burn” than a wildfire.Our new B2B call center partners are showing a remarkable sophistication. Fewer are asking me, “Can you be our plug-and-play call center partner?”

Instead they are asking, “Can you help us re-architect our sales funnel?”

They want to know, for example:

  • If I have a revenue target of $2.5 million for Q1, how many sales-accepted leads do I need to achieve it?
  • How many marketing-qualified leads do I need to achieve that number of SALs?
  • How many full-time employees do I need on the phone and on live chat to generate those MQLs?
  • Is this reproducible—can I depend upon those MQLs month-to-month, and that same rate of conversion to SQLs?

The list goes on.

Demand for the demand waterfall

You probably recognize those terms (MQL, SAL and so forth) from the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall framework. SiriusDecisions introduced the demand waterfall in 2005, and marketers have used it ever since to analyze their lead qualification processes from the inquiry stages through closed business.

We buy into the framework, and increasingly our partners do as well, which is good news. It acknowledges that generating demand is more complex than simply picking up the phone. The phone is a tool in the middle of the Demand Waterfall—and actually a small part of it. You need an idea of what you’re trying to achieve—like a revenue target—and what resources you need both up and down the sales funnel to achieve it. It’s pointless to generate 50 MQLs without a sales infrastructure to handle them.

Under pressure for predictability

Our new partners are asking us for more details because their bosses are challenging them for better performance, reporting and predictability. Those bosses are tired of up quarters and down, feast-and-famine; they’re demanding dependable pipelines and accurate forecasts. They also want to know “what if?” What if we had two FTEs on the phones versus three? What is the difference in cost, and what is the boost in revenue?

But that’s not new!

You’re right in saying “that’s not new!” Sort of.

What is new is the level of sophistication among our new partners. They’re thinking like HP and other sales-savvy Fortune 500s, who recognize that MQLs are just part of the equation.

I believe this new level of thinking was sparked by SiriusDecisions revamping its Demand Waterfall in 2012 to better reflect modern practices (for example, to include leads qualified by marketing automation and leads qualified or generated through teleprospecting). SiriusDecisions acknowledged in a 2013 AdAge article that a year after introducing the new model, adoption was slow. But by its 2014 summit, companies like Cisco claimed they used it to forecast revenues based on the current month’s MQLs—and they could achieve a predictable stream of MQLs. So, that predictability that marketing chiefs demanded is possible.

We know the model is ringing true because our new partners are asking “Tell us about the Demand Waterfall—how does your demand gen solution make it work for me?”

It has been a slow burn—complex, sophisticated ideas often are.

But in time they catch fire.

10 Tips to Avoid Costly B2B Data Purchase Mistakes

Analyzing B2B DataPurchasing B2B data isn’t rocket science. There are common areas that can be learned quickly, and vendors can help with less common queries. However, once you expand your requirements beyond your country, you might be surprised at how complex buying can become. These 10 commonly overlooked areas require careful consideration, or your data purchase decisions could cause the failure of an otherwise fantastic campaign.

1)      Turnaround times vary, greatly!

In Western markets, 24 – 48 hours turnaround time for counts is the norm.  Other markets respond slower. Far Eastern vendors, for example, can take 5-10 days to return a count. Work this into your timelines. 

2)      Adhere to local data legislation.

Be careful to adhere to local law and best practice, and ensure your data suppliers follow regulations too.  In Germany, double opt-in rules mean there is no such thing as a cold email. Conversely, the UK operates opt-out for B2B, so you can have a broader reach with email campaigns.  This is not just important from a data perspective – there is no point creating a fantastic campaign if it cannot be deployed.

3)      No database is perfect.

Some databases are fresher than others, but none are 100% accurate.  Business data decays rapidly (Watch this video to see how rapidly!), so you need to know local benchmarks and the vendors’ guarantees. That way you can expect certain inaccuracies, order over-supply when necessary and identify if the quality of the data you purchased is genuinely unsatisfactory.

4)      Language.

Can non-English data be handled accordingly?  Can your systems cope with special characters found within many European languages such as German or Spanish?  What about double byte characters from Russia and the Far East?

5)      Variation of variables – do they meet your needs?

Not all vendors collect, manage and store data consistently. Variables like employee size and turnover can be banded or actual, and the latter could be local currency or US Dollars.  Check how vendors report these variables early in the planning process.

6)      NACE vs. SIC vs. NAICS – ensure consistency of selection.  

There are different ways an organization’s industry can be categorized. In Europe, a NACE code is used whereas in the USA, US SIC codes or NAICS is used.  While there are similarities between all systems, there are also subtle differences. Aim for consistent use of industry codes, especially when using multiple vendors.

7)      Put data volumes into context. 

If you listen to vendors’ claims, then every database is the biggest and best on the market. But don’t worry, a bit of common sense will ensure you obtain genuine datasets. If the vendor claims they have 40m businesses in the USA, then it’s probably not true. Why? Research shows there are only 20m businesses, so the 40m figure is more likely to be contact volume, not sites.

8)      Lack of data quality standards.  

In the UK, we have an established association, The DMA, who produce guidelines and member Codes of Practice on acceptable data quality benchmarks. However, in some developed markets – including North America – there are no comparable benchmarks and vendors set their own standards. Don’t make any assumptions; ask suppliers what their guarantees are and why. Ask probing questions about their data collection methods and quality processes.

9)      Know the cost and usage terms.

How do you want to be billed, €, £ or $? If it’s different to the vendor currency, ensure you work in the correct exchange rates and include caveats allowing for fluctuations. How do you access the data? Annual subscription licences vs. per record purchase? Must data be downloaded from a portal or can it be transferred by SFTP?

10)   Data formats vary.

With 180 + countries globally and many of them having individual address standards, there are different ways to represent an address.  Communicate to the vendor exactly what you need for the campaign. Taking international phone numbers as an example, should country code be a separate field? Does the number need leading zeroes?

Buying data can be complex, particularly for international campaigns in markets where you are unfamiliar. The 10 areas above are the tip of the iceberg. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the above, or need guidance on how to apply these tips to your marketing programs.

3 Ways a Contact Center Can Help with Funnel Optimization and Lead Conversion

By: Nicole Bump

Management has assigned lofty revenue goals to your marketing team. Now you need to deliver. 

I bet your first reaction is not to partner with a contact center. While many companies hire contact centers to assist with inbound customer care, a call-based solution is the less obvious choice to improve lead generation and conversion. However, bringing contact center services into your marketing mix can help with funnel optimization at three key points: the quality of prospect records, lead qualification rate and lead conversion rate.

Contact Center Agent
  1. Improve lead quality. If you’re part of that 40% of B2B marketers that say they don’t have the data to drive their campaigns, then you ought to fix your data![i] A contact center partner can validate the prospect records you already have in your database, making sure you can reach them with your promotions, while also helping you to find new contacts. The result is plenty of high quality leads entering your funnel, priming you for success.
  1. Accurately qualify leads. A full 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, but only 27% of those leads will be qualified.[ii] A good call center partner will ask the right questions to properly score and qualify your leads, improving your marketing- to sales-qualified conversion rate and making your sales team happy.
  1. Nurture to close. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.[iii] Tele-nurturing (using a call center for lead nurturing) keeps opportunities moving through the sales funnel, reenergizing leads and even pushing late-stage opportunities over the finish line—all of which shorten the sales cycle and increase your close rate.

Although not always the obvious choice for funnel optimization, adding contact center services to your marketing mix may be just what you need to keep your campaigns on track—and deliver on C-suite revenue goals. Check out this infographic to see more compelling statistics.

Sources:
[i]  Holger Schulze. “B2B Lead Generation Marketing Trends: 2013 Survey Results.”
[ii] MarketingSherpa. “2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey.”
[iii] Forrester Research via HubSpot. “30 Though Provoking Lead Nurturing Stats You Can’t Ignore.”

Connect with US