It all starts with the database. Marketers should look for database sources that provide linked data across channels. This is not only important on a campaign level but will be essential for analyzing response. This is most often done by using a clear, unique identifying code that exists across channels and products. List owners need to feed that multichannel process by offering list rental products across channels that can be linked.
Collect e-mail addresses aggressively and use them. We often see catalogers and publishers maintain about a 30% ratio of e-mail to postal addresses. Work to get this percentage higher. If you plan to collect e-mail addresses, make sure you get the associated business address. In certain categories, customers or subscribers will prefer to be contacted via e-mail. If so, make sure you do so with the right frequency. Take every opportunity to collect more information about your customers over time in an unobtrusive way.
Work across channels internally. It is important to establish clear goals for multichannel marketing and communicate that across the organization, particularly for large b-to-b marketers. Customers think in terms of brand, and the more consistent your message is across channels the better. Working in tandem with other business units and across channels, and identifying in which channels customers want to communicate, will aid in building a powerful, multichannel database that is both a prospecting tool and revenue-generating asset. Clearly establish the goals and objectives of creating the marketing programs and database, and share in the revenue opportunities across business units and channels.
Consolidate your e-mail database and delivery. E-mail delivery and compliance issues can change. Even if the laws themselves do not change rapidly, protocols for e-mail authentication and best practices can be difficult to navigate. Stay ahead of the game by consolidating all e-mail database and delivery with a company that has good technological capabilities and can adapt. Make sure your vendor works with you to be fully compliant with CAN-SPAM as well as delivery and authentication issues. Know each and every domain you are using to send e-mail and try to combine or link those databases so opt-outs are done in real time.
Analyze results and take cues from your audience. When prospecting, response analysis is extremely important. It is even more important when analyzing across channels. Work with vendors and database companies that will help you look at results and activity across multiple channels objectively. This is the only way to truly gauge results. If a vendor or consultant goes into the process of trying to prove an objective-it may want to prove direct mail drives catalog buyers to the Web site or search marketing spurs catalog activity-it will skew the results. The only thing that matters is which mix works for a particular marketer, whether catalog mail drives Web sales or e-mail list rental generates incremental dollars. Myriad variables should be analyzed, and it will come down to the user experience in the category you are targeting.
Commit to the multichannel approach. Do not fall into the trap that a small e-mail test campaign is enough investment or is an accurate test of whether a campaign works or not. Web integration is key. There are no shortcuts. Test several different approaches and invest in the infrastructure and resources to be successful. Direct marketers should objectively analyze their audiences and results and combine the best tools and resources to maximize their opportunity.
Rob Sanchez is president of List Management & Interactive Services at MeritDirect, White Plains, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.