‘Transpromo’: Can it adapt to a b-to-b world?

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If you’ve never heard of the term “transpromo,” you’re not alone.

In a recent study by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, 75% of senior marketers didn’t have a clue about the word, although they probably were aware of the technique. Transpromotional marketing—transpromo for short—refers to the printing of marketing messages directly on the white space of operational documents, such as invoices, statements or corporate notices.

(Don’t confuse this with the myriad inserts that are often, annoyingly, included in many transactional and operational mailings. In fact, to distinguish transpromo from its insert cousins, it’s sometimes called an “onsert.”)

Transpromo may gain greater usage as companies seek any and all marketing means at their disposal to increase sales, in particular mining their own house lists of current customers for incremental sales, at which transpromo excels.

“Pinpointing new routes to revenue has highlighted a need for marketers to fully leverage investments in loyalty and rewards programs,” said Liz Miller, VP-programs and operations for the CMO Council. “Yet all too often these programs neglect to mine, utilize and take advantage of this valued customer engagement opportunity.”

Whether it can make a serious dent among b-to-b marketers, however, is yet to be determined.

“It’s a little less obvious here, but it’s hard for any marketers to ignore its incredible up- and cross-sell opportunities,” she said.

While a quintessential direct-mail technique, transpromo can only work if it’s tied tightly with database marketing analysis. The reason is its customizable nature, its ability to include a tailored message to the recipient based on customer profiles contained in a CRM system or marketing database.

That message could accurately reflect each customer’s previous behavior, buying pattern, need, geography and the like, with improved relevancy to drive customer action.

“What I focus on 99% of the time is database marketing, to help our clients leverage existing data about their own customers, to generate personalized, individualized communications that can build loyalty, up-sell and cross-sell,” said Lee Gallagher, worldwide manager for direct marketing with transpromo-service provider InfoPrint Solutions, a joint venture between International Business Machines and Ricoh Co.

The company sponsored the CMO Council study, “Routes to Revenue.”

“The most basic advantage here is connecting online with offline campaigns,” Gallagher said. “Yes, the mailed document won’t be in real time, but you can still mine relevant information that complements the other channels.”

The CMO study, which polled 650 senior marketers online in late 2008, revealed that their No. 1 strategy in realizing greater revenue (noted by 60% of respondents) was to become more personalized, relevant and precise in customer communication. Their second-most-cited strategy was finding new ways to up- or cross-sell current accounts.

Both are addressable by transpromotional marketing programs.

Just from a numbers standpoint, there are plenty of opportunities to reach customers via operational documents. According to market research and consulting company InfoTrends, household bills, statements, confirmations, requests for donations and bills total about 32 billion mailed items annually.

And as the e-mail delivery of operational documents gradually overtakes direct mail, transpromo can transfer to this medium as well.

The challenge for b-to-b marketers is that operational documents such as invoices and statements typically go to procurement departments, and not to decision-makers who would be the normal targets.

“But there’s nothing stopping a company from marketing to procurement, too,” Miller said. One company might include on its invoices a message from another that sells financial solutions and gain revenue for the service, she said.

“What if I’m a computer chip manufacturer?” Miller asked. “I could connect with my computer partners for their messages to be included on my invoices going to other customers, with a special promotion for new laptops. If I’m a b-to-b vendor, I’ll have partners who will be willing to cross-promote on my document. None of us does business on our own.”

And while the greatest strength of transpromo marketing may appear to be its customizable nature, it can just as easily be tailored to fit different company strategies.

“Like all effective customer communications, transpromotion should build the relationship,” said Crystal Uppercue, marketing manager with direct marketing production company EU Services.

“In your particular transactional document, would a one-to-one educational message work better than an up-sell? Would a targeted personal note of appreciation make that invoice more effective? As with all direct marketing, your creative, and testing, will make the difference.”

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