In this article we will be examining what you need to do to institute a Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) program, particularly your system requirements and capabilities while providing practical examples.
For those of you that missed the previous article, there are significant benefits to instituting a Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) program. Apart from the ability to automate your sales-cycle, qualify your leads and dynamically target your promotions, CLM generates invaluable marketing information, such as customer interest levels and more accurate segmentation. Other benefits to be realised are cost and time savings as well as increased service levels.
Realising these benefits hinges upon your systems capability to:
Determine and Measure Customer Interests
Create Follow-up Actions
Create Simulated Responses
Create Rules for Events and Actions
Create Automatic E-mail Sequences
It follows that if you can determine and measure customer interests you can define follow-up actions based on customer behaviour. Follow-up actions need to be executed through simulated responses. To ensure appropriate responses you will need to be able to set up decision rules governing reactions to customer events and behaviour. And finally, to automate this continuous and interactive dialogue you will need to be able to set up sequences of emails.
Determining Customer Interests: (the Holy Grail) In determining customer interests we examine all the recipient responses and reactions to our communication that we can measure. These could include subscriptions/unsubscriptions, opens, click-throughs and replies. We then assign them values which we use to update customer profiles. A reasonable system will be able to capture "yes/no" values; a good system will be able to capture incremental numeric values such as "interest level" or, as in my example below, probability level.
For instance: An advertising email is sent to anonymous recipients. This email offers washing machines. If a customer clicks on this offer the database attribute 'housewife' is set to '1'. In subsequent mails only house wares are offered. In case the customer clicks the value is increased to '2'. In a third and fourth email two articles especially for women are offered such as lipsticks. Again, if clicked on it the field value will be increased. In a fifth email articles for children are offered. On the whole, the analysis of the field 'housewife' is as follows: 0 - Possibly no housewife 1 - Person involved in household activities 2 - Possibly housewife or man 3 - Possibly housewife 4 - Certainly housewife 5 - Housewife with children
Now, this field can be used as a profile in order to offer housewives with children special offers.
Creating Follow-up Actions and Simulated Responses: Follow-up actions enable you to create company-side reactions to various recipient responses. They are the logical steps that the customer's response should generate in your customer service/sales cycle.
For example, a time-based special offer might function like this: For a special offer all customers are asked to respond via email by a certain date. Only those customers that replied within the specified period will receive the special offer.
A simulated response gives the impression that there is in fact a person responding to your customer's query. Content can be personalised (based on personal information) and customised (based on customer requirements, demographics, etc.) and scheduled to give the impression of personal contact.
A simple example (automatic information dissemination): An email containing information regarding pension topics includes a link 'Please click here to receive further information'. Six hours after that another personalized email sent from a broker in the area's email address (triggered by a Scheduled Transmission) with the requested information is sent.
The real beauty of using a system that can handle these types of actions is that all the actions or reactions can take place DIRECTLY from the email with no need for the recipient to go to a 'landing page' and complete a form.
Rules for Events and Actions To automate follow-up actions and simulated responses it must be possible to define both 'events' and actions that those events will generate. In other words you need to be able to set up decision rules in your emarketing system.
Your system should be able to generate actions off the following system events (with integration you can obviously extend this list to perhaps include billing events or customer service events, for instance):
On Subscribe/On Unsubscribe
As discussed above a good system will enable you to set values based upon what we call "events". Setting values is one example of an action; other actions are also possible. An event (or non-event) may launch one action or many; below are actions that can be employed:
Setting Values: This action sets or alters a value in the recipient profile. This value can either be a constant (e.g. an 'x'), or a numeric value can be incremented or decremented, or the value can be derived from the system, for instance, capturing a 'query date'.
Changing Subscription Status: With this action, recipients can be, subscribed or unsubscribed from lists. Typically you would have lists for various customer phases. For example, a customer on a general newsletter list could be subscribed to an 'upcoming events' list from clicking a link titled 'inform me of upcoming events'.
Removing Recipients: This would remove the recipient permanently from your system.
Send Mail: This action can send a selected email to the recipient who triggered the event. On an email bounce, a notification can be emailed to your recipient informing her that your newsletter is being bounced asking her to add your address to her Outlook contacts to ensure she receives your newsletters.
Automatic Email Sequences Finally, not all your communication will be event-based an, obvious case in point is your standard newsletter. But other types of communications will also be more continuous, for instance longer running marketing campaigns, post-purchase customer service, or training programmes.
For example, you may send out a weekly newsletter advertising household goods specials - at month end you may advertise big ticket items, a week before month end you may advertise cheaper items. Perhaps mid-month you advertise the bigger ticket items at full price as a tease for the end-of-month specials. A good system will allow the sequence to run without any input by you sucking in the relevant information from your content management system.
What companies will do is run several channels of communication related to where recipients can be placed within the customer lifecycle and their system will then use customer events to graduate recipients onto or off these particular tracks of communication; effectively collections of automated sequences customised to recipient requirements and monitored by event-action rules.
To enable this sort of communication structure you will need to be able to customise sequence parameters. Sequencing functionality should allow for:
Planning Transmission Interval: Here you would specify how the individual emails of the course are sent to the individual subscribers. After a specifiable period of 'n' days, he receives the second part, and so on.
Transmission based on Subscription Time: The new subscriber receives the first e-mail immediately after subscribing.
Transmission on specific Weekdays: The subscriber receives his first e-mail on a specified weekday. You can specify to send the parts of the course on Mondays and Wednesdays, for instance.
Removing a Subscriber after last email: All subscribers who have finished the last part of the course are removed from the list. This keeps the subscriber list small and speeds up transmission.
To summarise, CLM can provide significant benefits, but these benefits will depend on the quality of your emarketing and communications system. Key limitations will be the functional flexibility built into your system and its capabilities in data capture and management. Further limiting factors will be possibilities for integration with other data generating systems, be they software-based or people-based, and your capacity to deal with the end results of CLM-initiated interaction, that is leads, orders, queries and customer service.
Setting up CLM systems and programmes requires planning and management; one of the key benefits that a professional emarketing and communications platform will provide is the ability to capture accurate data and automate large portions of your CLM programme, reducing labour, service breakdowns and management costs.
More about this in our next article.
If you are interested in developing a Closed Loop Marketing program please contact Greg Reardon, co-founder of Low Fat Digital Communications on .
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