Making eCRM Sizzle

ECRM is king. So why isn’t everyone doing it? OK, perhaps the rhetorical excuse for a diatribe about how everyone really must start doing it properly is a bit transparent. Actually there might be a perfectly rational explanation, no matter how much I might, as a passionate advocate of eCRM, be wary of it. The answer is very, very mundane.
We’ve recently been involved in two quite big pitches, for brands everyone’s heard of and almost everyone uses, both in transport. We’ve been drafted in as a wildcard – the brief’s been about making email marketing deliver revenues. We’ve come in and talked about strategy and how relationships, customer journey cycles and touchpoints affect frequency of purchase and average transaction values. We’ve talked at length about the processes involved in mining data, creating simple customer segmentation then rich, layered segmentation (starting with sponge cake and aiming for gateau, I suppose). We’ve described processes for selecting email providers, deliverability consultants, analytics. And we’ve talked about the results – millions in demonstrable incremental revenues, customer lifetime values that go up by 3% (read: millions of pounds), over the first couple of years.
Looking back over these two pitches, which we didn’t win (our normal win rate is around 75%), it’s clear why. These two clients wanted to improve their email marketing. Simple as that. What we should have talked about was how we improve email campaigns so they drive results. We should leave the data stuff as a functional but implicit element, same as usability, or build standards, or testing. We’ve been guilty of trying to explain the thinking, not the practice. In old speak, we’ve been trying to sell the sausage, not the sizzle. Sure, eCRM is infinitely more complex than just email marketing… there are plenty of big projects that integrate segment-driven microsites, emails, SMS and e-commerce, all in aid of making the customer the centre of a brand’s universe. But actually from some clients’ points of view they may simply want to take the next step in improving what they do already, and that may be taking a newsletter and making it more relevant through simple segmentation.
And if we do take this approach to those pitches where the brief really is for improving email marketing, then perhaps we can take these clients and move them on to eCRM by stealth. If we can start with quick wins – the kind that generate sudden revenues – then we can go on to justify spending time and money on strategic thinking, segmentation and online touchpoints. In retrospect, we’ve been guilty of a lack of patience, and it’s a trait endemic to the leading edges of the digital industry. So with (probably the vast majority of) clients new to eCRM, we need to start on ground that’s already familiar, in order to help transform the mundane into something that ensures that it’s the customer who’s king.