Marketing today Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

In today’s uncertain economic climate, a focused marketing plan is more important than ever. Consumers are carefully watching where and what they spend, so your marketing efforts have to be extra sharp.

You’re feeling the squeeze, too, so you’re trying to bring services in-house. But, you’ve got a business to run. If you don’t have the time, expertise or patience to create a marketing plan, it’s a good idea to partner with direct marketing specialists. Besides providing you with professional marketing expertise, a direct marketer will save you more than it will cost you.

“We are seeing a renewed focus on two things: using channels that are measurable and finding customers who are profitable,” says Chris Wagner, vice president of commercial services at InfoCision Management Corp. “A direct marketer can give you instantly measurable results in those areas.”

Smart Business spoke to Wagner about how companies can get the most out of their marketing dollars.

Why should a company outsource its marketing efforts?

Generally, a small to midlevel business won’t have it’s own marketing department. Marketing is just not the company’s core business. Partnering with a direct marketer gives your business marketing experience that reaches far outside of your product. A good direct marketer will have experience with thousands of clients in hundreds of markets and will be on the cutting edge of new and better technologies.

Partnering with a direct marketer will improve your company’s scalability, flexibility and productivity. Not only that, they know the laws concerning marketing. Sometimes when a company does its own marketing it runs afoul of the law, simply because it wasn’t aware of the federal and state regulatory compliance that is critical in many industries.

If you’re going to outsource your marketing efforts, what’s involved with the process?

Once you partner with a direct marketer, you’ll collaborate on how to add the most value to your company. This is usually done by going through an extensive questionnaire that asks about your current marketing efforts. The survey looks at the product you’re offering, the audience to whom it is being offered, the price point at which the product will be offered, and the current marketing channels you’re already using.

From there, the direct marketer will come up with several solutions and channels that can deliver you the highest forecasted ROI possible. For example, it may be best to hire a direct marketer during any stage of the customer life cycle. The direct marketer can provide you with a full range of services to support new customer acquisition, existing customer retention (including customer care and technical support), existing customer share (upgrades, cross-sells and frequency increase), customer save strategy and customer win-back initiatives.

The direct marketer will also offer several different functional channels, such as inbound teleservices, which support television, newspaper, direct mail or Internet marketing efforts, and outbound teleservices, which can be used to contact prospective or existing customers over the phone.

You’ll also want to look for a direct marketer with a world-class fulfillment center that can perform many functions, from direct-mail programs to product delivery and everything in between. It should also have an in-house creative services team that can design everything from logos to direct mail pieces and catalogues, as well as a business intelligence group that can work within a database of hundreds of millions of people nationwide. You also want a company that has access to business databases, such as Dun and Bradstreet, InfoUSA and Equifax, that can help you target audiences for acquisition programs and identify attributes of your existing customers.

Has the strategy used to market a company changed in this difficult economic climate?

Everything has changed! The changes have been significant for marketing strategies overall but not as much as they have in relation to direct marketing. Direct marketing provides benchmarks that lead to peace of mind during tough economic times. Where branding programs and general mass marketing may take months before you figure out if they are working, the effect of a direct marketing program is known instantly. This allows you to make strategic decisions regarding audience, offer and channel much more quickly, and provides you with the assurance that your dollars will be invested in high-return strategies.

As far as finding customers who are profitable, the demand for one-on-one direct marketing is increasing. During challenging economic times, companies are interested in quality over quantity. The days of mass acquisition programs, where the entire database is marketed the same way, have ended. The services you receive from a direct marketer will allow for a targeted approach to customers who will be the most responsive to a certain product combined with a modeled approach to the net value of that customer over his or her life cycle.

CHRIS WAGNER is vice president of commercial services at InfoCision Management Corp. Reach him at chrisw@infocision.com or (330) 670-5132. In business for 27 years, InfoCision Management Corporation is the second-largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of customer care services, commercial sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 100 companies and smaller businesses. InfoCision is also a leader of inbound and outbound marketing for nonprofit, religious and political organizations. InfoCision operates 33 call centers at 13 locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For more information, visit www.infocision.com.