By Tom Wetjen Cross media refers to an integrated marketing communication strategy in which customer preferences drive personalized messages deployed in multiple media. June 13, 2005 -- "The 20th century was the age of mass market -- the 21st century is the age of mass customization, where we do things differently for each customer. That means we need information about the customer, who they are, what they need, then use that information to adapt the way we work." This is the view of leading business consultant and author Michael Hammer. In recent years, the convergence of computer-based business intelligence, full-color digital printing and Web-savvy fulfillment systems has enabled corporate marketing messages to be more integrated, memorable, personalized and effective in eliciting the desired response than ever before. In the process, direct marketing is gaining a higher profile within corporate communications programs, and the terms "cross-media" and "multi-channel communications" have taken on broader meanings. Today, cross media refers to an integrated marketing communication strategy in which customer preferences drive personalized messages deployed in multiple media. The goal of these programs is to achieve marketing consistency across the media mix to ultimately elicit the perfect response from each customer. The resultant "whole" is much more powerful than the sum of its parts, creating new revenue opportunities, higher profits and improved customer retention -- in what we call, "The New Business of Direct Marketing." Customer Intelligence, Computers and the Web Today's tools make it possible to determine not only what a customer has bought – but what they are most likely to buy, as well. Early direct programs, like subscription clubs, focused on capturing basic customer information to identify buying preferences. Computers have vaulted these efforts at capturing customer and business intelligence to new heights. Today's tools make it possible to determine not only what a customer has bought – but what they are most likely to buy, as well. This information is drawn from sophisticated algorithms that analyze data collected from key customer touch points -- such as the Web, e-mails, call centers and advertising -- to identify the specific text, images and graphics that best advance the sales process. All of this content resides in the business intelligence database, the engine that drives one-to-one, cross-media marketing programs. Increasingly, this data is collected -- and disseminated -- on the Internet. The Web has proved to be an effective vehicle for capturing customer information and preferences to build an "integrated marketing database (IMD)" of contacts and content. And as a means of outbound communications, it enables changes to marketing messages at a moment's notice -- based on new input -- for instant delivery to the sales force, customers, employees and shareholders. For example, some pharmaceutical companies use Web fulfillment systems to generate sales support materials for new drugs immediately following approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The materials, including collaterals and journal reprints, are personalized to the sales organization's provider contacts. The Web is also providing new sources of revenues for service providers, as they expand their capabilities to become full service businesses offering program design, database development and integration, and digitally produced, cross-media, one-to-one communications programs. New Role of Digital Color Printing Early direct programs made use of personalized letters generated on digital production printers that reached the market in the late 1970s. At first, the variable content of the letters was monochrome, though sometimes it was imprinted on offset shells. Later, highlight color was introduced for focusing attention, often on customer-specific text. These techniques still underlie many successful direct marketing programs today. Print continues to play a vital role in cross-media communications programs. David Sable, vice chairman, Wunderman Worldwide, is among those who champion the newest digital printing technologies for one-to-one marketing. "You have to address the user, buyer and customer in the way they want to be addressed. So, if I wanted email send me an email. If I want a mail piece you better be ready to send me a mail piece or you just lost my sale." --David Sable, Wunderman Worldwide "The notion of print cannot be overlooked, and I think one of the exciting things about the technology is the print side of it," he says. "We know that you have to address the user, buyer and customer in the way they want to be addressed. So, if I wanted email send me an email. If I want a mail piece you better be ready to send me a mail piece or you just lost my sale." Increasingly, corporations are getting the most out of their print campaigns by using the latest digital color presses, which provide image quality similar to offset and permit variable data and images to be incorporated automatically to personalize messages. They are changing the way marketers develop and implement programs. In the past, General Motors, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Merrill Lynch, CitiCorp, Prudential and Blue Cross would never have dreamt of using full-color digital printing for producing their annual reports, brochures and sales literature. Now, these companies are replacing many of their offset communications with personalized marketing materials produced on digital printers and presses. The Power of Cross Media Communications Cross-media communications programs are enabling powerful new marketing strategies in many industries. In travel and entertainment, targeted cruise ship mailers are produced with personal images and graphics based on site, itinerary and custom options. In financial services, data typically destined for transactional documents are used to create highly promotional marketing pieces for high value customers. In manufacturing, channel communications seamlessly contain corporate brand identity and messages with specific channel partner content. And in retail operations, signage is produced digitally – as needed – with sale-specific product images and price promotions. Having a unified single voice to the customer is a very, very critical issue, Don Peppers, who together with Martha Rogers, began the mass interest in one-to-one marketing, says that " having a unified single voice to the customer is a very, very critical issue, whether the customer is interacting with you at the call center, or talking to someone in the dealer, or the retail store or on your Web site, or seeing your television ad or whatever." Today's cross media marketing technologies and skill sets, increasingly enable marketers to achieve this single voice, yet deliver it in personalized ways that provide the greatest opportunities to resonate with every individual target. They are improving response rates and having a positive impact on loyalty and retention metrics. And that is the essence of The New Business of Direct Marketing.