By Barbara Pellow June 14, 2006 -- As new and improved computing and workflow technologies were introduced to the market, business processes became more automated. Finance was automated in the '60s; human resources was automated in the '70s; manufacturing was automated in the '80s and sales and customer service in the '90s. With marketing is under tremendous scrutiny, this is the decade for marketing automation. Marketing is a $500 billion dollar a year industry that is facing the challenges of being reshaped and restructured. The marketing supply chain--including agencies, media buyers, media outlets and printers--is rife with inefficiency. As with all business processes, both executive focus and technology infrastructure need to be in place for effective automation. If you talk with the CMO, the executive focus is evident. Their top issues and concerns include: * Inability to get an integrated view of the customer * The need to compress the campaign design-to-execution cycle to improve time-to-market * The need to leverage low-cost Web and email media * Inability to measure results from marketing campaigns * Inability to measure and justify marketing ROI The marketing supply chain--including agencies, media buyers, media outlets and printers--is highly fragmented and largely unautomated. The marketing supply chain is rife with inefficiency. The Internet and Web technologies provide the first reliable, affordable cross platform infrastructure capable of automating some elements of marketing. Companies are also looking at the Internet as a vehicle to deliver qualified prospects at a reasonable cost. Digital print technologies have matured. The quality level is acceptable for the majority of work marketers require. Digital printing offers complete customization of every piece. And marketers care about both relevance and credibility in communications with customers. They want campaigns that demonstrate knowledge and understanding of customer needs. Accountability is in. CMOs are tired of being the target for budget cuts and want to fight back. Accountability is in. Delivering tangible financial returns, clear marketing ROI, predictive performance modeling, improved spend allocation, and pre-emptive strategies are imperatives for today's senior marketing executives. Historically, from the perspective of the financial community, marketing has not been accountable for its spending. If there was an expense cut required, CEOs and CFOs would often disproportionately reduce the marketing budget. CMOs are tired of being the target for budget cuts and want to fight back. Marketing Automation: Tools for the Graphic Communications Service Provider Graphic communications service providers can help the CMO in this fight by providing highly personalized marketing materials leveraging print, e-mail and the Web. A number of graphic communications service providers are moving into the world of marketing automation to better support their customers and to differentiate themselves. They have identified a number of Web-enabled offerings that have the ability to securely address collateral, direct marketing and ad creation and distribution online. As I noted here last week, companies are using tools from firms like XMPie, MindFireInc and Bluestream to become an integral part of the marketing value chain. These systems typically offer a user-friendly storefront with various levels of security to manage client interaction. Organizations can develop and manage templates for ads, flyers, direct mail, catalogues and collateral online and maintain a consistent brand throughout. Clients personalize information and design and order highly customized customer communications and marketing collateral from their desktops. While the feature sets vary from the different software providers, the fundamental concept is a turnkey offering for automating campaign management. The components include: * Personalized direct mail to attract new prospects or cross-sell existing clients. The graphic communications service provider is leveraging tools that bring the customer information and creative together. The software application generates the logic required to print four-color variable data direct mail and creates digital versions for use in e-mail. * Integration with the Web. The graphic communications service provider will augment the direct mail piece with a personalized URL. The software tools generate a personalized Web address for each recipient and they automate the process of inserting the unique address into the direct mail piece. Since studies have shown that nearly 33 percent of direct mail recipients prefer to respond online, personalized Web addresses are a convenient response option. * Interaction with the recipient via a customized landing page. The software supports development of a highly personalized landing page that looks like the direct mail piece. The objective is to provide not only a personalized direct mail piece, but an interactive experience that makes the user feel like they ended up where they expected to be. Personalized Web sites give the marketer the ability to deliver more targeted information to clients and to continue the dialogue that is started with the direct mail piece. * Leveraging the interactivity. Marketers want to leverage the interaction with the customer to gather incremental data about the customer. The landing page entices the prospect to register or find out more information about a specific campaign or take a survey or other desired action. Based on the prospect's answers, a qualified lead can be distributed to the appropriate interaction center or sales representative for follow-up. * Marketing ROI analysis. Each step of the process is carefully tracked in order to monitor the response rate of the channel, the click-through rate of the questionnaire and the conversion rate of the leads. Since interaction is conducted online, some systems capture respondent activity in real-time. Campaign response rates, visitor response patterns, and detailed lead information are can be available 24x7 as the campaign unfolds with some of the implementations. AutoNation Using XMPie, Daytona Beach, Florida-based DME serves the needs of AutoNation, America's largest dealer of new and used vehicles. AutoNation decided to consolidate all of its direct marketing under a single agency, DME. The two companies worked to make relevance the foundation of a new service marketing program, which was designed to ultimately help AutoNation sell more vehicles. Keeping the customer in a service relationship increases the likelihood fourfold that they'll repurchase from the store. AutoNation's current annual direct mail volume is somewhere between 50 and 60 million pieces. The company touches its customers eight times a year and nearly all have some element of personalization or customization. A variety of formats are used for direct mail including postcards, letter packages and self mailers. These cards indicate the type of service needed and provide all of the pertinent details such as customer ID number, so the customer can easily make an appointment with the dealership's service desk. Many of the pieces also incorporate personalized URLs which expand the amount of content the company can include in its communications. Transactional data is used to build a personalized Web site for the customer. It could incorporate specific offers about cars, allow the customer to shop online and then set up an appointment with the dealership. The company touches its customers eight times a year and nearly all have some element of personalization or customization. Domino's Pizza The Canadian Division of Domino's Pizza has selected Bluestream software. Bluestream utilizes a unique Web address (dominosdirect.ca) and personalized URL (PURL) on all addressed direct mail, pizza boxes, marketing pieces and e-mail. The PURL tracks each respondent to the campaign by name and records detailed responses in the Bluestream CRM. These responses can then be delivered in a variety of reports in real time and viewed by the individual franchisee. The PURL drives customers to the Web where they are presented with an interactive flash presentation. There is an option to offer their email address in return for coupons, scratch and win games and other promotions. If customers have opted into the email campaign, they are removed from the direct mail list and sent emails monthly on store promotions. In addition, responses can be statistically analyzed once a minimum sample has been achieved. The analysis takes contact and address information and scores this data against census data to derive detailed information on clients. The benefits for Dominos are more customers, more loyal customers and measurable marketing results. Contact Direct Marketing Eric Schanz, president of Contact Direct Marketing, addressed the direct marketing needs of the educational market using MindFireInc.'s Look Who's Clicking. According to Schanz, "The ability to effectively combine Internet technology with traditional direct mail can help clients like Northface University and Collins College capture more responses by appealing to prospects that prefer to respond online. This is especially important with Millenials -- students under 23 years old that have grown up with Internet access in the home." The way each institution employs Look Who's Clicking™ reflects their particular market focus and campaign goals. The benefits for Dominos are more customers, more loyal customers and measurable marketing results. Look Who's Clicking automates the creation and management of Landing Pages. Using a campaign's Mail File (e.g., a list of prospective students), Look Who's Clicking automatically generates and hosts Personalized Landing Pages with unique URLs for each prospective student. When the prospective student visits his unique Web address, he's visiting a personalized Web site with his name and other information pre-loaded into both the URL and content of his site. Northface University uses Contact Direct Marketing's solution exclusively with mailing lists including the top 20 percent of math and science high school graduates. The most important aspect of the solution has been "speed-to-respond" --the amount of time it takes Northface to call back prospective students once they've responded to the direct mail piece. The most important aspect of the solution has been "speed-to-respond" With a BRC (business reply card), the speed-to-respond time can be seven to ten days, whereas Contact Direct Marketing's Web response channel allows a response within one day or a matter of hours. It also provides the ability to capture some basic information about the prospective students' backgrounds so when admissions representatives call them back, not only is interest still fresh, but the response to them is more meaningful and productive. Marketing Automation…Your Value Proposition to The CMO The CMO needs the tools to "fight back" against the never ending desire to cut his budget. The tools are available for you to deliver the ultimate value proposition--helping the CMO prove that marketing expenditures translate into growth and profitability for his or her company. It's time for you to become the marketing automator of the decade. Understand the applications and solutions--and take on the challenge.