By Barbara Pellow October 18, 2006 -- The renewed focus of marketers on direct marketing has not come without new expectations based on technology advances. Today there is less tolerance for traditional direct marketing, which at its worst was costly, took too long to develop and execute, and lacked clarity about the true ROI. Centralized marketing organizations now need integrated direct marketing solutions that are fast, flexible, targeted and measurable. And if these organizations are marketing products and services through franchises, distributors and/or sales representatives, they also need direct marketing solutions that provide brand control. Marketing executive realize that reaching a prospect via more that one communications channel can be a force multiplier in cementing the relationship. Today's marketers have a comprehensive set of requirements. Solutions that they are looking for need to demonstrate the ability to deliver: Increased Sales Revenue In today's environment, marketing executives are looking for solutions that enable multi-channel marketing campaigns to be executed at low cost. Communications need to be done with a blend of print and via e-mail. Marketing executive realize that reaching a prospect via more that one communications channel can be a force multiplier in cementing the relationship. The end objective is increasing sales revenues over time through an increase in the number of customer touch points in a campaign. Brand Control Corporations want a system they can use as a centralized marketing resource to ensure complete brand control while giving sales personnel, franchisees and agents the means to develop geo-targeted direct marketing campaigns within minutes. Co-Op Management With complex distribution channels, marketers want franchisees and sales agents using the system to go online to access their co-op credit balance and help them manage direct marketing campaigns and materials. Order Automation With the ability to automatically manage the entire direct marketing process for hundreds of users, systems need to eliminate the need for manual production and complex program management. Marketers want a graphic communications service provider that can take Internet driven orders and handle production, distribution and fulfillment without their intervention. Increased Response Rates Marketers need to understand business results. Solutions need to be designed to track direct marketing response rates. With improved data marketers want to combine segmentation and geographical targeting, and assess the results based on multiple metrics. They also want real time data so that campaign offers can be dynamically adjusted based on varying response rates by market segment or geography. Companies that are able to pre-qualify targeted segments and appropriate collateral can ensure the delivery of increased marketing impressions to the right prospects. Evolving Tools for Graphic Communicators Software and digital print equipment technologies are converging to address these growing requirements for interactive, multi-channel, performance-driven marketing solutions. Digital color print technology has advanced to the level where it is acceptable from a price/performance perspective for a broad array of direct marketing materials. As graphic communications service providers walked the show floor at Graph Expo this week, they saw high quality near-offset-quality pages produced on a variety of different technologies at different price/performance levels. Canon, HP, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Océ, Xeikon, and Xerox, to name a few, are demonstrating digital color print technology that is more than acceptable for the production of marketing materials. In today's world of one-to-one, permission and personalized marketing strategies, CMOs are reevaluating the technology foundation on which these strategies are built. More importantly, a full range of software tools is emerging that is starting to deliver on the promise of integrated campaign management. Responsive Solutions, interlink ONE Inc., XMPie, Document Sciences, Pageflex, and MindFireInc have tool sets that can help the graphic communications service provider develop integrated marketing campaigns. They link the power of direct mail with the interactive capabilities of the Internet. The objective is to convert more direct mail recipients into qualified prospects and valued customers by sustaining an integrated and evolving dialogue with those customers and prospects. These application solutions automate the creation, management and tracking of Personalized URLs and VIP Landing Pages. Graphic Communications Service Providers Stepping Up to the Plate Traditional graphic communications firms are also looking at mechanisms to re-invent their businesses and catch the next wave in variable data -- integrated marketing campaign management. Worcester, Massachusetts, based LaVigne Inc. has re-invented a traditional business through strong market vision and a focus on execution. Print Solutions Magazine presented its 2005 Top 100 list of independent manufacturers in the printing and document management industry in April 2005. LaVigne ranked 41st overall in sales. LaVigne also ranked 10th in the Fastest Growing Companies segment in Fiscal Year 2003-2004 with an 18.7 percent year-over-year growth. The firm invested in state-of-the-art technology and is an acknowledged leader on implementing variable data and JDF workflow. President and CEO Chris Wells realized that the future was not just about great looking printing. He established the firm's mission as helping customers deliver the right message to the right people at the right time and the right cost. In discussions with Chris over the past few weeks, he indicated, "Web to print solutions aren't enough any more. With web to print, we were trying to shoehorn a solution into the customer's environment. We now realize that we need to be an integral part of their marketing ecosystem and provide a tool set and integration services that link with data infrastructure, sales force automation, and CRM applications." Based on his experience, Wells realized that he needed to get the right resources in place to make his vision into a reality. He hired Jack Perry as the Senior Vice President of Client Strategy. Jack's mission at LaVigne is to capture the marketing campaign automation wave. According to Perry, "Marketing is transforming itself in corporate America. CMOs are looking for partners that can make marketing operations management and marketing resource management a reality. We have learned that there is no single tool or simple answer to satisfy the needs of every customer. For the truly high value opportunities, we need to understand their marketing operations and determine how to effectively integrate and deliver a multi-channel campaign with measurable results." Perry went on to describe the types of solutions he is working on today. One Lavigne Inc. client is an agency serving a roofing and siding building supply manufacturer. The manufacturer's primary product is siding and they were introducing a new line of roofing materials. The program goals were to: 1. Identify roofing contractors within their existing customer list of siding contractors. 2. Introduce roofing contractors to their line of roofing products 3. Convert 2,000 contractors to sign up for a premier contractor program within a six-month window. The manufacturer had no idea how many roofing contractors existed within its siding contractor customer base. The roofing brand had no equity with either prospects or existing clients. The challenge was to segment the customer base and provide a compelling offer to entice builders to sign up for the premier contractor program. LaVigne went to work and delivered an integrated multi-channel campaign comprised of personalized direct mail linked to personalized web sites, a web survey and personalized e-mail. The results were analyzed on an ongoing basis. LaVigne worked with the agency and the manufacturer to understand the characteristics of the group that converted to premier contractor status; evaluated non responders and modified the offer to drive conversion. The initial mailing was 65,000 pieces. With LaVigne's help, the manufacturer succeeded in segmenting its customer base. The company converted 1,200 contractors to premier status in the first wave and went on to surpass the program goal of 2,000. Lavigne is also working with a large financial institution to build and enhance customer loyalty. Financial services providers typically have a robust data infrastructure about their customer base. This specific provider had a 360 degree view of the customer base, but was losing market share. The financial institution's competition was reaching out to prospects and customers seven to eight times in a given year, while LaVigne's client had three to four customer touch points annually. Together, LaVigne and the financial institution have developed a strategy using a series of software tools to conduct an event-driven marketing solution combining effective use of direct mail and the Internet. While the results aren't in, improving customer touch points is critical to loyalty, and this is a key element of the campaign. Integrated Marketing Campaign Management -- It's Real Marketing is a $500 billion dollar per year industry. Media outlets have expanded exponentially in the past ten years, making it harder to make media buying decisions and measure the effectiveness of programs and campaigns. In today's world of one-to-one, permission and personalized marketing strategies, CMOs are reevaluating the technology foundation on which these strategies are built. The marketing executive is beginning to understand the full range of technological capabilities at his or her disposal. While only five years ago marketing via e-mail and the Web was a rarity, today companies are using these new communications media to retain existing customers and attract new ones through more innovative marketing campaigns. The CMO wants to blend the right media mix and work with knowledgeable suppliers that understand the new world of business communications. As you reflect on your business, you need to assess if you are ready to take on this challenge.