As the understanding and acceptance of technology as a marketing vehicle grows on an almost daily basis the fusion between marketers and technologists is also growing. The small group of visionaries who saw the Internet as a new frontier really have impacted the world in so many ways. Both positively and negatively I suppose.
I can remember the days when “the marketing folks” ideas and thoughts were so limited that the concept of building and marketing to an email list was so extremely creative the didn’t know where to start. I can also remember the day just a month or so ago when I was visiting a client who’s statement was, “We have to figure out a way to get around all those spam filters.” – Uh, maybe stop sending spam? 😉
The greatest thing about technology, like other things I suppose, is that there is constant innovation. It’s sometimes pretty easy to add a few more lines of code to an application and give it a new life or purpose. And, if you look at marketing methods as modules if you will, it’s also becoming increasingly easy to find ways of combining them to increase results.
About 3 years ago I had a client whose membership base was in the 350,000-400,000’s. They sold an insurance product. Their members either paid monthly or annually by credit card which presented a problem that technology could solve. The sheer volume of expiring credit cards each month was overloading them with both follow-up and back-end labor expense – until we hit the scene.
See, at the beginning they would start sending direct mail to clients 2 months out, 1 month out, 2 weeks out and if they still had no response their sales department would call them. To make matters worse, the direct mail piece asked these people to call into the call center and update their credit card. You would think it would be obvious to integrate technology at this point – but some people just didn’t get it.
Now, don’t laugh – because this is all so obvious but – We started by building an online credit-card updating system – easy stuff. Then rather than direct mail at the beginning we’d hit them with a few emails – they were already customers and this was important so it was OK. Then if still no response 1 month out two things would happen, first, they’d get a voice marketing call directing them to the website or to call in (I’ll explain this in a minute), then they would also get a letter in the mail as well as another email.
Voice marketing is a technology which integrates computers and automated messages – yes, just like when the president calls you and asks you for your vote- that’s voicebroadcasting – and there are both good and bad applications for this technology which I’ll tell you about later. There were also two separate voicebroadcast messages used – one for a live ear (if someone answered) and one for the voicemail/answering machine.
But, we accomplished our goal in a HUGE way. We reduced their call center volume by about 5,000 calls per month – there is a huge cost savings here with no man-labor needed for these calls. By changing and tuning the method of capturing an updated card we also increased the response rate of people actually updating their cards – so more ongoing policy value – HUGE.
Here’s the savings roundup:
1) dramatically lowered mail & printing
2) dramatically lowered inbound calls (by about 200 per day)
3) increased actual conversion by I believe 10%
And, if my memory serves me correctly we created a 5000% ROI (that was a number from three years ago and I’d be willing to bet that it’s still paying off thru today). Yes, three years later, they are still reaping the rewards and saving money.
That’s the beauty of automation – and yes, merging it with marketing because when you do drive someone to that credit card update page/site you are also able to hit them up for a policy upgrade, a referral to a friend, etc.
It was Christmas morning, 1982. Santa left a Commodore 64 under the tree – I was 11 back then and fascinated with anything electronic.
The love I held so deeply in my heart though started a few earlier. From Merlin, to Mattel’s Classic Baseball and Football, to Simon, to the Atari 2600, Vectrex, the Odyssey and Coleco Vision. From the Timex Sinclair to the TRS-80 to the TI-994A and finally the main destination, the Commodore 64.
It didn’t take long before I found all kinds of uses for it beyond the subscriptions to various Commodore magazines so that I could type in pages and pages of that months program.
The power at my fingertips was far beyond that of the gaming systems I was addicted to. I could actually interact and instruct the machine to do things which was incredible!
Harnessing the 32k of usable RAM and 16 colors available allowed for all sorts of fun stuff. And when we got the tape drive we didn’t lose all the pages and pages of typed work each time we reset the machine because we could actually save the code to tape.
Like with most things though, I quickly became bored with the machine. Inspired by the movie WarGames in 1983 I had a desire to be not only connected to other computer users, but I wanted to be digitally connected.
My father would take me to the weekly West Orange County Commodore Users Group meetings at a bank in Buena Park. WOCUG. There we would hang out with other Commodore users, show off our programming accomplishments and most importantly, copy each others software.
I can still remember picking up my first 300 baud modem from a guy at a local group meeting. I got a list of local bbs’s and away we went.
Several months later I picked up my first 1200 baud modem, the 1670 and up went my first bulletin board system, or BBS.
Digital Hoarding, Hacking, Phreaking and Piracy
My goal then at 13? To accumulate as much software as possible. By hook or by crook I’d have everything. You may have read stories about kids like me. Back then I was known as the Cookie Monster running a pirate board called Sesame Street for a warez group called Rowdy American Distributors. We were primarily a pirated distribution group but it opened the doors to everything else.
Fast forward 6 or 7 years to 1991, bouncing from job to job I found myself selling sales training to Realtors. While working and learning from one of the nations most established sales trainers I was exposed to a marketing consultant who my employer had hired to create a marketing strategy and campaign.
That marketing campaign was rolled out and the response was absolutely incredible. New clients were beating down our doors. I had never seen anything like this and I had to learn more.
After having the idea that cold-calling was the best way to find new prospects hammered into my head repeatedly, I learned that there was yet another way, a better way, one that had real leverage!
The Power of Leverage – Direct Response Marketing
leveraged the power of endorsement and offered a no-risk guarantee. The sales were made before the prospect ever picked up the telephone and as a salesperson it couldn’t have been better.
I was so intrigued that I went to work for this company eighteen months later. This was my first time in a hybrid role managing and tracking the results of campaigns and also getting on the phone with clients, prospects and joint venture partners. My first venture as a CTMO at 22? Nah, but it’s an interesting tangent.
So back on track. I was working for America’s highest paid direct marketing consultant – he actually charged $5,000 an hour for his time, in the early 90’s when the economy was horrible…and people were paying it. While there I became very close with this marketing partner – he still today is a very dear friend, like a business father to me.
Then my life changed forever one day in 1994. My friend Scott Weir and I got an early version of Mosaic (later to be known as Netscape). We got it installed and then got online with it. That day changed both of our lives.
Scott went into hardware and systems admin and I started a software development/internet marketing company called The Stirling Bridge Group. SBG built websites, hosted, or consulted with dozens of Fortune 500 companies. We also helped many household brands get online and grow – many to the point of self-sufficiency hiring their own staffs and bringing things in-house.
I sold SBG July 1, 2001 and I stayed on board to help the new owners run the company and see that a few promised projects were fulfilled. I left my position September of 2003 and spent a couple of years getting some personal things in order..
Mid-2005 the search for a new passion began. Like always, I was drawn back into technology and marketing.
While looking back I realized that I was somewhat unique. I was strong in both Technology and Marketing – and very strong marrying the two. Everything which I looked at had to prove out from both a Marketing/ROI perspective and a technology perspective. The goal was always to fuse technology and marketing to create maximum results.
I now have one holdings company with several companies under its umbrella. One company is a labor of love, a national directory of ice rinks. The other company is more serious. We help companies establish marketing strategies that focus on best utilizing both traditional and online marketing methods. Working together creates what we like to call a force multiplying effect. The sum of the two is much greater than their individual elements..
This blog is a testament to our techniques. I’ll write using both my clients and others as examples. Some articles will be pure marketing plays while others are pure tech plays. And hopefully, many of them will be demonstrative of hybrid approaches. The who, the what, the how and the why.
Possibly, you’ll be able to pick up on what’s going on, tweak it and use some for your own benefit.
Hope to see you around.
John J Kirker
CTMO – Chief Technology Marketing Officer