Five fundamentals of 1-1.

Traditionally, effective 1-1 is built on the two core principles of relevance and timeliness.  Being relevant, as in ‘know what I like or am engaged in and communicate that to me’; and timeliness as in when is the right time and frequency with which to make contact.

As 1-1 has evolved this has arguably got a bit more complicated as there are more 1-1 channels to choose from with different attributes, benefits and costs. So here’s a bit of a run-down of some the fundamentals of ‘modern 1-1’.

Multi-channel 1-1 works better
Ideally you want to be able to have more than one way to reach your customers, which allows you to mix up your communications and have more ‘texture’. The analogy of this is talking in different tones and at different volumes – at different times customers will be receptive to the way you speak but always doing the same thing in the same way will inevitably get boring.

For instance, we find that for most brands, relentlessly emailing with consistent frequency and repetitive messaging will simply numb the impact of your message. Much better to look at a strategy that not only uses one channel with a variety of messaging formats and frequencies so it is not too predictable, but also try and use a second channel for variety and to allow for a different sort of conversation. A mix of email and direct mail works phenomenally well, email gives you the frequency you need at low cost, direct mail gives you the cut through and attention grabbing and is a great way to communicate detail (there is such a thing as a ‘mail moment’ which is harder to achieve with email where low attention span and mailbox volume is a big challenge).

Data hygiene, targeting and understanding the customer
Clean data means more effective campaigns. This can be as simple as collecting and managing basic information such as name, address, email address, as well as transactional data which demonstrates what they are doing with you – which you can use to better shape how you treat and recognise them.

Segmentation, whether psycho-graphic or behavioural, and whether based on spend, demographic, household income, lifestyle choices…whatever, allows you to focus your activity on people who are more likely to buy what you are selling. Or to turn it around, good data may also instruct you eventually in the ranging you should do (eg this customer segment is growing and is worth more to us, we should widen our range of what they like as we will sell more and make more money; and conversely we make too little from that segment and they are shrinking so lets range less for them, or increase the prices); when you know who is buying what, you can also communicate with them about what is relevant to them, not just everything. This makes your communications more focused and single minded and likely to get attention, especially over time.}

Recognising behaviour
If people are regular customers or in some other way have a stronger connection with you, they also then would expect to be recognised as such or treated a bit better. This can be as simple as copy that reflects that, a special strand of email, or potentially a different level of recognition around status. In retail, this might be VIP sales invitations or invitations to range previews. In the QSR sector, it might be first to know about (and an offer) to try a new flavour. And in services marketing it might be a reward for long tenure or a great payment history.

Good data lets you recognise the behaviour, good systems allow you to recognise this and trigger comms, and great creative means your message is delivered with suitable vigour and cut through.

Great creative drives results
Increasingly as a lot of 1-1 is driven by email, getting creative done may seem a lot easier.  However, there are a lot of pitfalls to designing effective emails, especially when there is a lot riding on them.

Aspects to consider are effective copy, catchy subject lines, strong images, brevity vs length (depending on the brand, category and message, both have merit), click through strategy, use of video, sharing to social, the impact of smartphones (eg emails are generally getting shorter and shorter because more and more people are opening them on a smartphone; this is changing email strategies and impacting creative design).

And taking advantage of using a direct mail piece, where you can be much more creative, still remains a craft. A well written letter really can make a difference. With mail volumes now much lower, mail also now has more significant cut through and most direct marketers report that mail is working even better than ever.

Real time
The thing about email in particular is it is very now. If you source your data, use it fast as especially if you are reflecting behaviour, it can quickly date in some categories (e.g. “we haven’t seen you for a while” or “we haven’t received your renewed subscription” looks silly if in the intervening period either has occurred). The same applies for direct mail – keep the data fresh!

And in the case of smart CRM systems, we can now trigger emails (and mailings) immediately after an interaction which can create a strong sense of engagement with the customer; especially when they get an email within seconds of swiping a loyalty card or similar. It’s simply about setting up suitable data feeds, triggered systems, and ensuring that the messaging and content is maintained (ie not quite ‘set and forget’).

Author: Ben Goodale, Managing Director .99 and justONE