Campaign Report on Creative DM: Creativity with numbers - In a customer-focused world, the database numbers can drive creativity as much as the agencies, Neil Shotton says

The business world is changing. Almost all DM companies used to be product- or service-led, but now more and more of them are becoming customer-centred. Client knowledge - built from customer profiling and enhanced and updated with each contact - allows companies to anticipate the demands of individuals.

The business world is changing. Almost all DM companies used to be

product- or service-led, but now more and more of them are becoming

customer-centred. Client knowledge - built from customer profiling and

enhanced and updated with each contact - allows companies to anticipate

the demands of individuals.



Recent research, carried out jointly by the management consultancy,

Arthur Andersen, and The Economist Intelligence Unit, showed that of the

200 companies asked to describe their organisational structure, only 18

per cent were centred around the customer. However, about 50 per cent of

the respondents said that in five years’ time they expected their

business to be customer-centred.



But if these goals are to be achieved, companies will need to change not

only their marketing tactics, but their entire philosophy.



To make the new ideology work, companies will need to become

customer-focused enough to invest inspiration, time and money into

providing added value. They will almost certainly need to adopt

different sales channels and find new ways to market, including the use

of interactive communications platforms.



By using customised imagery, personalised data and individual messages,

it is possible to ensure that each customer contact is as creative and

individual as the customer.



If your marketing is to be powerful, it must have more than impact; it

must be personal, relevant and valued. Communication is a two-way

concept.



You cannot communicate at people, but with them, and to do that you need

to get to know them. For example, will your customers prefer using

e-mail, the internet, television, telephone, or letterbox? The correct

answer might be one or all of these.



The initial learning curve will be acute for most client companies, but

it threatens to be even greater for the agencies. Despite the

Andersen/EIU study’s discovery that 50 per cent of client companies are

actively seeking partners to help them reorganise along customer-centred

lines, very few agencies, above or below the line, appear to have woken

up to this opportunity.



They have largely failed to supply the demand for strategic thinking on

a wider scale, preferring to leave such matters to database and

management consultancies. This is an oversight, as creative

communication strategy is increasingly being dictated by customer

preference as interpreted by service companies, which were previously

not involved in the client’s strategic process.



Consequently, agencies not embracing data-driven strategy and processes

are already losing strategic control to other marketing organisations

which are gearing up to offer holistic communication solutions.



In tomorrow’s world, the role of the creative agency, orchestrating and

planning communication strategies, will change. Managing a customer

relationship is fundamentally different from managing a communications

campaign. I’m pretty sure agencies will catch up on the evolution - but

they may already have missed out on the revolution.



To compete with these new customer-focused businesses, agencies will

need to demonstrate the tactical wherewithal to handle all available

marketing channels, including internet construction, direct marketing,

mail order fulfilment, inbound and outbound telemarketing and digital TV

promotion, if they aspire to retain strategic control of customer

relationship management.



Several database marketing specialists have gone some way towards

customer-centred consultancy, by researching marketplaces and customer

bases and offering strategic marketing service solutions. But most have

stuck at this level and have not attempted to offer the training,

strategic consultancy and resources which are the cornerstones of

business culture overhauls.



Data providers may have hindered their progress by falling into the trap

of allowing too great a level of access to their information, thus

devaluing it. Some have bruised their credibility by overstating the

value of their information. If you sell BMWs, there’s a great deal of

difference between someone who likes them and someone who intends to buy

one next month and has the money to do so.



Data providers have evolved and done good business selling lists, but

have been very slow to take over a key practical, strategic role.



Conversely, management consultancies have largely concentrated on the

change in business culture and improvements in customer relationship

management (with notable exceptions; Arthur Andersen and KPMG both seem

set to enter the strategic marketing arena).



But they don’t have the infrastructure which would allow them to provide

back-end database or customer-interface solutions.



Companies already steering a course towards becoming the giants of

tomorrow’s marketing strategy and execution are Prophit Share (born out

of Eagle Star Direct); Hays (which last month bought Crawfords

Computing, which manages some of the UK’s biggest financial and

marketing databases); EDS Centrobe (a major US company developing its UK

capabilities); and, although with a history of delivering

creative-driven solutions, Brann and WWAV Rapp Collins.



All these, along with my own company, Primecom, aim to provide clients

with non-biased marketing solutions, not tied to specific media,

creative solutions or form of data.



Today, a client taking the same brief to two different agencies will be

given two completely different creative solutions, which are likely to

have more to do with each agency’s key discipline and ethos than the

customers’ preferences.



Tomorrow’s customer-centred client will entrust its customer

relationship management to a company which will provide a complete

management, training and database consultancy and will deliver the

ongoing customer-interface and information needed to formulate

promotional and communication strategy.



The client will then be able to select the agency most suited to

producing the specific creative execution dictated by this

customer-driven strategy, be it an ad, a mail shot or a website. An

alternative scenario might involve a tactically adept, customer-centred

business working in partnership with its client to deliver the same end

result.



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).