Mailing lists: The end is nigh.

Published in PM Forum's journal & Legal IT Technology suppliment - Summer 2009

Do you want to know how your CRM database could do much of your marketing admin for you, as well as automatically ensure you target the right people with the right information at the right time and in the right way?  If yes, then read on.

Lets take a look at one contact in your CRM database. James is a good contact – he's in a position to instruct your firm, so he's someone you communicate with regularly.

Image then, when James finishes work. He pops into his local supermarket to get the family shopping. He's had some 'money off' vouchers sent to him - roughly for what he usually buys, plus some complementary stuff that sounds tempting enough to try. After dinner, James sits down to watch TV – it's so important to him that he pays extra for the feature that automatically records all the programmes he likes. So he scrolls through his favourite shows and picks one. James is never going to swap his favourite supermarket or TV supplier.  Don't professional service firms also aim for this status?

So why then do most professional service firms still undertake old fashioned, labour intensive marketing which tells your prospects what they should hear?

Take the average professional service firm. Most simply bombard their clients and prospects with one bit of news (or a seminar invite) at a time, when they hear about it - or when they have time to fit in a 'bit of marketing'. This means that some contacts can get hundreds of marketing communications a year from the same firm. And some contacts are missed off the radar completely. But why? I hear it often… "It's because we know what is best for them / what they want / don't want".

Then why are 'open rates', 'click rates' 'response rates' and 'conversion to a work instruction rates' so low?

Humans. If we take the scenario above, it's not that James' supermarket and TV supplier don't have any. It's just that their marketing databases don't let humans interfere. Their technology automatically processes the customer's purchasing behaviour and then tailors the services to the customer's needs. Once you let a human get involved, all sorts of illogical behaviour gets in the way. It's only natural.

Letting the individual and your CRM database take control is a very brave step. But well worth it. Imagine if your database knew what James bought from you (taken from your billing system). Imagine if it knew what he was interested in (taken from your marketing systems – visited website pages, events attended, email links clicked on) And imagine it knew who knows him and meets him (taken from your email and calendar systems). It could then tailor your marketing communications to his needs. Just like James' supermarket. All without any admin burden to your fee-earners or business development staff.

But think about it – how many hours do fee-earners spend going through mailing lists, finalising them and then getting the mailings sent. I'll bet it takes hours of work, plus days of lead time (if not weeks), just to get ONE mailing out the door. Think what could be done with all the extra fee-earner hours. And because you can now do more marketing, how many more work leads would be generated?

Imagine a scenario where there are no 'mailing lists' to maintain at all. One where your firm produces an update, or seminar invite, and you simply put it into your CRM database. That's all you had to do. Your CRM database then simply sends the 'mailshot' to a selection of your contacts who fit a profile that matches the piece of news you wanted to promote, in the way each individual likes it. So for instance, some contacts may want to be told about it right away – via a 'breaking news' email, SMS alert, letter or 'tweet'. Some would prefer a weekly eNewsletter summarising the content that's relevant to them (or hard copy personalised newsletter). Even 'snail mail' can be sent without a human intervening these days. Some may also want a 'bleep bleep' on their phone, RSS feed update, or simply access their personalised homepage in your website – or their intranet. If you were promoting a seminar, your contacts would simply book on via that email – straight into your system without any burden for your event organiser.

This isn't rocket science. The technology is here. You don't need deep pockets either. Putting the client in control of their marketing communications simply involves a few tweaks to your CRM database…….and a way to process the extra work leads.

To conclude, technology should be doing 90% of your email and postal marketing administration. Business development managers, secretaries and fee-earners are far better utilised converting the work leads into work instructions, managing client relationships, cross-selling services and doing billable hours than looking through a mailing list.