Editor’s Note: DMReview.com is pleased to announce the addition of Mark Price to its list of regular online columnists. Price is the customer intelligence practice leader for Zamba Corporation, a leading national consulting firm specializing in customer care. His monthly column, "On the Marketing Frontier," will be updated on the first Friday of every month. To read an additional installment to this introductory column, please visit the October 6, 2000, issue of DM Direct, DMReview.com’s electronic newsletter.

Starting Out

This column will address many myths that persist among marketers about technology, particularly marketing technology. The assumptions behind these myths prevent marketers from adopting new tools that can be useful in developing, supporting and enhancing relationships with customers. With technology-assisted relationships, marketers can improve customer retention, impact profitability, grow sales and cement long-term business viability. Today, the path to profitability is built with the bricks of customer retention, and customer retention spells the difference between burn-rate burnout and a successful growing enterprise.

The most successful Web retailers have the highest levels of customer retention. That is no surprise when you compare retention costs to acquisition costs and do some simple math. We’ll discuss this subject in more detail in future columns; but, simply said, customer retention is an overwhelming business driver, and technology can change the retention equation – both in your favor and against it.

Myth #1: Technology’s Impact on Marketing

This myth speaks to the assumption that marketing today has become the province of technologists. From campaign management to predictive modeling, the business of marketing seems to have become much more of a science and much less of an art. It seems that algorithms will decide the fate of every interaction between customer and company, and marketing managers need be mathematical wizards to be successful.

Look again. New technology does improve the speed, type and accuracy of customer contact. However, people do not build relationships with machines; they build relationships with people. The key to successful technology-assisted marketing is to ensure that the company’s humanity comes through to customers, despite the technology interfaces. That requires creativity and innovation.

Myth #2: Technology Costs a Fortune

The second myth is the perceived cost and time overruns associated with technological processes. This myth can be supported by history. Many software solutions have had extensive implementations and exceeded both timetables and budgets. So have many construction projects. The key in both software and construction is fundamental "blocking and tackling" – focusing on the key elements of project management, timetables and milestones. As I will discuss in future columns, the approach for success in customer technology is common sense. Finding that can be rare, but that is another story.

Myth #3: Techno-Marketing Is SO Complex

According to this myth, only experts are capable of making the right marketing decisions. This column is dedicated to plain-talk explaining of the concepts, issues and challenges that drive new technology – talk that contemporary managers can understand.

It is true that the underlying technology may be complex in design; however, if the core principles that drive the technology cannot be explained in several sentences, then you have found a common, dangerous doublespeak tendency that is prevalent in software applications and services. As future columns will explain, if you cannot understand the purposes and overall function of a technology application, doubt the tool, not your own intelligence.

This column also will repeatedly focus on the organizational implications of technology applications because, in my experience, if new processes are not installed concurrent with the new technology, the initiative will ultimately fail. You risk damaging fragile customer relationships you have spent so much time and effort (not to mention money) building.

I often say that one of the biggest challenges to digital branding is the implementation of new customer-facing technology. I will try to highlight the risks and the opportunities so you can capitalize on one of the most exciting revolutions to hit marketing since TV advertising in the sixties.

Finally, this column is intended to begin dialogues, not end them. Please contact me, and let me know what works and what doesn’t, from the information in the column or from technology efforts in your organization. I will commit to sharing the successes and the failures that you share with me in future columns. Hopefully we will start a dialogue that can grow over time.

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