"Keep your eye on your customers and anticipate their needs that's a guiding philosophy for Harte-Hanks to which I subscribe wholeheartedly. We want our clients to enjoy the highest amount of relevancy and loyalty that can be practically achieved with their customers. We make that happen by uncovering the knowledge that is often locked in customer information and applying that knowledge in a profitable way," says Kathy Calta, corporate officer and vice president at Harte-Hanks, Inc.
A 20-year veteran of this worldwide direct and interactive services company, Calta was named a corporate vice president and officer of the company in September of 2000. Her role is to oversee the development and delivery of the company's Allink suite, a data- driven set of CRM solutions targeted to consumer and business marketing clients. Additionally, the operations of the company that report directly to Calta provide Harte-Hanks clients with customer data management, data quality, database construction, database access, technology and service support, training and related services.
"The mission of Harte-Hanks is to be a customer-focused, high-performance growth company. We have a strong customer and employee-driven culture. We believe that our employees are one of our strongest assets," says Calta. "We have grown from a successful family owned network of Texas newspapers formed by Bernard Hanks and Houston Harte in the 1920s into a worldwide, direct and targeted marketing company that provides direct marketing services and shopper advertising opportunities to a wide range of local, regional, national and international consumer and business-to- business marketers. Our core competencies are organized around five solution points: construction and updating of the database, accessing the data, analyzing the data, applying the knowledge and executing the programs," she explains.
During her tenure at Harte-Hanks, Calta has witnessed some major shifts in how organizations approach their customer marketing. "When I joined Harte-Hanks, most companies marketed through 'resident' mail or geodemographic targeted carrier routes which were the big thing at the time. In the mid-'80s, companies started recognizing the power of direct communication with known customers and began investing in CRM solutions buying the hardware and software to manage their customer marketing in house. In many organizations, when IT and IS departments took over the CRM processes, they forgot that marketing users were accustomed to working with service bureaus where people would actually help them with customer/prospect identification and event analyses not just give them hardware and software and expect them to figure it out," she says. "What has happened in marketing departments with in- house systems is IT runs the systems and updates the software, but the user community has no one to help them understand what the information from the system means and no one to help them evaluate and respond to that information." As a result, companies have now learned the importance of partnering with a marketing services provider to make something happen.
Last Book Read: Good to Great: Why some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't by Jim Collins
That's why companies turn to Harte-Hanks. Calta explains, "Companies are realizing the need for the intellectual capital we provide. We have deep vertical market expertise, direct marketing experience, technical knowledge and strategic planning expertise not just for analyzing the data, but also for making action-oriented recommendations. We're not just one part of the offering. We provide an end-to-end solution. Not only do we help our customers build their database, but also we help them gain strategic business value through the analysis of the data. From this analysis, we help our customers gain insight into new opportunities, create better branding, understand the strategic use of multichannel marketing, and then we help them execute it. And, of course, we then analyze the results and do it all again as part of our commitment to continuous improvement."
Calta reflects on customer relationship management, saying, "Years ago, I'm not sure that many people understood what CRM was all about. For a while in the recent past, it seemed to be all about software and hardware. In reality, however, customer relationship management is really database marketing. The fundamentals of customer relationship management have not changed in more than 20 years. The goal has always been to identify customers, get an accurate profile of the customers, communicate with individuals through relevant messages that they care about and use the customers' preferred medium to deliver those messages. It has always been that way, and the only thing that has really changed is what channels of communication are used," she explains.
While the fundamental goals of CRM have not changed, the methods and sophistication of the products used to achieve these goals certainly have. CRM succeeds or fails based upon the quality, accessibility and currency of customer data, and CRM today involves massive databases, detailed analysis and prediction to accurately identify and target customers and prospects. Provided as either installed or application service provider (ASP) solutions, The Harte-Hanks Allink suite of packaged, integrated, scalable, open and targeted CRM marketing solutions integrates the company's vertical industry knowledge and optimum data management practices with access tools to identify, evaluate and enhance the value of customer relationship management. This bundling of database products and services is applied in the retail, financial services, insurance, pharmaceutical, automotive, high-tech and other sectors. The Trillium Software System from Harte-Hanks is widely recognized as a world-class software solution for data quality. The nTouch suite of products from Harte-Hanks includes Web- based services to quickly distribute prospect inquiries from all channels and to query data, measure program performance and calculate marketing return on investment. Additionally, the company offers the Harte-Hanks CI Technology Database delivering deep IT profiles of more than 500,000 business locations worldwide. Harte-Hanks also has an international practice. "Our database offering has always been international, but we are expanding internationally with all of the other database products that we offer," explains Calta.
Year Founded: 1923
Calta does predict another shift in how companies will soon approach customer relationship management, especially in the database space. "I think there is going to be a continuing trend toward automation and optimization. Artificial intelligence will continue to be extremely critical because of the labor pressure companies are experiencing," she comments. "It's all about faster, cheaper, better with less human involvement, and the only way to get faster, cheaper, better is to automate processes."
Harte-Hanks is understandably proud of its more than 30 years of experience in database development, deployment and the application of technology, as well as its deep expertise in so many vertical markets. "We've been very thoughtful about how we have chosen to develop our products," says Calta. "The thought leadership that we have with our technical staff and application staff is really strong, and the combination of our ability to be client-focused and our strong vertical expertise sets us apart from our competitors." That's how Harte-Hanks makes it happen!
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