Suresh Vittal [Posted by Suresh Vittal]

This Monday I had a series of calls with marketers evaluating campaign management solutions. After the economic slowdown I am starting to see a steady renewal of interest in marketing technologies. The questions ranged from: “How is campaign management different from marketing automation?” to “How much do the various modules cost to implement?” to “What’s the on-demand market look like?”. But by far the most commonly asked question was about the integration of outbound (batch) and inbound (real-time in the context of the interaction) marketing programs.

Given the renewed emphasis on retention, customer value management, and customer experience, this isn’t a surprising question. But many marketers seem to be confused by what the integration of these channels really means. I thought it would be useful to share with you what I shared with them. The integration of outbound and inbound channels means marketers should:

1. Recognize customers across all channels. This is of course easier said than done. For marketers, this means knowing who the customer is and more importantly recognizing the full extent of the relationship with the customer in each channel – mail, call center, point of sale etc. For campaign management tools this means allowing marketers to personalize and tailor communications using the same decision logic across channels.

2. Address the customer acknowledging this information. Too often the channel treats the customer as though it’s seeing the customer for the first time. Think back to the local grocer, butcher, or any local service provider. One of the big reasons consumers appreciated them was because he/she knew the history of their joint relationship. For campaign management tools this means sharing customer preferences, customer response and promotion history across channels.

3. Share offers across channels. Marketers should be able to apply the same set of offers, incentives, and treatments to  all customers across inbound and outbound channels. Why? Because it is important to safeguard the brand, maintain continuity of customer experiences, lower costs, and improve visibility on offer performance. For campaign management tools this means maintaining the integrity of the offers independent of the channel. This promotes reuse and supports tracking.

4. Support planning across channels.For many marketers this is a critical requirement. Simply put, marketing organizations are under pressure to improve accountability. For most organizations this starts right with the planning process. By supporting campaign planning in a channel agnostic manner, campaign management tools create the visibility that the marketers crave. Shared planning also makes it easier for marketers to promote knowledge and sharing of best practices. If there are campaigns that work particularly well in the inbound channel then marketers should be able to easily replicate the logic, segmentation, and selection in outbound channels and vice versa.

So what do you think? Is the integration of inbound and outbound as critical for you as it is for some of the marketers we are talking to? If so, do you agree with the core concepts that I lay out above? What am I missing?