Some savvy distributors are creating data-driven marketing strategies to help their clients win and keep business. If you offer interactive marketing campaigns, here are three talking points to communicate to customers and prospects.

Marketing teams have never been more valuable or more stressed out. They’re under the gun and under the microscope, responsible for solving major business challenges: acquiring leads, retaining members, engaging clients, winning back customers and more.

As these teams execute marketing campaigns, they ask important questions: Which tactics are working, and which ones aren’t? Which messages should we change, and when? Are we using data effectively?

Their world seems to be spinning and picking up speed. But, at the same time, opportunity abounds for progressive distributors. Advances in media, data and technology have made it possible for your clients—everyone from Fortune 500 firms to Joe’s Flower Shack—to find, win and keep business in new ways.

As your clients and prospects seek the Holy Grail of audience engagement, how can they deliver targeted, meaningful messages to their audience? And how can you position your firm to be their trusted marketing, print and technology resource?

TALKING POINT No. 1: What are they really trying to accomplish, and how are they measuring success?

Marketing campaigns lack relevance when they lack resonance. What good are touch points if recipients don’t notice or feel connected? That’s why smart, data-driven strategies matter. They make it possible to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time through the right channel.

But here’s the thing: The right strategy doesn’t start with slick technology or a slick agency. It begins with the customer—its marketing goals and whatever business challenges keep employees up at night. An end user’s interactive marketing services partner needs to understand those goals and challenges before addressing them. (See “Cut, Paste and Send This to Clients: Choosing an Interactive Marketing Services Partner.”)

Any marketing team can tell customers what they need to know. Great ones take a different approach; they create ways to listen and learn, constantly building relationships and developing conversations with their customers or members. In that sense, the right marketing services partner wears the same color jersey as its client’s team, collaborating on effective ways to marry data, tactics and technology.

Here’s an example: A university sought a better way to educate high school sophomores and juniors about the school. Timely, compelling outreach is a main goal of the school’s admissions leaders. But like most higher-education institutions, the university lacked an efficient, simple way to target and engage prospective students and then track the success of those efforts by viewing a live dashboard.

A marketing services provider deployed a multifaceted, segmented campaign that included:

• A series of six marketing emails to prospective students. Messaging reinforced the school’s advantages and included links to its website and downloadable collateral. The design was customized based on each recipient’s academic area of interest. Interested students were taken to a landing page that included a form to fill out so the university could learn more about interested students. Follow-up emails were sent automatically, triggered by action or inaction.

• Customized direct mail and personalized landing pages. Prospective students who expressed interest received a customized direct-mail piece based on answers provided on the landing page.

• A dashboard for integrated campaign tracking. The university could easily track the success of the campaign as a whole, or each touch point individually. Its marketing leaders could view who submitted information, which tactics worked the best, the success rates of email and direct mail and much more. Those leaders could also see how students accessed the landing page (via smartphones, specific browsers, etc.). Comparing interactive campaign data with demographic data, the university also knew what ethnicity the responders were and what regions they were located in.

TALKING POINT No. 2: An interactive marketing strategy isn’t tangible unless it’s trackable.

Marketers are facing business challenges that didn’t exist even five years ago. For example, greater power is placed in the hands of customers today. Because so many options exist for online interaction—social channels, websites, mobile, email and others—customers can selectively choose when, where and how they interact with a brand. In effect, people are always “on.”

Amid this communication deluge, marketing teams are trying to gather and utilize various sources of information to better understand customers—their needs, behaviors, buying patterns and preferences. The ability to reach targets “where they are,” and to gather and understand data about them, is the foundation of successful interactive marketing efforts.

Think of it this way: Marketers are armed with a box full of pins. What’s missing is the pincushion—a distributor partner that can tie together data, technology and strategy.

Today, however, countless organizations are managing incoming data from online and offline sources manually—sorting, cleansing and normalizing it using spreadsheets, and then uploading information into marketing automation and sales systems. Data quality can be severely affected by this approach. Besides, marketers don’t want vital insights, which they could use to better engage customers, to wind up in inaccessible data silos.

Data-driven marketing empowers your clients to respond to each of these challenges. It’s the strategy of collecting and connecting large amounts of online data with traditional offline data, so marketers can quickly gain cross-channel insights about customers, then use those insights to create highly personalized interactions. Those interactions can be tailored to the customer at their point of need and in real time.

Here’s an example: One distributor created and now manages a highly successful invitation, enrollment and communication program for a major healthcare insurance provider. The client needed an online portal that could empower caregivers and elder-care recipients.

The distributor created the following components:

• A microsite that enables people to enroll, view provider information, set appointments, learn about common health topics and more; the site includes comprehensive administrative functionality

• A process by which direct mail invitations, welcome kits and other materials are delivered automatically to program subscribers; emails are also sent automatically

• An automatic reminder tool that sends appointment alerts via the subscriber’s preferred communication method (text, SMS, email, mail or phone call)

• An online dashboard that shows program data and reports in real time; statistics shown include when the site is accessed, visitors and page views, what sections of the tool are most used, which resources are viewed and more

• A database to store all subscriber subscription information

TALKING POINT No. 3: Marketers shouldn’t have to guess where leads are coming from or how many targets have responded. They can have this information at their fingertips.

Gathering data is only part of the interactive marketing campaign process. Another component is measuring and tracking data from both online and offline programs and then delivering insights through dashboards so marketers can make sense of it all.

The speed and effectiveness with which an organization can turn data into knowledge and actionable insight have become key competitive advantages. Without accurate tracking and analysis of website activity, email campaigns, program registrations, transactions and other online activities, how can your clients gauge the success of their efforts?

Recently, a marketing services provider built a special dashboard that enables a college’s marketing team to see a real-time view of all mailing campaigns. This dashboard and associated data can be dynamically compiled using a calendar date-range tool. And because of the provider’s data analytics capabilities and data warehousing platform, the college’s officers now receive specialized reports so they can review admissions officers’ participation and utilization of specific recruitment programs.

The notion that data can guide marketing decisions isn’t new. What is new is the volume of data, which has multiplied due to the number of available communications channels. With so many advanced metrics and data capturing tools available, campaigns can constantly generate valuable information about customers. In fact, according to data warehousing firm Teradata, 75 percent of marketers plan to implement a big data analytics solution during the next two years “to untangle the mass of customer data available to them.”

Analytics dashboards and reports can provide complete visibility into the status of clients’ ongoing programs. Marketing teams can align metrics with their business goals and track what matters most.

Customized data dashboards can be designed to provide real-time feedback, allowing marketers to fine-tune campaigns on the fly.

The importance of data analytics is driving the transformation of customer engagement in digital marketing. As more distributors evolve into marketing services providers, opportunities abound to help marketing teams solve their problems and achieve their goals.

Darin Painter is editor-in-chief of PS Magazine. Reprinted with permission of Print Services & Distribution Association (PSDA).

Cut, Paste and Send This to Clients: Choosing an Interactive Marketing Services Partner

Many organizations need help to plan, create and execute interactive marketing campaigns. Here’s what to look for in an ideal partner:

• Begins with questions rather than preconceived notions and is able to articulate what you want but haven’t yet achieved—more buyers who fit ideal profiles, increased loyalty from current customers, higher attendance at an event or in a program, more engaging communication to donors or stakeholders, etc.

• Gathers and manages customer data from numerous sources, thanks to an agnostic database structure

• Provides real-time access to data to drive effective strategies and promote proactive engagement

• Offers a customer engagement platform that supports real-time, response-based interactions that can be scheduled and set up in advance for automated engagement

• Designs marketing dashboards that are highly visual and easy to understand, consolidated and arranged so the information can be digested at a glance

• Goes beyond charts and graphs to give marketers perceptive analysis and practical conclusions—meaningful intelligence that makes sense of campaign data

• Provides a mechanism to exercise continuous proactive (direct and unsolicited) and interactive (responsive and conversational) communication with customers across a dynamic range of media platforms

• Deploys campaign management technology through an integrated platform that can help marketers unify messaging, eliminate duplication, speed campaign deployment and control costs

• Offers technology that addresses brand control and compliance across multiple media