Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Customer Data Management is Good for the Environment!

Green marketing and direct mail seems like an oxymoron. I don't know about you, but I still get a ton of direct mail (and I love it, as you know). As an environmentally-minded person who is involved in direct marketing, nothing makes me madder than direct marketers who over-mail for no good reason. Case in point: My husband fancies a tall-person's retailer, Rochester's Big and Tall. Therefore, I normally purchase clothes for him from these folks. I love getting their catalogs, particularly around the various holidays. However, not only do I get a catalog from them at my home address, my husband gets his very own copy at our home address, and I get a third copy at our post office box. Now, being a good direct mail steward, I have contacted Rochester's to tell them that we really only need one catalog -- not three. I just called them again (because I just received more catalogs -- hence the rant), and I'll let you know if it works this time around. Grrr.

So, what's my point? Not only does it make good business sense to be green, it also makes for better customer relationships. Green marketing is about more effective data management -- that's it in a nutshell. There are businesses and consumers out there who love to receive direct mail -- they want to be communicated with in this fashion. The key is to identify them and communicate with them more efficiently.

In an article from Multi-Channel Merchant, appropriately entitled "Is Your Data Green," author Jeff Zabin stresses this point. "Each year, more than 100 million trees are destroyed, three million cars’ worth of energy is consumed and reprehensible-by-any-measure amounts of greenhouse gas is emitted into the atmosphere—all in the name of producing, distributing and disposing of direct mail solicitations." Yikes! That really drives the point home.

But there is also some good news. Zabin notes that some of the largest retailers, such as Office Depot, is taking steps towards greener direct marketing. "For its part, Office Depot has adopted a number of database marketing practices and technologies to help eliminate duplicate and returned catalogs, including a real-time customer data integration solution. The solution combines transaction data with advanced analytics to enable employees at the point-of-sale to cross-sell and up-sell in a more effective manner. It also allows Office Depot to know which (and how many) direct mail offers and catalogs to send to which customers—and when—to maximize revenues while minimizing both costs and environmental waste."

This is an excellent example of utilizing intelligent data management tools to increase Office Depot's ROI and increase customer satisfaction. While this example utilizes real-time customer integration techniques, there are also lower-tech data management tools that can increase your efficiency. We have clients who have simply added in old-fashioned address hygiene tools and effectively decreased the amount of returned mail that they had been receiving. In addition, there are many companies out there who don't update their data as often as they need to. So, you can go as high or low-tech as your particular business needs dictate. The important thing to remember is that what you do impacts both your profitability and helps to cut down on your carbon footprint. It's a win-win scenario.

Zabin is so passionate about this, he is in the process of creating a
benchmark report “Green Marketing: Leveraging Customer Data to Reduce Environmental Waste" for his company the Aberdeen Group. According to Zabin, "The goal of the report is to further educate the marketplace about the value of customer data management from a green marketing perspective." We applaud Zabin and the Aberdeen Group for bringing greater focus to this area. We've also written a handy white paper on Effective Customer Data Management if you're interested in learning more about the different types of data management tools available for you to use in your businesses.

Once again, it IS easy to be Green!

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