Management Speak: We have an opportunity. Translation: You have a problem

Management Speak: We have an opportunity. Translation: You have a problem

Lots of companies see the Internet as an intriguing marketing opportu- nity. Embrace it and get on board. At its simplest, marketing has three goals: acquiring new customers, reducing customer defections, and increasing volume with current customers. While you're lunching with your new marketing director friend, hearing details of your company's plans for accomplishing these goals, point out that although the Internet has a lot of sizzle right now, several other technologies have much more potential.

"What might those be?" one is sure to ask.

I'm glad you asked. From a long list, here are four:l Data warehousing: Here's the perfect platform for a killer marketing database. You can use it strategically to understand who buys what. It's information you can use for corporate planning.

You can also use this database for tactical marketing. What you know about each current customer's recent buying habits helps you create tailored offerings to more effectively increase per-customer volume. You can use the same information for targeted marketing to non-customers, selling each one products and services popular with current customers with similar demographics and personal characteristics.l E-mail: Yes, plain, ordinary e-mail can become a powerful marketing weapon, and, no, you don't have to become a spammer. Do you have a customer newsletter? Offer it to customers via e-mail as an alternative to paper. Just set up a list server and make it easy for customers and prospects to subscribe.

Correspondence with subscribers isn't spamming, it's service - your customers have already expressed interest. Send them customer satisfaction surveys by e-mail. Use these customers as informal focus groups for refining ideas about new products and services. Use your imagination. E-mail, because of its immediacy and informality, cements customer relationships far better than any paper alternative.l Computer-telephony integration (CTI): Here's a wonderful technology. It has huge potential but no logical internal sponsor until you offer some practical applications. Add screen-pop to your call centre (that is, automatically display customer records before transferring calls to call-centre agents). Add intelligent call transfer, where transferring a customer's call from one employee to another also transfers the computer screens.

Add data-directed call routing, where information about a caller in your databases (or data warehouse) determines who should receive the call.

The secret to successful CTI: every customer contact must enhance the relationship. Every customer service interaction becomes a (soft) cross-selling opportunity, and every sales interaction becomes a customer service opportunity.l Electronic data interchange (EDI): EDI, the electronic exchange of formal documents, such as purchase orders and invoices, has never lived up to its potential due to the extraordinary difficulty of converting EDI transmissions into database updates.

Turn this to your advantage: customers who successfully exchange EDI transaction sets with you are unlikely to leave you for a competitor - it will cost them too much.

There are others, too. Let someone else maintain the accounts payable system. In this Olympic year, go for the gold.

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