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At The Merkle Summit: Building The Marketer’s Competitive Advantage

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crm-summitPointing at its own 350 person-strong digital team and “hyper growth” for its products and services related to the digital channel, Merkle kicked off its “CRM Executive Summit” today in Charleston, South Carolina.

Merkle CEO David Williams recounted for customer attendees how it was only four years ago that “the stars were aligning” and true addressability – or one-to-one marketing – was starting to take shape in Customer Relationship Marketing. Now, Williams thinks it’s time for marketers to invest and create “true, sustainable competitive advantage.” Of course, Merkle is happy to help.

Traditional agencies should take note: what Merkle espouses isn’t about supporting just a brand campaign. It’s about affecting a complete, ongoing data-driven marketing strategy that starts with what the marketer knows about its customer and includes organizational change for the marketer’s firm.

How some traditional agencies will ever keep up is hard to imagine, given the required skill sets to compete on the service side of the data-driven world. Travelers, Geico, Dell, Microsoft and other marketers present at the summit seemed to be buying Merkle’s message, which bridges several marketing and advertising “canyons” such as brand and direct response, online and offline, and B2B and B2C.

Revisiting his “Connected CRM” (cCRM for short) theme of the previous year, Williams provided an update and noted the move “from the campaign-focused world to the customer-focused world,” and how it’s now about utilization of relationships, rather than “the matching” of data points. And, for the marketer’s bottom-line purposes, it’s about how those relationships get monetized.

In spite of all the talk of addressability, though, “world-class” segmentation capabilities remain critical, said Williams as he talked through his agency’s “segment plan” and “segment brief.”  His message: you can only create so many one-to-one conversations. At a certain point, the marketer needs to drive scale – hence, segments.

As part of Merkle’s proposed CRM framework, Williams didn’t hesitate to tell his customers that this is a significant capital investment, and they’re going to need sponsorship from the C-suite rather than permission, as well as a commitment to an ongoing management of a comprehensive view of the customer.

As he closed, he noted the five dimensions of “Connected CRM” to be discussed during the Summit’s three-day agenda: Customer Strategy, Experience Strategy, and the Financial, Infrastructure and Organizational requirements to make a “Connected CRM” strategy successful.

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