Consumers are constantly overwhelmed with an ever-increasing overload of marketing information, via a similarly large choice of delivery methods. Interaction with target markets takes place via online mechanisms such as email, websites and PURL (Personal URL); social media such as Twitter and Facebook; mobile media like SMS and MMS; direct marketing; and integrated online surveys.

How then do companies ensure that they are effectively reaching and capturing the attention of existing and potential customers across so many communication channels? It is critical that companies eradicate the one dimensional marketing employed in the past, in favour of a multi-faceted approach to data management and the effective conveyance of information, said Neil Skilling, Product and Solution Director of Pitney Bowes Software in the UK.

Skilling points out that the first steps in the process entail ensuring that customer data is managed effectively, to ensure a more targeted marketing approach. Pitney Bowes offers a suite of software that seamlessly combines the world’s most advanced customer analytics, powerful inbound and outbound campaign management and best practice business process integration. Together, the elements within Portrait Software drive real-time, targeted customer messages to ensure maximised communication.

Successful marketing campaigns would typically involve designing individualised email, direct mail and SMS to engage each customer on a personalised, individual basis. This is achieved through dynamic content; click-through tracking; integrated render, deliverability and spam filter checking, said Skilling.

Pitney Bowes has spent the past 25 years perfecting customised, intelligent software solutions for a multitude of industries and applications. The proliferation of customer data, combined with more discerning and informed consumers, has led to the need for a more channelled approach to defining customer interaction. Consumers are demanding two-way communication that addresses their specific needs. The one-size-fits-all approach is definitely a thing of the past, said Skilling.

Jerome Maggerman, MD of marketing consulting agency Digicom Solutions, was on hand at the launch of Portrait Software in South Africa, to discuss the importance of data as an optimisation tool in customer interactions. Successful businesses will be differentiated by the way they use data to create a single profile for a customer, which in turn allows them to cultivate an effective modelling foundation. Segmentation of markets is then based on typical behaviours (likes and dislikes) as opposed to demographics.

This transition to more person-centric marketing is essential, given that consumers are not only now extremely informed in terms of choice, but they are aware of their status as an entity and therefore demand more individualised interaction with suppliers, added Maggerman.

Maggerman cites the example of a consumer with multiple bank accounts. A marketing-conscious financial institution could very effectively analyse my banking portfolio in terms of my current spending trends, then utilise this data to introduce further packages to me. If they see that I spend quite a bit of money every month on items relating to a specific hobby, for example golf, they could partner with golf accessory suppliers or golf clubs to mail me discount loyalty vouchers. Everyone has data connected to their profile, but the ultimate question is whether companies are maximising their access to this data to ensure enduring one-on-one relationships with their customers.

Portrait Software comprises two distinct, yet interrelated categories, the insight tools of Portrait Optimizer, Portrait Miner, Portrait Explorer and Portrait Uplift; as well as the action tools, represented by Portrait Foundation, Portrait Dialogue and Portrait Interaction Optimizer.

Jaap Nieboer, Software Manager Pitney Bowes SA, said that the South African business-to- consumer landscape is very similar to that in European countries. However, it is currently lagging behind its overseas counterparts with regard to developing and instituting targeted integrated marketing campaigns. Fortunately, South African business can implement the lessons learned by these now well-established marketers.

Nieboer points out that by effectively managing customer interactions through creative and logical data analysis of their buying trends and preferences, companies can predictively send the right message at the right time, using the right channels. By approaching marketing in a proactive and consistent manner, one is able to ensure customer retention.

The ultimate goals of any organisation should be to identify, secure and retain more customers for the long term. The Portrait Software Suite will assist companies in substantially reducing the risk involved when aiming to achieve their goal of long term relationships with their clients   through marketing campaigns and the return on investment the company generate from these campaigns, added Nieboer.