Archive for the ‘demographics’ Tag

Why Can’t We be More Like Amazon.com?

Yesterday I used Google to search for model and pricing information for a K-cup brewer. The search results pulled up various vendors, both brick and mortar and web only retailers. Amazon.com was one of the vendors that came up in the results with several of their partners offering products that caught my interest. So I ended up visiting 2 or 3 Amazon.com pages in my research. But I wasn’t ready to buy yet as I was unsure of what model I wanted, so I didn’t make a purchase.

This morning I have an email from Amazon asking if I am interested in something from their Coffee, Tea & Espresso department. The email includes images, pricing and links to several of the models I looked at as well as a few extra models I hadn’t considered. And the prices appear to be the best price available for each of the models presented. Amazon’s database tracked my interests as represented by the products I looked at and put together a custom offer for me. I have to admit that as a marketer I am impressed with how effective Amazon demonstrates an integrated database marketing strategy.

Database marketing is fundamentally about collecting relevant information about your target market and then using that data to drive the sales cycle. Leveraging database technology in sales was developed by catalogue and direct mail marketers in the eighties. The PC revolution provided a flexible and affordable platform for innovative direct marketers to capture, process and analyze large amounts of customer data. Direct marketers used this data to identify which segments were profitable and to customize offers to separate segments based upon their psychographic profile and/or previous purchases. Amazon has integrated this philosophy into their web storefront technology.  Based upon my viewing habits they identified what products I may be interested in purchasing. They then took this data and automatically constructed a custom offer and sent it to me via an automated cast email.

So why can’t legal service marketers be more like Amazon?

I think we can.

In our business our potential clients browse our website for two reasons; credentialing and education. Those interested in our credentials are browsing pages on our practices, locations, experience and attorney biographies. And those looking for education they will seek out articles, white papers, blogs and events on the subjects that interest them. All of these elements can be turned into data points that could be captured and recorded in the CRM database.

In order to accomplish this you must first identify which elements are important to the sales cycle. For example, is it important when a contact visits your Real Estate practice home page? What if they also click on a few real estate attorney bios? And then visit your experience section looking up what your firm has done with REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)? Such behavior would tend to make one believe they have an interest and perhaps a need for real estate legal help with regards to REITs. If your website were to track and record each of these hits and record them as marketing touchpoints, you could process and analyze the data to identify individual needs that match your offerings.

The most important step – use the data to drive the sales cycle

This is where the Amazon email is so exciting. They tracked my interests, recorded my touchpoints in their database, identified their product offerings that best matched my needs. then they used this data to send me a custom offer. Granted the selling legal services is very different than a coffee brewer, but law firms could do this too for their product offering.

In the legal environment example above the equivalent would be tracking the contact’s interest in REITs. Based on this single touchpoint you should at least add the contact to your REITs mailing list to make sure they receive future marketing communications on the topic. But if your data collection strategy is robust you may have additional data points that could trigger other actions as well.

  • Is the contact an employee at a current client company or a targeted prospect company?
  • Does the contact have an existing relationship with one of your attorneys?
  • What’s the contact’s job title?
  • Has he or she attended any of your Real Estate related events? How many?

The answers to these questions could trigger specific actions from your firm just like my interests triggered a response from Amazon. For example, if the contact has an existing relationship with an attorney that attorney should be notified of the interest so he or she can reach out to the contact if appropriate. Or if the contact is an employee of a targeted prospect company the record should be added to a VIP list for the practice

Your response depends on your objectives and business development strategy.  The point is that there are data point that you should be collecting and then leverage that data to drive your marketing program.

By the way, I did make my selection and purchase as a result of the Amazon email. So I know first hand that the strategy works.

Searching for Companies Using CBSA and CSA Codes

One of the most basic search criteria we often use to target companies for our marketing communications is geography. This is especially true when promoting a local event at one of our offices. You want to reach out and draw clients and prospects that work within a reasonable distance from your office as they are most likely to travel to your location to attend the event. Many folks will create a mailing list based on the company’s address using city names or zip codes as part of their selection criteria. But this is inefficient as most major urban areas are so large that these criteria are too unwieldy to manage. It is much better to take advantage of the governments coding system for defining your target geography.

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) creates and maintains a code standard to define cities and urban areas to enable consistent reporting from all of the governmental agencies. Marketers can take advantage of this coding system as a way to identifying geographic target markets that is much easier than building a long list of zip codes or city and neighboring suburbs. They define the urban areas  by evaluating not only the proximity of neighboring cities but also the social and economic connections of nearby cities and counties.. Socially you can imagine that for a city such as Chicago that you will find Bears football fans in communities well  beyond the city limits. The number of surrounding suburbs and “collar” counties where locals will turn on their TVs Sunday afternoons and root for the Monsters of the Midway would be considered part of the Chicago urban area. And economically you can easily imagine a similar broad geographic band around the Chicago area where businesses will recruit employees or find local suppliers for goods and services.

For years the two types of codes we used to define these geographic areas were the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA) codes. But these are now obsolete as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) replaced these with two new designations in 2003. We now use Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA) and Core Statistical Area (CSA) codes. The CBSA is the basic code that’s used to defined urban areas and the CSA code is generally assigned to the larger urban areas. CSAs are comprised of multiple CBSAs that have grown together to create a larger metropolitan area. The dark green border around Chicago on the map bellow shows the extent of the Chicago CSA. Notice that it is made up of three CSAs; Chicago-Naperville-Joliet IL-IN-WI  CSA, Kankakee-Bradley IL CSA and the Michigan City-LaPorte IN CSA. These are marked off by a slightly thinner green border.

Chicago CSA in Northern Illinois

Chicago CSA in Northern Illinois

 

Source: State-based Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Maps November, 2004
http://www.census.gov/geo/www/maps/stcbsa_pg/stBased_200411_nov.htm

Using CBSA & CSA Codes in Your CRM

In order to create searches in your CRM based on CBSA and CSA codes you first need to load the codes as part of your company contact record or as part of its address data. Which one depends upon on how your system manages address data and how you use your address data. For our system we decided to load these codes as additional information fields on the company records based upon the location (zip code) of the primary mailing address. The codes are readily available online from the OMB website, but we license a monthly update from Zip-Codes.com. It’s very inexpensive and saves time. They provide us with a monthly update file that we run against our database. The codes  themselves don’t change but there are frequent changes in the included zip codes, which are maintained by the USPS. There will be some major changes soon once the government completes it’s work on the 2010 census.

 We don’t append this data to the individual people records in the database. Instead we modify our searches so the we find the people who work at companies whose code matches the target area.  For example, the logic of a search for inviting folks to a seminar in Chicago sounds like this:

           All people whose associate company’s CSA is 178

You may want to consider appending the codes to individual records if you plan on targeting people for individual tax or estate and trust practices.

Naturally the Chicago query would be a little more complicated as we would further refine the search with demographic criteria such as company size or industry codes. We append that data in a separate process with data we license form Dun & Street.  I’ll discuss that concept in another future article.

 References

Combined Statistical Areas and Component Core Based Statistical Areas, November 2008, with Codes

Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Wall Maps, November 2008

State-based Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas Maps, November, 2004