The dramatic shift to digital channels and direct marketing campaigns has put pressure on companies in traditional sectors. Three established direct marketing companies going to great lengths to expand their digital capabilities are: Harte-Hanks Inc., Pitney Bowes and Eastman Kodak Co.
Like other database marketing companies, Harte-Hanks is getting more proactive in assisting marketers with services. Last month, the company introduced Demand Curve, a service focused on content development, data management, funnel management and social media.
“It's an entry point for b2b organizations working with us,” said David Hatch, senior VP-strategy and solutions at Harte-Hanks. “It's the springboard, looking at all the b2b marketing capabilities.”
Harte-Hanks sees the call center as the core of its marketing. As for revenue production, Hatch said, “the call center's purpose and objectives have changed. Marketers are getting deeper into the sales funnel.”
Hatch agreed that Demand Curve is moving Harte-Hanks toward full-fledged agency status.
“It's about insight engagement—to understand where the gaps are relative to your peers and how to fill those gaps,” he said. “But our approach is always rooted in data.”
Computer networking company Juniper Networks recently partnered with Harte-Hanks, as well as its in-house direct marketing agency, Mason Zimbler, Austin, Texas.
Theresa Matonti, Juniper's senior director-global marketing operations, said products and services from Harte-Hanks' Market Intelligence division—which monitors installed technology and spending plans—will be blended with Juniper's marketing automation processes, courtesy of Eloqua Corp., to further Juniper's funnel efforts.
“It's all about the technology to drive conversations,” Matonti said. “In the past, people would talk about the sales funnel or marketing waterfall. Now we're interested in what's happening outside the funnel, before prospects are coming in. That's where the whole social arena and networking comes into place.”
Harte-Hanks isn't ignoring its traditional database lineups. Last month, the company added eight new Purchase Level Scores to its flagship Ci Technology Database, identifying and ranking prospect companies based on their likelihood to purchase such products as cloud computing, computers, asset management software and storage.
Harte-Hanks conducted about 7,500 interviews a month with tech buyers, gathering about 200,000 completed interviews that provide details on planned purchases in 37 technology goods and services areas.
Another company rooted in traditional marketing efforts is Pitney Bowes, whose venerable postage meters have been a mainstay of mailrooms for decades. With the acquisition of software over several years or developed in-house, the company has rolled out its pbSmart cloud-based suite of services to position itself as a purveyor of “customer communications management” (CCM).
“Our customers are primarily small-to-midsize businesses,” said Neil Rader, VP-general manager at Pitney Bowes. “We know small customers don't have the budgets to have separate IT specialists and would much rather have something delivered through the Web.”
Pitney Bowes' CCM strategy is driven by a quartet of new offerings, including: pbSmart Postage, an online postage and shipping service for transactional mail; pbSmart Connections, an email marketing tool; pbSmart Marketer, a lead-generation tool that enables segment targeting and integrates with direct-mail campaigns; and pbSmart Codes, a Web-based tool that integrates QR codes with physical and digital marketing materials to create interactive marketing campaigns.
“I love this [strategy] because it's complementary to other types of communications, such as news-letters, email and even direct mail,” Rader said. “A lot of applications aren't for everyone; but putting them all together can be a strong offering.”
The company is even delving into analytics with its Pitney Bowes Business Insight products, which enable real-time spreadsheet and database mapping, global geocoding and location intelligence software, and predictive algorithm creation via data targeting and segmentation. These capabilities came along with Pitney Bowes' 2010 acquisition of London-based Portrait Software.
Eastman Kodak Co.'s Graphic Communications Group is at the heart of its new marketing services efforts. The unit offers customization and one-to-one marketing via digital print; it also works directly with b2b marketers and commercial printers on developing, executing and measuring multichannel campaigns.
“For commercial printers, it's not just about print; it's multichannel,” said Robert J. Barbera, principal of Kodak's MarketMover Business Advantages Solutions, a product unit of GCG. “Here, data is hugely relevant.”
Another new Kodak offering is Design2Launch, a Web-based workflow and brand-asset management solution that enables the organization and distribution of packaging and marketing artwork and layout designs.
Overall, it's not hard to understand the push toward marketing digitalization and analytics, even if it's wedded to such traditional channels as direct mail. Database list prices have fallen in key b2b areas, with aggregated email databases taking the biggest hit, according to the “Fall 2011 List Price Index” from list management company Worldata Corp., released Nov. 2.
Business email databases had an average price of $161 per thousand contacts in the third quarter of the year, versus $216 in the year-earlier period. Permission-based email lists of contacts at midsize and large companies fell from $273 to $252 per thousand names, while small-business postal lists hit $92 per thousand names, versus $106 in the year-earlier period.
“Direct mail is still a very fundamental component of how our customers want to communicate, but it's only one component,” Pitney Bowes' Rader said. “What we're about now is helping our customers communicate and connect.”