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Companies sidle up to customers with marketing personalization

Salesforce Marketing Cloud is helping companies inch closer to customers, particularly with tactics like marketing personalization.

As companies strive for a competitive edge, marketing personalization has become a key tool of the trade.

This is no less true for companies that sell directly than it is for those with models like franchises. The franchise model enables companies to reduce risk in terms of upfront costs, but can raise the stakes for profitability. Franchisees can languish and drag the bottom line, so they need to engage and motivate these franchises or other parties to drive sales.

As a result, companies that want to use a franchise system have to travel a careful line to be profitable, rather than a drain on the central brand. Keeping franchises in step with the national brand, while also allowing them freedom to engage with customers in a localized fashion, can become a delicate balance. But digital marketing software can help.

Technologies like Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Pardot enable companies to operate at scale at the national level and address wide audiences while also staying local and personalized at the franchise level.

Going national while staying local with marketing personalization

That was precisely the situation for Midas, an automotive service company that is part of TBC Corp., in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Midas wanted to create efficient national campaigns and enable franchisees to be consistent in the look of their marketing communications. But it also wanted franchisees to have the latitude to tailor messaging based on customers' local conditions, such as weather or previous service patterns.

"Franchisees had a strong desire to communicate from their location -- specific communications that are locally relevant," said Aaron Titkemeier, director of CRM at TBC, "but we also wanted to enable opportunities that look like Midas and feel like Midas."

Franchisees had a strong desire to communicate from their location, specific communications that are locally relevant.
Aaron Titkemeierdirector of CRM, TBC Corp.

So, Midas and TBC Corp., which used ExactTarget for some time, turned to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which acquired ExactTarget in 2013. One of the compelling aspects of the application is the ability for franchisees to customize email campaigns and tailor offers to local segments of clientele. Franchisees were better able to experiment with special offers, from testing different subject lines in email to new layouts to offering different discounts.

"If you know the needle you're trying to move, you can test your way into knowing how to move that needle," Titkemeier said.  "And then looking at results on the back end to see if you were successful or not."

The experimentation also allows Midas to hold the line on national consistency and common look and feel, while giving franchises ways to connect with customers in a local one-to-one marketing fashion.

"At the end of the day, the dealer owns the offers. But we can give them guidance to say, 'These offers work better than those.' We try to give them information. It's their decision, but if we arm them with information, we can help them make the right decision."

Customer personalization has become a key watchword in digital marketing. Marketers see the value, and tone-deaf marketing easily alienates customers. According to a Forrester Research survey, 47% of survey respondents indicated personalization is extremely important to their brands' current objectives, while 63% rated it extremely important to their long-term goals. At the same time, according to a Demand Metric study, 59% of respondents said they don't have the bandwidth or resources, and 54% said they don't have the needed data.

Midas also focuses on efficient messaging in marketing to its customers, without wasting marketing dollars on lapsed customers who aren't likely to return. Midas uses the customer journey mapping feature in Marketing Cloud to segment its customers based on their place in the buying cycle.

"We eliminate waste where we can, where we have information that the person has moved on to other services," Titkemeier said. "We want to market most effectively to recapture that person."

The customer lifecycle

The customer lifecycle is also critical for Xtreme Lashes LLC, an eyelash extension provider based in Spring, Texas. The company doesn't have stores of its own, so it uses digital marketing on the web to market to spas and professionals. Without storefronts with which to entrench its brand, Xtreme Lashes' marketing efforts have to be particularly pointed, personalized and geared toward prospects at various stages of the buying process.

"We go direct to thousands of beauty professionals, shipping the products, educating professionals, training them day to day," said Jo Mousselli, president and CEO.

But to cultivate these relationships with customers, Xtreme Lashes needed a marketing platform that could identify where customers were in the customer lifecycle -- whether that involves research about Xtreme Lashes' products or training classes on how to apply lash extensions. That's when Xtreme Lashes turned to Pardot and the Salesforce CRM platform to help automate its digital marketing strategy, identify prospects and nurture customers throughout their journey.

Pardot enabled Xtreme Lashes to follow prospects and customers and engage with them in a one-to-one marketing fashion as they reach certain milestones with products, and education and training on those products, Mousselli said.

"We may send a message that says, 'Congratulations on being trained with Xtreme Lashes. The next step is to get certified. Here's information on the next step in certification training.' If they pursue certification, we may send a message saying, 'Congratulations on getting certified. You now have the opportunity to get listed in our directory of lash stylists where we market to consumers so they can find you in local areas,'" she said.

In this way, Xtreme Lashes uses Pardot to target specific messages to customers at particular junctures in their purchasing journey, from initial customer to longer-term client. After Xtreme Lashes brought in Salesforce in November 2015, the first marketing campaign boosted new client acquisition by 17% year over year.

Getting inside customers' lifecycles has benefits beyond marketing that can affect customer experience. Consider Xtreme Lashes' improvement of its supply chain. With better marketing tactics and improved inventory management practices, there is less time wasted waiting for products to come in.

"We have improved in stock inventory from 99.5% to 99.8%, and we have had an over 50% reduction in out-of-stock occurrences," Mouselli said. As a result, providers don't have to wait to deliver orders, and customers get their products faster.

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How is your franchise using marketing personalization methods to get closer to customers?
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We're radical. Our industry is old-fashioned. We still talk to our customers and ask them what they want. They tell us and we make the products they asked for. If we do it right, they buy the products. When we do it wrong, we take a huge write-off and try to start over again. It's a pretty endless loop that's been going around for well over a hundred years. Big Data helps us formulate the questions, but our customers provide the answers.
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