Every two weeks or so, The McKinsey Quarterly sends out a short email focused on a single business issue, and invites subscribers to take a short survey with the promise
that all participants will receive the aggregate report within a week. The topics are timely, the surveys are well written,
and there is often an additional offer of a recent white paper from their business journal as a thank you. This is classic
relationship marketing, and over the past several years, McKinsey has built rich profiles of its members' interests, perspectives
on business, and responsiveness to email as a communication channel. The rules of reciprocity are in effect, with both parties
receiving value from the ongoing conversation.
A large global pharmaceutical firm has been experimenting with this approach for a new product with a unique mechanism of
action. By incorporating attitudinal, behavioral, and practice-management questions over the course of several email campaigns
and Web site visits, the brand has been able to capture valuable insight into its target physician audience. For example,
one question asked if a physician's willingness to try a new therapy was based on whether there were samples in the office.
Although the average response was that samples were not important, more than 25 percent of the physicians admitted that they
were critical. The marketing team gained information at an individual level and were able to demonstrate this value to those
physicians, thereby increasing trust and confidence in the brand.
Here are three steps to turn your email marketing campaign into a market research channel:
- Audit your email marketing provider and determine whether it has the capability and willingness to help you build a custom
database. This database will hold the proprietary market research data that will come from your email marketing campaign,
and it shouldn't be shared or available to your provider's other customers. Your provider should have the capability to analyze
the data and provide you with detailed profiles of individual customers.
- Create the master list of "Golden Questions" that will help to fill in research gaps, or that can be used when market research
shows a lack of unanimity on a particular issue and you need to know how individual physicians feel. Golden Questions can
cover beliefs about a disease state or treatment options, practice habits, or attitudes about novel therapies. You might ask
eight to 10 questions in the course of a multi-wave email marketing campaign, but you should only ask one or two at a time.
- Develop a pilot project that includes sales management, market research, and managed markets leadership. By leveraging an
existing email marketing budget to ask questions of your customers, these various stakeholders will get value from your efforts
and help to shape sales and marketing messages so they are more relevant and valuable to your physician audience.
Be careful when developing a sophisticated program like this. Do not move too quickly, and make sure you've found the right
email provider. Providers who compete on the size of their database or the speed of getting an email drop out the door are
not selling the qualities you need. True relationship marketing involves not only recognizing customers when they return,
but also capturing and analyzing their responses. Your campaigns can evolve into this self-fueling research/marketing cycle
through careful application of these techniques and examples.
Dave Ormesher is the CEO of Closerlook, a relationship-marketing firm specializing in healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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