On the path from communication chaos to marketing message perfection, there are five steps. These five steps take businesses further into a world where each email is better targeted, giving it more opportunity to be heard, absorbed and acted upon. 

Step One: What CRM? We’ve just got this list
We start our journey in a place most of us remember (if you don’t remember, call up your predecessor on the golf course and ask him or her. They’ll be able to tell you stories.) The beginning of email was the beginning of electronic communication and the realization that everyone, including doctors, had email addresses. These were the bad old days, when any privateer could build a list of email addresses and peddle them to any and all who asked for them. Were they validated? De-duped? Non-bouncing? Active? Who knew! Everyone got paid on a per-email basis one way or another, so it didn’t matter that metric tons of emails were disappearing into the ether(net) without a trace. Activity was enough. 

Of course, this recklessness eventually spawned spam laws that made it illegal to simply buy lists and spam them. Thankfully, those days are gone.

Step Two: Managed Lists
This leads us to the next step in email’s evolution. You had lists, now you needed a way to manage them. Validation, opt-in and unsubscribes were the watchwords of the day. The list you had was managed. You asked people to join it, you may have even given them a good reason to join it, and every one on that list knew that at any time, they could leave. This power shift caused marketers to think more in terms of how often they could touch a target before they got annoyed and left and less in terms of sheer volume. 

Step Three: Understanding the Aggregate
The next step is to measure the aggregate audience. Up until this point, you just had email addresses. Marketers had no name, geographic information, or specialty information, let alone school, practice type, or activity with the brand attached to the email address. Before now, if the target was on your list, and that target went to a conference and signed up for something, there was a good chance that they’d start getting multiple emails because the managed lists were being managed by multiple departments.

This step enables you to integrate the silos and examine all the data in the aggregate. Now you can see how many subscribers you have. You can how many people click on the emails. And you can report those numbers upwards, as if they mean much.

Sadly, this is where a great majority of us are, halfway along the path. Let us see what the next steps are and what they can achieve for us.

Step Four: Segmentation
The fourth step is to take that data and break it up into segments. This closes the loop between what you send and what you get back. You can see that doctors in, say, Ohio are opening and clicking at a higher rate than any other state. Or that in August, all the oncologists on your list don’t click much at all. Why is that? A little investigation might show you that your brand is being mentioned in the press locally, or that there’s a big oncology conference that month that disrupts message flows. Hmmm… Once you know that, what could you start doing differently? Maybe sending a special message to targets in Ohio that mention the local media coverage with a call to action tied to it? Or a message to oncologists at the beginning of August, wishing everyone safe travels and a call to action to visit your booth at the conference? 

When you achieve step four, you have just enough information to be able to understand groups and take action. This is where we marketers strive to be. The purpose of managing lists and collecting data is to be able to recall and leverage that data to move the needle, right? This is how that happens.

Step Five: Everyone Is Special
The final step takes that idea further. Further, you say? Yes. Instead of interacting with your targets as groups, what if you could interact with them on an individual level? 

How is that possible, you say, when you have a hundred thousand names on a list? How can you interact with a hundred thousand people on an individual level? Well, you start by buying them coffee.

Not really. You start by building a matrix. Think of all the different things that might change one of your target’s perspectives. All the stuff you already know, like specialty and location, school and practice type. Then add in the activity data, like how often they prescribe your brand, how often they click on the emails, if they ever go to conferences, etc. One day, you’ll be able to bake in more attitudinal data, like how subscribers responded to a survey, or in a poll on your eDetail, or if they have connected to any of the social networks your brand listens to.

Take all those data points and build a matrix to help you understand why a given target might or might not prescribe your brand. If you understand their underlying belief patterns, you’ll understand why they are prescribing or not prescribing. From there, you can tailor messages that challenge those beliefs, stimulate new ideas, or encourage the target to prescribe your brand. 

You’re not talking to them one-on-one so much as you are building an abstracted layer between you and them that will do most of the work for you. In some circles, this is called psycho-demographics. The ability to create custom types that are far stronger at predicting the likelihood of prescribing than straight deciles. And connecting your CRM to these types allows you to fine-tune the messages you send to each type, so that no market is ignored. Even targets who have never prescribed your brand can be sent attitude-changing messages rather than selling messages to help move them up the acceptance ladder.

This is the Zen of CRM. The path is long, but rewards lay at the end of it.