Many companies have recently deployed next generation e.billing
and online account management Web sites. A significant number of
these firms view their sites as being underutilized. Several factors
could account for this including functionality, customer demand
and site usability. In most cases, however, these adoption influencers
have been addressed more than adequately. Another factor —
how the sites have been marketed — usually is not a primary
focus of executives reviewing e.billing adoption levels. In many
cases, marketing efforts have been suboptimal.
Instead of using traditional marketing techniques,
companies should employ a marketing strategy with a sharp focus
on achieving specific e.billing goals. All channels need to be creatively
utilized and messaging needs to be benefit centric rather than focused
on features. Moreover, companies should follow a framework that
creates separate tracks for awareness, activation and recurring
usage themes. Firms should learn from the missteps of others and
employ best practices utilized by those that have been successful.
Why Are Some e.billing Sites Underutilized? Many
factors influence the utilization of an e.billing site. The following
are some of the most common explanations for a why a site might
suffer low adoption:
1. Lack of Functionality Some might point an accusing
finger at the site developers and product managers and ask whether
the customers have enough functionality available at the site to
be helpful and enticing. This supposition usually is not borne out
by the facts. Most sites offer the capabilities to not only view
information like account data, but also allow the customer to modify
the information as well as interact online with the company.
2. Is Demand Missing? Others inquiring might believe
that their customer base does not possess a strong demand for e.billing
capabilities. This may be true for firms that focus on very small
segments like high net worth individuals, but in most cases, customer
surveys and focus groups have indicated a strong demand for e.service.
In fact, the opposite is true. As more and more customers experience
the great online customer service delivered by credit card firms
or the likes of Amazon.com (B2C) or Federal Express (B2B), they
have become pre-conditioned to have it delivered by all their suppliers.
3. Poor Usability What about poor user interface
design? While it may be the case that some sites are failing because
of bad design, such concerns would only affect recurring usage statistics.
It begs the question of why so few customers have even attempted
to enroll at underutilized sites. Are customers sufficiently aware
of such sites? If they are aware, has the firm implemented programs
with the right messages through the right channels to drive customer
and/or intermediary awareness, convince them to act as well as encourage
recurring usage? Such questions introduce the last major factor,
which is marketing.
4. Marketing as the Culprit In many cases, a good
case can be made that marketing efforts have been sub-optimal. You
should not immediately place the blame on your marketing staff,
however. To some degree, it’s a function of how most e.billing
projects are rolled out. In many cases, the marketers have not been
given the right direction, the right resources or the latitude to
effectively market the e.billing site. Nonetheless, experience and
technique do play a major part in whether the launch is successful
Do Traditional Marketing Techniques Suffice? In
many cases, only when an e.billing site is just about to launch
do firms begin thinking about how to market it. Most do not have
marketing plans that parallel the implementation path. Moreover,
most marketing efforts are “project”-oriented and conducted
by a hybrid team of IT as well as Marcom (marketing communications)
professionals. If the firm brings in an e.marketing professional,
usually this individual is more schooled in outbound email marketing
to prospects than communicating e.billing messages to existing customers.
For most of these individuals on the team, it’s the first
time they have been involved with efforts to drive users to e.billing
For those firms that do run site-wide marketing
campaigns, typically the marketing message is too generic to be
effective for e.billing objectives. Think “Go Online!”
and you get the idea.
Segmenting and Stuffers… Again Initially,
the team’s first thoughts flow to decisions about what customer
segments should receive what message. Traditional channels like
direct mail and statement stuffers become a major focus. This is
all well and good, but traditional approaches have not worked as
well as expected.
Some teams tend to think out of the box, however,
and actually challenge traditional thinking that customers’
online behaviors can be changed primarily through offline methods.
Some question whether traditional segmentation categories really
fit the way e.billing should be marketed.
Challenging Traditional Thinking High Rock Consulting,
an e.services utilization consulting firm, recommends asking some
• Do the marketing professionals on the team
understand the cost-savings drivers and how they effect customer-segmenting
decisions? • Is the team focused on a generic campaign as
opposed to more detailed campaign plans that focus on achieving
specific objectives? • Have they created specific benefit
measurement standards rather then highly interpretive adoption percentages?
• Are ALL channels being used — awareness, activation
and recurring use — and for the right usage motivations? °
For example, is a paper-based direct mailer being used for anything
other than awareness? ° Are large or important customers targeted
with anything but high touch methods? ° Are personalized email
alerts being considered in order to promote recurring usage?
Unless the firm has posed and answered questions
like these, it is unlikely that great success will come easily.
So what strategy should you employ?
Learn from Others The pioneers in the e.billing
space didn’t have experience to guide them. More often than
not, most of these firms paid close attention to functionality,
demand and usability. However, they also developed sophisticated
plans to spread awareness, encourage activation and drive recurring
usage. They realized that a solid marketing strategy heavily influenced
high utilization rates.
For Success, Create This Strategy Follow ABCDE
framework as a way to guide your e.billing marketing efforts.
A. Analyze current demand — Completely understand
needs of motivations for both internal and external stakeholders
through interviews, surveys, focus group, outside research, participative
B. Benefits prioritization and utilization objective
definition — Quantify each and every internal and external
stakeholder benefit and balance priorities. Map current workflows
against projected workflows and tie to motivations. Establish specific
C. Create marketing strategy — Review all
resources and customer touch-points to determine effective channels
to communicate awareness, activation and recurring usage messages.
Perform a technical evaluation from a marketing perspective. Gain
D. Develop marketing programs in support of the
strategy — Form and schedule specific programs according to
three tracks: awareness, activation and recurring usage.
E. Execute, monitor and evaluate — Launch
programs before the implementation start date and monitor feedback
continuously. Revise programs accordingly.
Challenge and Learn By establishing a structured
plan, leveraging the practices of successful firms and avoiding
the missteps of others, your firm should be able to maximize the
utilization of your e.billing sites. While several other factors
come into play when predicting a successful launch, no factor is
more often overlooked than marketing. A little attention to marketing
will go a long way.
Mark Delfeld is the founder of High Rock Consulting,
a specialized consulting firm that helps firms optimize e.service
investments through innovation and insight. He has 15 years of experience
in the software industry, working for firms such as PeopleSoft and