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Direct Response Marketing

Customers Come First at Barclaycard US

16 Aug, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response

CMO Michelle Bottomley says the credit card division’s customer-centric efforts are the cornerstone of the company’s multi-channel direct response marketing efforts.


This pioneering spirit dovetails with Bottomley’s background and belief system, especially when it comes to utilizing a wide array of media to get the DR job done. “Most direct marketers know that targeting rules. And that evocative creative can get the mail or other DR vehicle opened,” she says. “With today’s digital DR channels, we have hundreds of permutations and combinations of target and treatment possible and easily read within days — not months. My early days as a direct marketer at Bronner Slosberg Humphrey taught me to deconstruct response — to understand what was working or not working — into what we called barriers that could be pulled to optimize in-market performance. This approach to getting beneath the behaviors allows cross-functional teams to align insight and find breakthrough ways forward.”

Bottomley’s team includes 130 associates. “We’re responsible for new customer acquisition and the development of customer relationships through multiple channels,” she says. “I am also responsible for customer-centric payment innovations, loyalty, the digital plan, insights and brand management. Barclaycard’s entrepreneurial and flexible culture allows us to leverage global best practices and big ideas quickly … while most organizations focus on the products, I am delighted to be part of a team that focuses on the customer first.”

Innovative Customer Focus

That customer focus was something Bottomley’s cohort Joe Purzycki, Barclaycard US’ chief operating officer, discussed at length during his presentation at Response Expo 2010 in May. “We’ve implemented a ‘Customer Plan’ to ensure a uniform experience throughout each phase of the customer lifecycle,” Bottomley says, and it’s paid off. “J.D. Power rated us fifth among all card issuers in customer satisfaction in its latest survey.”

Part of that success also comes from the development of a consumer insights practice that Bottomley contends “brings the voice of the customer into our decision process.”

With this kind of contact with its prospective and current customers, it’s clear that direct response marketing plays a pivotal role in all facets of Barclaycard US’ business. “We’ve developed an innovations and digital agenda aimed at differentiating Barclaycard by making it simpler and more rewarding for customers to use our products,” Bottomley says. “We’re focusing more of our marketing budget on existing customers and remixing channels to focus on digital, direct mail and the call centers in a highly integrated fashion.”

That focus on digital DR also includes the mobile market, and Bottomley says the company also launched a consumer payments brand for Barclays. “You can now see our brand on signage outside the Barclays building in Times Square,” she says. “And now you’ll see the Barclaycard brand on the back of our cards as a trustmark.” At the same time, Barclaycard US is seeing “better than usual usage and retention rates” thanks to its marketing, Bottomley says.

In looking for ways to continue to innovate for the 50 different partners Barclaycard US works with in the travel, affinity, retail and financial services categories, Bottomley says the company’s recent successes in the U.K. have been a guide. “We have been very effective at blending direct response with mass media in the U.K., where our TV advertising and social media work has delivered top brand status within the category,” she says. “More and more in the U.S., we are integrating the different channels. Our recent campaign with US Airways is a good example.”

The US Airways Dividend Miles card program that Barclaycard worked on is one of “several major efforts underway to lift our acquisition direct response rates,” according to Bottomley.

In 2009, Barclaycard acquired a large number of US Airways cardholders from another issuer. Bottomley’s team was tasked with getting these consumers engaged with their new US Airways card with Barclaycard. “Such conversions represent a challenge for issuers to bring cardholders into the new program — and get them to activate and use their new cards,” she contends. “Often up to a third of customers can fade away from the program during the conversion process.”

Working with US Airways, Barclaycard created a series of innovative and compelling communications pieces to inform customers about the benefits of their new card and communicate a roadmap of what to expect during the conversion event. “Tactically, we leveraged marketing tools not often used within the category, such as custom direct mail leading customers to a personalized URL — a fun and compelling microsite for each cardholder with an interactive tool to learn about benefits and read about targeted offers and how to earn Dividend Miles during the conversion,” Bottomley says.

Post-conversion communication continued to build trust and encourage usage of the card to reach consumer-defined rewards identified in the personalized URL. “The program rolled out in different waves including an unusual die-cut, highly personalized direct mail piece, card carrier and custom E-mail, bonus mile offering and post conversion mailer,” Bottomley says. “Personalization was critical in all aspects of this integrated campaign. Direct mail featured a full front window in a four-color envelope with the cardholder’s name written in a jet stream across the sky. This piece was the key driver to get recipients to visit their unique URLs to explore more about the new card, choose their favorite travel destination for air mile awards and download widgets.”

The campaign exceeded expectations. “We were able to convert most of the customers to the new program,” contends Bottomley. “E-mail response rates also surpassed typical rates. We were successful in getting cardholders to visit the campaign microsite — getting about 10 times the response rate that the industry typically achieves in such programs.”

Innovative programs like the US Airways multi-channel DR campaign are the rule now for most of Barclaycard US’ marketing efforts. “We’re focused on innovating in all channels — especially online as this is how our potential customers tell us they’d like to interact,” Bottomley says.

This innovation also includes social media marketing. “Barclaycard does not view social media as solely a new account marketing channel but rather as a digital venue to share information with potential and existing customers and a place to have a conversation with customers,” Bottomley says. “The consumer owns this medium. Information provided in the dialogue by a corporation or organization must be meaningful, transparent and engaging. The challenge of leveraging social media lies in facilitating information flow in a manner in which both the company and its audience gain something from the interaction.”

Barclaycard operates across the major social media platforms, as the company looks to engage with consumers and invite them to interact with Barclaycard from its latest advertising campaigns through areas such as sponsorship and the community work it does. “Our programs include a Facebook presence with 40,000 registered fans, a Twitter presence, YouTube, Flickr and iPhone games,” Bottomley says. “We also co-generate content with our partners for their social media properties.”

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