In terms of personalized and targeted statement messaging, the reality has finally caught up with the sales pitch. It's now possible to reach readers with highly targeted messaging, based on their individual activities or interests, coordinated across a range of communication channels — from statements, to DM, to outbound calling and even the ATM screen messages that appear while you wait for your transaction to be processed. The problem is that while the message management and composition systems have continued to advance and become more complex, few companies are organized in a way that will let them harness these tools most effectively.

    As targeted and personalized statement messaging is proven to be a highly effective communications channel, it becomes more and more popular with different areas across the organization. Suddenly marketing, operations, legal and even other lines of business all want their messages to appear front and center on your group's monthly statement. However, there is a limited amount of messaging that can be added to any statement before it overwhelms the document, turns readers off and loses its effectiveness, and as with anything in limited supply, it becomes a valuable commodity. This makes having a central, coordinating role for statement messaging vitally important.

    This is what's typically missing from companies that produce a large volume of customer statements — a position in which a single person (or group) is responsible for implementing the organization's messaging strategy and coordinates ALL of the messaging on the statements that get produced each month. Ideally, this individual(s) works with all of the different areas that typically have or want messages to appear on the statement, such as marketing, legal and compliance, operations, product groups and others. Their role is to determine which of the competing messages makes it into any given statement and where it's positioned.

    This person works with two main variables: priority and position.

    Priority is the first step in ranking messages. Some, such as legal and compliance notices, must go on the statement and, so, receives a very high level of priority. The priority of other messages can be determined by a wide range of factors. For example, personalized and targeted messages in support of a current marketing campaign might be given a higher priority than more generic messages or messages from another part of the organization (for example, the insurance group that wants to put a marketing offer on your group's credit card statement).

    Once the priority of the messages competing for space on the statement has been established, the person coordinating the messages can then determine the appropriate position for them. While the legal messages might get a high priority, meaning that they must appear on the statement, they may be positioned in the lower-value space at the end of the statement, rather than the premium real estate on page one. Effective document design typically divides the statement up into distinct messaging zones — some more prominent (and, therefore, valuable) than others. The trick is to match the appropriate message with the appropriate messaging zone. Developing the criteria for doing this, and then using it to impose some order on the flow of messages that could potentially run in any given statement cycle, is the role of the message coordinator and his/her team.

    Only by creating this type of position, and giving it the tools and authority it needs to do its job effectively, can organizations start to effectively take advantage of the advanced messaging and targeting capabilities of today's document composition systems.

    Scott Watkinson [] is a senior communications consultant specializing in the writing and design of customer-focused business relationship documents.


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