Ten Steps To Turn Customer Data Into A Competitive Edge, Part 2

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I described the first five steps you need to take to jump-start your data-driven marketing efforts and start turning customer data into a competitive edge.

Let’s assume you’ve completed those steps. You have:

1. Set the right goals for success,

2. Cut the “data fat” to understand true performance,

3. Taken full advantage of new data types and data sources,

4. Improved your understanding of customer engagement and behavior in all areas of your business, and

5. Designed your execution plan around testing.

Next, you need to:

6. Connect your online and offline data. Technology research firm Gartner predicts that by 2015, a company’s digital strategy will influence at least 80 percent of a consumer’s discretionary spending. Are you ready? A successful data-digital strategy requires integrating the online and offline data that reflects your brand touchpoints, meaning everything from web and social channels to responses to your promotional events and sales coupons – even call center notes and in-store buying behaviors. All of these interactions (and more) are potential elements of data-driven marketing campaigns.

Take, for example, what happened when public relations firm Ogilvy and consumer data company ChatThreads explored how socially-engaged customers engaged with brands in the restaurant industry. They found social media to be very effective in driving revenue. However, the effect was strongest when social media was combined with other marketing channels, like traditional PR and the often unexpected brand appearance, as is afforded by out-of-home media. This integrated approach drove one-and-a-half to two times the increase in revenue gains.

By connecting your online and offline data you can create a more holistic, 360-degree view of your customers so you can reach them “wherever they are,” with more relevant offers that meet their needs, drive sales and help improve their brand loyalty.

7. Compare patterns, not just differences. As you analyze your data, you’ll see changes—sometimes drastic ones. Don’t worry about every little hiccup. Instead, focus on patterns that emerge over time. Marketing-automation software makes it extremely easy to compare equal periods of adjacent data, such as temporal data (e.g., month-over-month or year-over-year) or campaign/project data (e.g., promotional campaign results). From there, move on to other logical comparisons, such as the average weekday, the current day versus the same day last week or whatever measures make sense for your industry. By establishing your metrics and finding/understanding the patterns in your data, you can fine tune your efforts, better plan ahead, forecast more accurately and better target your marketing campaigns to customers’ needs in real time.

8. Use data visualization to facilitate discovery. As I mentioned in Step 1, the sheer volume of customer data you’re up against can be overwhelming. Data visualization tools, such as graphs, charts and infographics, make understanding your progress easier — and they can help you share results with groups other than the marketing team, too.

Consider what these visual representations might be telling you:

  • Is what you see what you expected to see?
  • Does it reveal any interesting patterns?
  • What do the patterns mean in the context of the data?

9. Leverage the power of data in real time. One of the most exciting aspects of data-driven marketing is that it offers your team the ability to execute on data in real time. For instance, what if you could deliver ads based on the products or services a customer is currently viewing on your website, and then send an email with a discount when a shopper abandons his or her online shopping cart? Or, what if you could send a text message to customers when they are in the immediate vicinity of one of your retail stores?

The new opportunities are endless. But success requires collaboration. When implementing a strategy to capture real-time data, it’s essential for you to find solutions that help solve multiple business challenges at once. For example, upselling products, decreasing the percentage of abandoned shopping carts or attracting first-time customers to your business are good initial objectives to shoot for.

10. Give others access to the data. Share the wealth! Don’t restrict the data use (or results) to your business analysts or IT team. Use dashboards or other visualization tools to let all stakeholders – particularly sales, marketing or customer service colleagues who know your customers best — play around with the data and see what insights they uncover. Extending data analysis to a broader user base helps convince everyone of its value, ultimately making it a more sustainable tool for not just your marketing department, but for your company as a whole.

Some marketers think implementing a data-driven marketing strategy is an insurmountable challenge – but, it’s not. If you start small and take it step-by-step, you can begin turning your customer data into a competitive edge today . . . and honestly, the time for equivocation has already passed. Gartner predicts by 2014 companies that develop an integrated marketing management strategy will enjoy a 50 percent higher return on marketing investment than those that don’t. Which side of that divide do you want to be on?

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