The correct use of data for marketers: Big, little, or nearly any thing in between

(c)iStock.com/stokkete

As a dedicated integrated media and marketing technologist long supporting the advent of personalised marketing (aka database marketing, perhaps aka as scientific marketing), I clearly see the use of data, clearly see the advantages of correctly applied data, and also see the confusion that may be widespread throughout our industry when the following question is asked: “Is there a correct process, methodology for the use of data – big or little?”

Two sides of the coin

From the standpoint of the brand and the consumer, correctly applied data will (hopefully) shorten the sales cycle, provide greater degrees of targeting and perhaps increase your ROI or user satisfaction levels. Correct use of data will also place the consumer in a position to trust your brand, believe in your message, feel wanted and desired. Check out the sidebar contained in this article. Incorrect use of data can be, at the least, a disaster.

Something old, something new?

There is nothing new to data and its use in marketing. What has changed in my opinion is the varied availability, quality, depth and understanding of the data stream and the many tools that are available to measure your use (successfully I hope) of big or little data.

Many marketers use the analogy of DNA to express the depth that modern data can reach, but after some thought I feel the better analogy is a fingerprint. A fingerprint to be used in court must meet a minimum of 10 clearly defined and identifiable markers; anything less does not truly identify the suspect. More markers provide less questioning of the suspect and more additional confirmation of the suspect involvement and fit to your brand – does this not sound more like marketing use data than DNA? A key advantage of this viewpoint allows you the brand, to define the markets as your need dictates!

Picture credit: (c)iStock.com/johan63. Demographics include age, behavioural, gender, location, media used, buying cycle, purchasing history, income, hobbies, demographic snapshot, and so on. The advantage of a data fingerprint is you can define the ridges and valleys based on your marketing needs and further define your market. Illustrated as examples only.

To me, the fingerprint analogy can be used to not only identify current or potential customers, but can also support your understanding, the quality and use of the media selected, more fingerprints on the media selected or used can be indicative of defining the value or liking the selected media – digital or non-digital media. You can use a variety of tracking tools – attribution software, to follow, track the fingerprint trail from media to media measuring the media, length of time with the media, where the media leads and how many others have “touched” or been referred to the media and the marketing tools offered. Does that make sense to you? It does to me.

Follow the fingerprint trail

If we continue the fingerprint analogy, a customer or prospect will leave their fingerprint when they use a service, buy a product, act via a media, or activate a call to action. I call this path the customer/prospect journey. As you can guess, each journey has some generic parts, but the more we as marketers can define the journey, the more stable, the more personal, the more relevant, the more interactive and integrated we can make the journey. The measured end result should be positive; of course, depending on your program’s goals and objectives and how well you target and use the data.

The CIS of marketing

Your investigation of data should begin with the correct selection, evaluation, examination and purchase of behavioural, location, purchasing, social and other components of the data or demographic stream. This Customer Integration Strategy (CIS) is the first element in the successful use of data within your marketing plan. Infact according to a recent article by Natasha D. Smith, “Data is everywhere” . . . “it from the consumer’s POV feeds virtually every aspect of life” and allows the brand to “map or track” the digital fingerprint. Very true, but data, like computers, live by the statement “garbage in and garbage out”, a statement we in the digital world are all too familiar with hearing. So when considering the datafication of your marketing, your mantra should be “the correct use of data, the correct use of data and yes the correct use of data” stated along side of good data, good data and good data.

Sidebar: I am a dedicated sailor, yet a major brand within the marine industry continues to send me non-sailing (power boating) promotional material despite my many request to have them STOP. They by not honouring my request have moved from my (PEZ) Personal Engagement Zone into the trash and by not understanding my needs (sailing vs. power boating) have alienated me from perhaps ever purchasing from their brand. Not to mention the wasted cost of each and every mailing, email and catalog they send to a non-interested party!

The fingerprint of data marketing

How do you define the correct use of data? It’s a tough question with many – as you can guess tough answers dependent upon your specific program, goal and objectives. As with many marketing efforts your correct use is dependent on your goals and objectives, but with data use you will need to think like a pilot – a pilot is never flying in the space that the plane occupies but in the space the plane WILL occupy – in short think ahead, well ahead of the current need think of the end game!

Use this checklist to start your data process (not in order of importance):

How have or how will your prospects/customers behave over a fixed timeline?
Is your target in the process of shopping, looking, or researching?
Are you in pre-tail, retail or a post-tail strategy?
How do age, income and other demographic “markers” impact your plan or needs?
Is your target a B2B, B2C or C2C market?
How would specifically define your consumer/prospect/customer?
What is the value and use of your proposed media mix?
Are you considering “intelligent or scientific” marketing tools such as Social, Mobile and Location or SoLoMo?
Is your need to build awareness, activate an inactive base, and “touch” an existing consumer/prospect/customer or other?
Are you looking to find new buyers, a repeat buyer or something in between?
Define your data selection by use, age and media selection of the consumer/prospect/customer or client.
How will your customer receive your use of their data?

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When you link your goals, objectives to relevance, interaction (media use), integration and the metrics you have more then begin the development of your data overview. Data like marketing impacts your profitability, your bottom line and should be looked at as one of the critical components of your marketing profitability, marketing is a profit center, and data may very well be the data CFO!

Data needs to be reviewed and acted upon

Data does not always relate to selling, it must also be based on listening, developing dialogue and establishing engagement. According to a recent article by Liz Morrell, Pizza Hut is using data that is based on the consumer’s needs not only to the brand’s benefit but to support the customer.

“We are building a menu with new items to drive and enhance the guest experience but we also need to ensure that the items we add will build our profitability and drive business performance,” said Andy Platt, strategy director for Pizza Hut Restaurants.

Last month the company announced a makeover of some of its London restaurants – introducing a new interior design and revamped menu partly based on data derived from APT’s analytics tools which include APT’s Test and Learn and Menu Analyzer software suite.

Is there a future of data use?

I see the future of data use as a transformative process, a process that is integrated with attribution, tracking and measuring metrics linked not only to the fingerprint of the consumer/customer/prospect or client but also linked to the markers left by the user – yes data is a living component of marketing. The fingerprint of each individual media by use and the perception of the value of the media based on the point of view of the consumer/customer/prospect or client are critical.

Data will be and should be used to enhance the customer experience, or, as Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi stated: “Marketing is dead. Strategy is dead. Management is dead. Business is now all about creating a "moment" of people with shared values - we feel the world in five senses”. Correctly selected data can and will allow you to reach this new goal, reinforce this goal and enhance the “moment”. Correct use of data, not incorrect or arbitrary use of data, will be your marker to MROI and the first step in capturing update, repeatable and privatised data.

A goal for the future use of data: the brand will aggressively use data to build your marketing plan around the fingerprints of those that best fit your goals and objectives as well as linking the data to the five sense and fulfill the moments, enhance the customer experience and from this broad use of data, develop your revised updated and personalised vault of CIS based data. Data that is as personal to your brand as is your message to the consumer/customer/prospect or client.

The final word

If there is a single word that can define the correct use of data, it is optimisation. If you correctly optimise your data, you will see the positive profitable results of your effort. If you do not use data correctly then your consumer/customer/prospect or client will optimise their search using their relevant optimised criteria to find a brand that does.

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