The six super questions you need to conquer data marketing

Sometimes getting started is the hardest part. You know you need to do it – after all, everyone else is. If you’re a CMO you know your competitors are deep into it. And if you’re a manager, you already know professional contacts getting real value from it.

But there’s a problem. You just don’t know where to start.

Let’s face it – data driven marketing can be tough. Especially if it’s not your natural bag. We get it and we’re here to help. You might have already seen our great jargon glossary (it’s the perfect primer for anyone trying to make sense of data driven marketing). But we know once you get a handle on the language you’re going to want more on the practice.

We’ve helped a few organisations on their data journey now, and we know the sorts of questions they ask. We also know the sorts of questions they should be asking. After all, we’ve walked the walk and have the data to show for it.

To get you started on your data driven journey here are the six questions we think you need to ask yourself.

1. What is data and why is it suddenly everywhere?

Data is simply information that helps you make considered and calculated decisions. Data driven businesses aren’t new – after all, data’s been around in one shape or another as long as commerce has existed. But digital data is a relatively new thing, and in the last couple of decades three developments have made it essential to successful and innovative organisations.

  1. Data warehouses. Initially built by tech companies to manage their own data, by the mid-1990s digital storage had become cheaper than paper. Suddenly businesses could easily track and analyse data from a range of sources.
  2. The rise of the internet. This created floods of data from the 1990s, with Web 2.0 (and consumer interaction online) taking it to another level, especially with the rise of social media.
  3. Digital only services and digitally connected products. In the next few years these will trigger massive exponential growth in data. According to IDC around 2,000 exabytes of data will be added this year. That’s the same as ALL data up to 2012. And as the internet of things starts to take hold this number is only going to explode.

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In this environment, businesses who are not utilising data to create better experiences and build better relationships with their customer risk being left behind.

2. OK - but surely it can't ALL be about data?

No, not entirely. It’s all about what data can help you to do: understand the customer.

The five largest companies by market capitalisation in the US are now tech companies. By leading on data and the customer experience, they have inverted the traditional product based business model, replacing it with the age of the customer.

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And the customer has reacted. Demanding personalised and best in class processes and services, their expectations of you are created by their experiences with Amazon, Uber, or Google. And when you don’t reach that level, they will be quick to let you know. There is a silver lining however, they are likely to do so on social media, leaving just the sort of data great companies would turn into customer sentiment gold!

3. But I'm not a tech company. How can I possibly compete?

There are two ways to answer that. Firstly, start your business strategies with the customer. And then, start thinking about the ways data can help. Your business will already be generating data in more ways than you could imagine – our customers are always surprised to find just how much they already have when we start working with them.

Clever companies bring customer experience and data together, harvesting more data even as they delight the customer. Even if they are not “tech”.

One of my favourites is Nike+, a social media community built by Nike. Nike+ lets users get more from their training through apps and a connected community site. By providing value above and beyond a product purchase, Nike establishes relationships with their customers and learns more about them.

Things like how women train and use Nike products globally. This information can then be used by Nike to highlight customer needs, in turn informing product development, customer service, and marketing.

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4. My company doesn't generate data. What are my options?

Hold on a minute. EVERY company generates data. Just think of your current systems and processes. Do you have a CRM? A list of your customers? A sales and inventory system, point of sale software, or even just a good old Mailchimp account? Mobile phones? All of these generate data, and all can be useful.

And don’t worry if you don’t have a single unifying database or centralised system. Not many companies do. Part of what we do is help customers to reach a single view of customer, or at least, get as close as possible to it.

5. I'm not technical and none of my team are. Who is 'owning' data in the bigger organisations, and who should I be empowering in my own business?

The clue is in the customer focus. The days of data being a technically difficult IT ops driven process are fast disappearing. In fact, most businesses who are organising themselves to capitalise on data are putting the marketing guys in charge. That’s because marketing is traditionally the closest to customer, and “data” is really about “customer”.

6. OK. I'm sold. What are the immediate benefits my business can get from data right now?

Here are my three favourite ways data can help organisations.

  1. Customer profiling. In today’s fragmented landscape customers are spoiled for choice. If you only get one shot to convert, you need to know everything you can about your customer. Data can provide more accurate profiles, reducing negative experiences and increasing the effectiveness of your messaging.
  2. Sentiment. If profiling lets you “see” your customer, then sentiment tells you what they’re feeling. Maximising customer referrals and social channels is essential in today’s connected world, so understanding your customer sentiment (through social listening, or keyword analysis of social chat) is now a core competency in establishing powerful customer trust in your brand.
  3. Customer lifecycle modeling. Understanding customer lifecycles and journeys can open the door for actions and interventions from you to keep your relationship positive and essential. Predictive modelling and “next best actions” are two increasingly common ways to keep your customer onside and keep your churn down.

We started this piece by acknowledging getting started is the hardest part. But it really is true that data is easier than you think it might be. Remember that the purpose of data is to provide you and your business with concrete and actionable insights. Don’t get sidelined into unnecessary complications around this, keep your work locked into a marketing structure and focused on those insights. We’re confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how simple it can be. There’s no excuse now – just get started!

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