Data That Tells the Customer's Story

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Kyla Moran, senior consultant, Covalent Marketing
Kyla Moran, senior consultant, Covalent Marketing

Right time, right message, right offer is only accomplished through collecting data. Every interaction with your customer should be tracked and that data should be constructed to tell a story about that customer. It's what we call interaction tracking; it's highly valuable, and it's a feature included in some vendors' enterprise marketing management (EMM) tools.

So why are some pieces of marketing technology so successful, like workflow automation, while others, like interaction tracking, get an underwhelming amount of attention? Often, it's because that functionality such as interaction tracking is included as part of the module bundle. If it were singled out as the reason for creating a purchase order, interaction tracking would be at the forefront of stakeholders' minds.

Marketing technology ROI directly focuses on MRM workflow automation, campaign management and optimization programs, and real-time interaction management for online marketing. Think of using interaction tracking as your opportunity to not just get a return on your investment, but also to create true opportunities. From direct mail to support chats, this functionality delivers a large pack of data—and in that data are immediate leads to better marketing and a deep informed marketing team.

Architecture built for marketers

Interaction tracking is often called “contact history” or “interaction history.” It's a system of using customer IDs to record every transactional interaction between your company and your customer. The EMM system can automatically gather this transactional information, while touchpoints happening outside of the interaction tracking tool can be batch-loaded into it and linked to your customer's ID. The information is systematic, is constantly updating, and, because it's transactional and not static, is a rich source for strategic consideration.

EMM software is becoming more and more groomed for the end user, and contact-tracking modules are keeping pace. This element of the software typically comes with out-of-the-box data collection tables, which act as a low-impact starting point for utilization. A major advantage in this comes from the ability to build and augment data-collection tables from directly in the GUI; the power is entirely in the hands of those sending out the campaigns.

Putting it to use

Consider interaction tracking from the viewpoint of a multichannel marketing director in the retail industry:

As a director, you're looking for opportunities to approach customers with the offers that are most likely to create additional revenue streams. In doing this you want to reduce the cost of each approach to help the bottom line, make the marketing process more effective, and create paths for the company to move to the front of the pack in terms of effective business  improvement.

The first step for any strategy-based effort is to learn the lay of the land, and gather information to set a baseline. When starting with interaction tracking as a tool, you first need to find what data is already available, how it's being collected, and where your interaction tracking can fit into the map. Start with those out-of-box capabilities and “tables.” They're a great place to start, both looking at what information is already available, and what value can be pulled from it.

It's easy to say, “Look at your data, and then just do better marketing,” a statement that gives you almost nothing in terms of actual guidance. Instead, try examining the inflowing data from the viewpoint of elementary school science—using the scientific method. Let's say you have a record of support chat interactions, including time of day, subject, and resolution. Examining the data can give you several hypotheses:

  • Is there a specific time of day when customers are free to talk, or actively engage with your product?
  • Is there a specific product that regularly needs additional support that marketing efforts can build goodwill through?
  • Is there information on the quantity of email marketing the customer receives, correlating to online support chat interactions?

There are several more lines of strategic thought that can stem from looking at systematic, customized data, forming a hypothesis, and tweaking approaches to test for effectiveness. From there the steps of gathering data, building a test, and examining your results kick off a cycle of improvement that's easy to keep on track.

Bringing in the benefits

You can gain the most benefits from pairing these actionable ideas with additional optimization elements. Business intelligence software can help create an advantage and do your research without overtaxing full teams of people. Data visualization software will help put your findings into formats people will understand in meetings, and that financials can understand well enough to fund.

While studying your customers' interactions, you're also uncovering potential improvements for internal functionality. This software can give you insight on the effectiveness of campaign planning, showing trends that may not align with the typical seasonal assumptions. It will also uncover the ideal campaign “bouquets” of collateral, helping to create winning formulas and removing guesswork. Finally, a cost-benefit analysis of customers can be based on direct input, as opposed to demographic assumptions.

Interaction tracking provides ease of use, strategic advantage, and immediate marketing benefits. Overall this comes down to using the tools at your disposal to give you the competitive advantage that is desperately needed in this real-time marketing era.

Kyla Moran is a senior consultant at Covalent Marketing

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