Don't leave customer data on the table

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Whether the economic climate is good or bad, as marketers we must remind ourselves the importance customer intelligence plays in our ability to weather storms, outperform the market and be top of mind. The past several years have been difficult economically. Yearly double-digit growth will not be easy to achieve, and those organizations that know very little about their customers, can no longer hide.

Companies that embrace technology and employ cross-channel data end up developing solid interactive marketing strategies improving brand loyalty and customer lifetime value.

It's not uncommon for companies to allocate marketing budget across channels for search, banner ads, email and direct mail. Each activity independently generates unique sets of customer traffic, sales and behavioral insight. Collectively, a sparse canvas suddenly becomes a masterpiece of a customer's footprint, leaving behind new intelligence to capitalize upon. 

Monitoring the end-to-end picture of customers' browsing and buying behaviors is integral to managing economic downturns and fierce competitive environments. This includes mapping customers' first visits to a website and their clicking characteristics, as well as tracking banner ad activity and customer tweets about the brand.

I spent the day with my family shopping for holiday gifts at the mall during the first week of December. We came upon a new kid's adventure chain store that offers playrooms for toddlers through age 10. Although the store wasn't open yet, they offered kids free playtime in their massive blow-up portable bouncy equipment in preparation for their grand opening. While my daughter was busy playing, I asked the owner some questions to learn about their activities, the cost and when they would open for business. They had run out of marketing material that I could take home, but fortunately, they had a quick response (QR) label in their store window, which I gladly zapped with my Android for details later. The owner mentioned the grand opening would be the week of Christmas. 

A few weeks later when my family and I headed to the mall to visit the store, we were disappointed to find it closed with no notice in the window to inform us that the grand opening date had been moved. The same QR label was still hanging in the window. Assuming this company hasn't gone under before its doors opened, they missed a huge opportunity. With a little forethought, technology and customer intelligence, their marketing team could have posted a notice with the new grand opening date with a handy QR label offering 10% off in compensation for the inconvenience. Another natural extension would be a well-designed registration form requesting my email address for future promotions and communications.

Their initial guerrilla marketing strategy started so positively with free playtime. However, they failed to revise their strategy, leverage customer data and develop a timely, personalized communication that would have been a positive reflection upon their business. Companies must use the information consumers share with them to infuse intelligent offers. 

More often than not, companies have a wealth of consumer data but fall short leveraging it into a well-rounded customer experience or ingenuity. Start with low-hanging fruit and pinpoint cross-channel sources that can be easily combined.

Michelle Eichner is VP of product management at Unica, an IBM company.

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