Marketers preparing for more complicated data landscape: NCDM 2010

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Direct marketing industry leaders urged marketers to improve their data collection and analytics processes during a December 14 panel discussion at the NCDM 2010 Conference in Miami.

Lawrence Kimmel, CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, urged audience members to use new marketing and analytics technologies to personalize campaigns.

“So many people need support from you,” he said. “Many people in your company, and many of your clients, don't know what to do with all the data that's out there… Where will people turn? They'll turn to you.”

Panel moderator Dave Frankland, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said successful companies will figure out how to collect, process and utilize data. However, he added that organizations will struggle to move data from internal silos into one central location. Companies will also have a hard time knowing what to measure and what to infer from measurements once the data is organized.

The panel also discussed how to store and analyze data, and all speakers agreed that customer data collection is a necessity. Jason Madrak, head of direct-to-consumer marketing at Aetna, said the amount of data the healthcare industry collects can be overwhelming.

“Data isn't valuable… unless you pick the right data,” he said. “You can analyze forever and keep adding variables. The thing you need to think about is the focus. We try to have specific questions so we can get those analysts to focus their time so that it's valuable.”

He stressed that marketers need to be quick, nimble and focused on making data actionable because “[the data that] might be appropriate today might be obsolete a year from now.”

Tony Branda, principal at BlackBelt Direct Consulting, urged the audience to discover what data they really need, saying the data-collection process can be costly for many organizations. He also predicted the CMO role will evolve to require executives who, in addition to being marketing experts, are also “customer intelligence experts.”

The panelists also said the biggest challenges on the horizon for direct marketers include turning mass marketing efforts into one-to-one initiatives; measuring campaigns with emerging technologies; and trying to make precise analytics decisions in real time.

Frankland also encouraged the audience to see new technologies as assets to their professional development.

“As you go through the next couple of days, think about your role,” he said. “Social and some of the other emerging channels only makes you more important [to your company] down the road.”

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