Data gathering opportunities are growing but require careful scrutiny by marketers

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Brands such as Discover work to keep customer data from various sources clean
Brands such as Discover work to keep customer data from various sources clean

The value of relationship marketing campaigns is dependent on the quality of customer data. However, keeping data quality at a high level is easier said than done when the data comes from a range of sources, including social media.

“In the direct banking business, much of our success is hinged on the data that we have and the quality of it,” says Colleen Zambole, VP of marketing operations at financial services company Discover. “This allows us the potential for greater success in the use of it and subsequent analysis of it.”

Although online social communities are fairly new on the CRM scene, most agencies are confident they are viable and quantifiable CRM marketing tools. Service provider RTC Relationship Marketing, for instance, uses tags on links to track when someone clicks through from a social media site to their client's own Web page. Other marketers use statistics to model a chain of events from a consumer's social media interaction to transaction.

“We use social media monitoring, social analytics and social data collection in various ways to help shape all customer communications, respond to customer concerns, identify advocates and create meaningful social media strategies based on customer data,” says Jeannette Kocsis, SVP for digital strategy at The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks

Today, data collection comes in two forms: information provided deliberately from the customer or data gathered from observation of the customer's actions. With so many sources, it's paramount for marketers to know how to handle conflicting data, corrections and data validation.

“We look at a lot of data that retailers provide, analyze it across their internal silos and then combine it with inside Acxiom source data,” says Brady Gadberry, director of product marketing at Axciom, an interactive marketing services company.

Marketers in the travel industry can collect a wealth of customer information through the reservation process, which can take place online or over the phone. Lincoln Barrett, VP for CRM and multi-brand marketing at InterContinental Hotels Group, notes that data must be managed carefully.

“We have to be mindful of every changing nuance and keeping data clean in that environment,” he says. “The future for data lies in how you manage a single customer view across multiple channels and geography.”

Once data is collected, companies must determine which results are most relevant to their CRM programs, including, customer revenue contribution, and campaign-specific metrics.

“It is common for the marketing cycle to extend over a period of time, creating a gap between the initial investment and the financial return,” says Michael Duke, SVP of marketing intelligence at RTC. “The ability to identify the leading indicators of success, typically engagement types of measures, allows you to fill that gap and provide relevant metrics before you know the revenue's impact.”

Historically, customer contact data is out of date by year's end and requires constant updates. The future of CRM data collection will grow increasingly challenging, Duke adds.

“More complex data structures will require more sophisticated infrastructure and analyses,” says Duke, adding that low quality data can be the number one reason behind a failed marketing effort.

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