The path to customer engagement begins now

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Jeff Hassemer
Jeff Hassemer

Earlier this decade, we saw the emergence of several new marketing channels that have fundamentally changed the way direct marketing works. Marketers have been forced to rethink how to organize data within a database, the methodologies they use to measure marketing performance and the very definition of a marketing campaign. Almost everything in a multichannel marketer's world is different today than it was even five years ago, though some fundamentals remain the same. These include the following:

Targeting customers with personal, relevant content is key to ROI. Untargeted e-mails, direct mail or display ads that fail to get the attention of your audience are a waste of time and money. Marketers need to understand their audience, regardless of the interaction channel, and personalize each message to each customer.

Clean, accurate data yields better results. Clean data leads to more accurate models, segmentation and most importantly accurate results. When the data is dirty, users can be selected into groups that they do not belong in.

Identity resolution is critical. Millions of dollars are wasted by organizations marketing to their best and worst customers in the same way, simply because they do not know with whom they are speaking. By identifying your audience first, then using that information to personalize the message, your organization will not only increase loyalty, but also maximize profitability.

The right message to the right person at the right time. This mantra that has been embraced by database marketers for years is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

While the fundamentals remain the same, new challenges exist today requiring a new perspective. These challenges include the following:

Challenge: Creating a consistent, coordinated contact strategy across channels. Maintaining a consistent offer strategy across all points of contact is paramount to success.
The solution:
a centralized marketing database. Having the right tools accompany your database that manage content and execute campaigns will help ensure efficiency, coordination and overall relevance.

Challenge: Using data to identify individuals in unique channels, such as call centers, websites and in-store. Identity resolution is something that has existed since the first direct mail piece was sent.The differences today are the data elements used to identify each customer.
The solution: expand the data elements used in the customer data integration (CDI) functions of your database. Data hygiene, data parsing and robust matching technology will help to create a clear, single view of the customer across all interaction points.

Challenge: We can't control when our customers choose to interact with us. Customers control the interactions today, not marketers. However, we can ensure that we're in the right place at the most optimal times.
The solution: be prepared. In addition to the steps listed above, your marketing efforts should be coordinated and prepared to react in a real time manner—able to send triggered relevant messages through a variety of mediums.

Challenge: We do not control what customers say about our company. In other words, your brand is not what you say it is; it is what your customers say it is. Marketers need to have the ability to listen to these conversations and react in an authentic voice.
The solution: social media and brand monitoring solutions integrated into the database. The marketing organization needs to understand who is saying what, and react in real time to the conversation. For example, good customers who have a complaint can immediately be addressed by a phone call or return tweet. Poor customers may only need a Twitter response or a direct message.

This is an exciting time for the data-driven marketer. Never before have we had so much to work with in terms of data about our customers. The promises of one-to-one marketing made in the mid-1990s are coming to fruition today. The good news is that while the challenges that we face today are complex, the solutions are in the foundations that we have already put into practice within our marketing database platforms.

Jeff Hassemer is VP of product strategies for data management services firm Experian.

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