Dodgy Marketing: The Role of Data

Data has been a marketing currency for years—but the rise of digital media has changed the rules.

The number of devices people own and the explosion of electronic channels through which they interact with brands have combined with traditional marketing approaches to present a multiplicity of customer touchpoints. At the same time, as brands attempt to consolidate and make sense of the flood of incoming information, consumers have become much less forgiving of brands that wrongly make so-called personalized approaches through poorly targeted marketing campaigns.

Every day we are bombarded with brand messages in our Web browser, email, on our smartphone, and by social and traditional direct mail campaigns. I suspect few of us notice such messages anymore, let alone engage with the brand that sent them, unless the content is accurate, relevant, and timely.

You don’t need to conduct market research to understand how annoyed your customers are when you don’t get their name right or when you assume you know what interests them but get it completely wrong.

Recently a retailer I once bought from sent me a direct mail piece “celebrating” my love of gardening with an offer for cut-price garden tools. The problem is I do not have a garden and I loathe the horticultural life.

Crass errors such as this undermine an individual’s trust in a brand and damage loyalty. Also, how a customer acted one year ago is not necessarily an indication of how they are behaving today. Brand experiences must be informed by customers’ current preferences.

Only with trustworthy data can marketers refine targeted messages to segmented consumer groups, create personalized dialogues and fine-tune promotions to generate loyalty.

Robust data also helps marketers to better understand the changing preferences of a particular customer and the various channels they use at different times, as well as their value over weeks, months, and years.

According to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit report commissioned by Capgemini, some 75% of business leaders surveyed believe their organizations are now data-driven. Businesses invest millions in marketing and sales technology from CRM and sales force automation (SFA) systems through to marketing automation tools, but the outputs will only ever be as good as the data which underpins them.

This may seem obvious but it’s surprising how often marketers work with bad data. A recent survey by DemandGen revealed that almost 85% of the businesses it polled said they are operating CRM and/or SFA databases with between 10 to 40% bad records. The survey also shows that more than 62% of organizations rely on marketing/prospect data that is 20 to 40 % incomplete or inaccurate. With these numbers it’s no wonder so many marketers get it wrong and why so many dodgy marketing dialogues result in loyalty taking a hit.

A brand’s customer engagement rates and marketing ROI will not improve simply by implementing sales and marketing technology. Businesses must first install an organization-wide, cross-channel data quality assurance process. They must do so in order to sort out their existing messy data and enable incoming data to be standardized and checked for consistency, completeness, timeliness, and accuracy before it enters business processes. Only with data assurance in place can marketers trust their data and know that they are using it to enhance customer experience and lift engagement. Without data assurance, there’s a real risk marketing actions could invoke the opposite—frustrate customers, create friction, and undermine their loyalty.

Marketing simply has to get it right and a number of enlightened organizations do understand the importance of caring for their customer data.

The John Lewis Partnership, for instance, a major UK retailer and Trillium Software client, needs to be confident that the knowledge it has of its customers is as correct as it can be. Data captured from across the Partnership’s complex multichannel retail environment is therefore standardized, consistent, complete, timely, and accurate.

John Lewis recognizes that, ultimately, it’s all about the data—a currency that will be more valuable than ever in 2014 and beyond.

Nigel Turner is VP of information management strategy at Trillium Software.

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