Monday, 4 April 2011

Look “inside” your data to improve your marketing

Do you store customer data in a computer system? Do you store information about purchases? Gathering and storing customer information in a database is now “business as usual” for most organisations.

But once you’ve got the information, what should be done with it?

Using it for marketing is an obvious candidate. Emails, letters, and phone calls can all be done more efficiently once your data is in one place. But this is only part of the answer. Whilst this is a terrific time saver, all that has happened is that manual processes have been digitized. Your database has enabled your marketing communications to be processed more quickly: not more intelligently.

To gain real competitive advantage from customer databases, you need to look “inside” the data. The key to creating more profitable marketing programs is analysing customer data (sometimes from several systems) to understand patterns of behaviour, and profitability. Why? Because when you work from real world data, you are faced with real world problems and real world opportunities. Instead of dreaming up marketing ideas with fragmented and anecdotal evidence of customer preferences, real customer data grounds your thinking, and challenges it.

The old saying “the customer is always right” holds a lot of water when it comes to data. Looking at what customers actually do, rather than what you’d like them to do, or what your business plan says they should do, moves marketing closer to the customers’ needs and wants. Once your thinking is aligned with customers’ needs and wants, marketing communications become more relevant and more meaningful to customers. Which kinda helps.

Analysing customer data should be a starting point for marketing planning, not an afterthought.

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