Our world is powered by data, whole economies have sprung up buying and selling data, and so much data is produced every day that scientists are continually having to come up with new words for it.
Part of the success of the big tech giants is the way they've managed to use this data to change the way they do business. But even at a much smaller scale, the way smaller businesses use data can make a huge difference to the way they do business.
Today we're focussing on marketing, but this is the first in a series of articles concentrating on Customer Data for SMEs and the difference it can make to their business.
Joining the dots
For many businesses, managing and utilising customer data can be an afterthought. What compounds this is once you collect it, what can you do with it?
First, let’s look at some common areas businesses tend to collect data: mailing list/subscribers, web analytics data, call data, order data (online and offline), web enquiries/contact forms, incoming emails (both sales and support), social media engagement, online advertising clicks, CSI surveys.
Often these data sets are separate entities, and there’s no way of linking these together, however there’s a multitude of tools, that if used right, can start joining up these different pots of data. These range from enterprise level marketing automation platforms, to simple tools that will link up one or more of these data points.
The holy grail of this approach is the Single Customer View: a view of everything your organisation knows about its customer. With the latest tools and techniques, that’s easier to achieve now than ever before.
Using it for insight
Many businesses collecting data can struggle to turn it into something that’s actionable, so let’s discuss a few different areas where you can really start to use the data you’re collecting.
With any new client at Creation, we start with mapping their customer journey. Not only is this an essential step to help us understand their business, but it also gives us insight that can influence our strategy. The Customer Journey is the thought process of the customer before finding your business, the steps they take on your site before making a call or purchasing, all the way through to a repeat purchase.
Customer Journey information is crucial to planning acquisition as part of a digital marketing strategy, as is thinking about the messaging at each step of the journey. We use a technique called empathy mapping where the customer's thoughts and experiences are mapped at each step to uncover pain points along the journey.
The other area where customer data can be used for insight is by better understanding the profiles in your audience, whether that’s gaining aggregated demographic data from web analytics, to audience matching via Facebook, to Experian mosaic profiling, this can help you create personas to understand who your customers are, and crucially, where they go online.
Using it to market better
Once you have your data joined up, and your audience understood, you can then start to segment and target your customers. This can be done on any scale between splitting your customers into two groups, all the way through to in-depth personalisation based on customer’s likes and dislikes.
The main aim of targeting is to make yourself more relevant to your customer, and there are numerous side-benefits too, such as reducing and optimising your marketing spend.
A simple example can be to split out your prospects and your existing customers, but more useful is to start fitting this into your Customer Journey. For example, your existing customers might buy from you again, but over what timescale does this happen, and when can you start to reach out to them again? For your prospects, what’s the decision-making time and when is it worth following up with them again?
Often the limiting factor is having a campaign message that is relevant enough to the segment. For example, you might have a number of existing customers researching or buying multiple brands, but do you have the resources to create enough variations of your campaign?
Brands have even experimented with showing different content for users who they deem to be 'introverted' or 'extroverted' – by matching up imagery on their homepage. In reality though, how many brands have the resources to produce this many variations of campaign?
Software can help with this, of course, and perhaps AI will eventually automate this step. In the meantime, we believe it’s best to focus on certain areas where we know personalisation can really help, and can be automated. This can include things we know we know about customers, such as products they’ve purchased or viewed, brands they have liked, and linking up broad-interest groups through tools such as Facebook custom insights.
We've outlined how the basics could work for a business that needs to use data better, and hopefully inspired some first steps to get you on your journey. Next time we’ll look at using existing customer data to improve the Customer Experience and remove barriers. Watch this space!