Marketing programs must be relevant, timely, and built upon a credible foundation of meaningful information – a practice that is much easier said than done. Analytics are fundamental in enabling the strategic development and tactical implementation of marketing programs.
If we overfocus on the strategic aspects without first shoring up the data foundation, marketing programs will be based on opinion, not fact. Conversely, an overemphasis on data and analysis can become somewhat esoteric. Finding a balance between the two is critical.
To simplify the process, analytical engagements are best executed in a phased, logical approach guided by comprehensive frameworks to ensure that all informational needs are thoroughly addressed. These frameworks provide the structure for the design and application of analytical models and methodologies and help make sure all the bases are covered.
As discussed in last month’s article, the first step of this framework is data aggregation. In this step, you essentially take inventory of the data that you have, map data to your information requirements, collect the relevant data, and integrate the most appropriate data from different sources into a single location.
On to the next stage of our five-stage framework: data augmentation, or more simply, filling the gaps in your data. Just as it sounds, this is the step in which we try to plug in any missing information and take advantage of opportunities that we didn’t know existed prior to the data aggregation.
It’s not usual to find gaps of varying degrees in the data. But it is critical to fill these gaps before proceeding with your marketing programs so that you can benefit from enhanced profiling, targeting, messaging, and channel optimization. Filling in the gaps may take one of three forms:
- Developing or identifying a proxy for needed information, perhaps statistically
- Performing primary and qualitative research
- Purchasing data overlays
Overall, most database marketers could place more of a focus on primary research (and testing, but that’s another subject!) to augment their response data. Effectively integrating secondary data sources with primary data will further enhance consumer profiling, messaging, and channel optimization. You can apply the fleshed-out data toward tactical campaign improvements, creative development, product development and advancement, customer satisfaction initiatives, and the measurement of the potential market. Further, primary research can be used to clarify or explain results and/or objectives when there is uncertainty.
One multichannel marketer took a novel approach to gathering primary data: an e-mail survey. The company designed, implemented, and analyzed this survey in order to provide actionable information on the attitudes, awareness, and product usage among customers.
By analyzing data from the survey, the marketer identified and described in detail its current and potential customers for cost-effective retention and acquisition programs. Then, by integrating survey, billing, and operations data sources, the marketer built a functional and scalable marketing database for consumer and revenue growth tracking, market segmentation, and service diagnostics.
Now consider some of the additional insight that the marketer realized from using both secondary data and primary research:
- Consumer profiles for residential and commercial customers based on behavioral (usage, attitudes, awareness) factors and demographics
- Identification of factors that distinguish between the various behavioral and demographic subgroups
- Understanding of why consumers bought and whether their expectations were being met
- Insight into consumers’ online behavior
- Consumer perceptions of products and services, including technical issues, procedural and service issues, and product issues
- Discovery of potential niche markets for growing the customer base by determining the motivating factors and viable means of getting messages to the next “level” of customer
One size does not fit all when it comes to implementing a successful approach. By using a solid framework, however, you can develop a customizable plan that provides insights at every step of the program development process, for communications that are in any stage of maturity –- from where to target your e-mail acquisition efforts to insights that can ultimately affect program and product development. Most important, you’ll gain insights that result in actionable customer intelligence and a strong foundation for all marketing efforts.
Katie Cole, Ph..D, is vice president of research and analytics for Merkle|Quris, the e-mail marketing agency of Merkle. Contact Katie Cole at email@example.com.