How to get the most out of your data-driven marketing engine

Every marketer is either currently, or wants to start, using data-driven marketing.

This has created a variety of marketing tools that should make it easier for marketers to function. But, at the same time, it has also created a new problem: the tools that you deploy will only have the required impact if they work in harmony. The whole is always more than the sum of its component parts and data-driven marketing is no exception to this rule. Furthermore, this is not only true for the use of marketing technology. Internal marketing, sales and service departments also have more impact if they work together within common objectives.

Therefore, data-driven marketing must start with a widely supported, or shared, truth and vision within the organisation. The truth pertains to the data that you use to fuel your marketing engine, while the vision is what you as an organisation are doing it all for. In this article I’ll try to demonstrate why that truth and vision are so important and which requirements you’ll have to meet to achieve success with data-driven marketing.


Lack of interaction

Data-driven marketing is much more than simply hooking up a number of tools, pressing a magic button and then waiting for the results to improve. Many companies are already using a variety of marketing tools, but enjoying limited success in getting them to work together well enough to maximise the effect of their data-driven approach.

Most marketers already work with an e-commerce system, a marketing automation tool that sends emails, texts and push messages, a CRM system that makes customer data and communication history available, an analytics and dash-boarding tool and one or more advertising platforms. That’s why, in a marketing environment, the marketing cloud is increasingly regarded as the sum of all the cloud-based tools that are used. However, the term itself assumes a degree of interaction between the various tools that often just isn’t there. The reality is that all these tools often function as separate clouds, each containing customer data that doesn’t come together effectively at all.


Data-driven marketing = data management

Instead of being different, stand-alone systems, the tools that you use must function as an integrated set of solutions that collectively form the technological backbone of your customer journeys: from the first banner that’s presented to a completed service request. This is why so many companies use a Data Management Platform (DMP) as the adhesive that bonds together all the tools and data.

The following scenario, in which a new customer makes a purchase in your webshop, demonstrates the working of such an integrated set of tools.

1. Based on data from your CRM system, you’ve created a lookalike audience with the aid of second- and third-party data. You’ve then activated this segment via display, video and search.

2. After seeing and/or clicking on the advertisement, a customer from the lookalike segment buys a product in your webshop. The purchase data must then be made immediately available in your CRM environment, so that customer service can easily answer questions about the order.

3. The customer who made the purchase must then be excluded from being retargeted by that advertisement, on all advertising platforms. If the service team learns that the customer is dissatisfied, he must be temporarily removed from possible prospect campaigns. At the same time, new customers must be included in lookalike modelling.

4. After a certain number of days you’ll also want to send the new customer an onboarding email that explains the product. In that email, based on a Predictive Intelligence tool that takes into account the characteristics of the newly purchased product, you will present recommended and related products. If the email is not opened, this is something you’ll need to be aware of so that you can look for alternative channels for approaching this customer.

5. Ready for his next visit to your webshop, you’ll want to process your customer’s preferences in a personalised homepage and into subsequent pages you’ll want to subtly incorporate the next best offers that are suited to him.

6. Finally, you’ll want this process to be fully automatic and for all data to flow near real-time through all your marketing technology.

The example outlined above clearly demonstrates that it’s all about the interaction between all your tools and how well you can orchestrate the flow of data between them. It creates an environment through which all data flows, a DMP in other words, which is a vital link in your marketing organisation. A DMP collates customer-profile data from different cloud-based tools. It then organises that data so you can use it for marketing campaigns, thus making a scenario, like the one sketched above a reality. A DMP can therefore be regarded as the engine of your data-driven marketing.


One shared truth about your data input

You use a DMP to manage audiences and customer journeys that are optimally geared to the customer data that’s collected through the various systems. To generate all that data and then use it effectively with a DMP, a shared truth centred around your data input as a basic condition, is an absolute must. This all starts by establishing from your marketing objectives which data points are (must be) recorded in a system, how this data must be structured and what the correlations are between data strands. One central contact ID, a specific data point representing one customer identity, constitutes the main data point.

One shared truth about how you uniformly register client identities in all your systems is therefore the most important step. Let’s face it; you want to be in a position from which you can relate all data that you collate about a customer or prospect to that actual person. Based on this premise, a DMP can structurally store, keep track of, analyse and use data from different platforms that’s linked to an individual, and then use it for activation purposes.

It’s only by using a shared truth about contact IDs as the foundation for all your source systems that a DMP can function effectively as an identity infrastructure that both connects different systems and allows them to communicate with one another. This is a precondition for effectively and personally guiding your customer through the entire customer journey.


One shared vision in your organisation

When we talk about data-driven marketing, all-too-often it’s only about breaking down data silos. However, breaking down marketing silos in your organisation is equally important. And when it comes to organisational design and objectives, the successful deployment of your marketing tools also calls for far-reaching integration. Many companies are still structured around different marketing teams, each of which will have their own targets. The email team, for example, will have its own KPIs, as will the performance team, and so too will the branding team.

As a result of all this, teams or departments will be unaware of what data is available to them and customer journeys will sometimes be insufficiently connected. Cooperation can also be difficult, because expensive FTEs might be working on the objective of another team, thus putting the realisation of their own team’s KPIs under pressure.

The need for a shared truth therefore not only applies to technology, it’s also relevant to the set-up of your organisation. An organisation-wide shared vision is key to the bridges you’ll need to erect between the marketing, sales, service and IT departments. Your marketing, as well as the design of the technology, must be organised on the basis of a shared vision and shared objectives, with everyone contributing to the total result. That shared, universal truth then guides the choices you make in your marketing roadmap, the data that you collate and use and the campaigns and services that you can base on it.


No foundation, no data-driven marketing

The marketing world is simply itching to work with data-driven marketing. Everyone wants to obtain insights that are based on data analysis sooner, communicate with customers more personally and, eventually, realise a higher return. The ultimate data-driven marketing dream is different for every company. It depends on the type of company, its size, budget, ambitions, objectives and internal capabilities.

What is the same everywhere, however, is the precondition for realising that dream. It’s only by working with a shared truth, both in a technological and organisational context, that you can really organise marketing technology effectively, access data more easily and then activate it more rapidly. At the end of the day it’s the most important precondition for getting all those different marketing tools to really work together effectively and thus make the task of the marketer that much easier.