As marketers, we are all looking to reach "nirvana": targeting the right person with the right message at the right time. It's the clear path to driving conversion rates that exceed expectations.
The days of blasting promotion messages to all—or, at the very least, many—are dead and gone. The conversation has changed. We must put ourselves in the customers' shoes and target them individually as best we can through data-driven strategies.
What's more, this concept is no longer just a myth or impossible to put into practice. The fact is that excuses such as bandwidth, budgets, and lack of data access are just that—weak explanations. There are ways to quickly and effectively harnessing customer and prospect information you most likely already have.
Here are five ways to do so, in rapid fashion.
1. Make a list
If you are a multichannel marketer, you likely have a lot of customer data floating around in silo databases, such as customer relationship management (CRM), email, point of service (POS), and Web analytics. Yet many marketers don't know where their customer data is being stored or how to get to it.
Do some digging and make a list. Dust off an old copy of your preferred flowcharting software to document the current state of your data flows. This "state of the state" view will allow you to identify integration points moving forward.
2. Build an alliance with your IT folks and marketing-technology vendors
Marketing and technology now go hand in hand, with many organizations and responsible parties logging in to multiple interfaces daily to execute campaigns and track results (email, Web analytics, e-commerce, etc.).
Technology-vendor account managers are provided incentives to grow your business, so leverage them to do so as much as you can: Run ideas by them, ask for advice, understand the pricing associated with integrations, and inquire about what their other customers are doing.
Internally, consider your IT folks your partners, not your enemy; they will need to be included in the integration process. Together, you will identify opportunities, prioritize, and build out a strategic road map with common goals in mind.
3. Identify relevant customer data points
Within your available sources look for standard customer data points—such as customer IDs, purchase history, sale dates, and order values—that will allow you to build rich customer profiles for target marketing. Doing so will also mean that your IT team will be more accommodating if all you're asking for is basic customer information.
The goal here is to find the data points that will allow you to target customers with content and offers that are relevant to them as individuals based on their preferences and the purchase information you have on them.
4. Pilot with email
Email marketing continues to drive the most return on investment (ROI) versus any other marketing channel in the online-marketing portfolio. Such campaigns provide an incredibly flexible medium to leverage for data-driven campaigns.
Nearly all the best-of-breed service providers include API (application programming interface) solutions for data/technology integrations and dynamic content engines that will allow you to populate emails with targeted content and offers. Pick a population of your customer and prospect databases and do a split test. Target your test group with a data-driven campaign and the control group with your standard messaging.
5. Implement a test-and-learn methodology
Set some realistic goals as you pilot your initial data-driven campaigns. A couple of small wins will give you the insight you need to expand your strategy to include additional integrations (Web analytics, e-commerce, social media, Short Message Service [SMS, or text messaging], etc.). Over time, this incremental approach will allow you to become a rock-star one-to-one marketer.
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The common theme of all these steps is common-sense simplicity. If marketers can take a few moments to put these steps in motion, their productivity and ROI could skyrocket.
It's really more a question of whether an organization can afford not to leverage its existing customer data to realize higher conversion rates and sales. Because, otherwise, companies will be leaving money on the table without even knowing it.