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All marketers would agree that digital technology has brought about a sea change in the world of marketing. The basic model has gone from almost exclusively “push” messages to more of a “pull” approach that combines traditional channels, such as advertising and direct mail, with strategies like search engine optimization, social media marketing, mobile and email marketing.

Power shifting to the customer

In marketing today, prospects and customers are educating themselves about your industry, business space and product or service area. This holds true in both B2B and consumer marketing.

These people are not interested in receiving marketing messages pushed to them from the mountaintop. They want useful information to begin the decision-making process long before they actually interact with your company or brand.

This new way of looking at marketing has been described a number of ways, and one new book fresh off the presses calls it, “precision marketing.”

I had the chance to speak with Sandra Zoratti, Vice President Marketing, Executive Briefing and Education, Ricoh. Sandra defines the term, “Precision marketing is about using data to drive customer insights so that you send the right message to the right person at the right time in the right channel.”

The precision marketing framework is about following a logical, sequential and continually improving process:

  1. Determine objective
  2. Gather data
  3. Analyze and model
  4. Strategize
  5. Deploy
  6. Measure
    • 64% of consumers say promotional offers dominate email and traditional mail received. Only 41% consider these offers “must-read” communications.
    • Out of the 91% of consumers opting out or unsubscribing from email programs, 46% do so because the messages are not relevant.
    • 41% of consumers would consider ending a brand relationship because of irrelevant messaging, and an additional 22% would definitely end the relationship because of irrelevance.
    • A survey of IT buyers by the International Data Group found 58% of vendor content was not relevant to potential buyers, and that this lack of relevance reduced the chance of closing a sale by 45%.

Are you seeing a theme here? Relevance is extremely important in marketing today.

“I say customers are powerful, in control, and they know it,” Sandra says. “They vote with their dollars. They vote with their attention, and what I would call their brand-altering online voices. So, customers are really in the driver’s seat, and marketers need to recognize that.”


Sandra offers examples of how marketers turn prospects and customers off with a lack of relevance:

“If you send me promotions for items I have already purchased, you just don’t get me. If you send me content for things that do not align with interest needs, where my behavior has shown you I typically go and linger and learn and read, then you are totally missing the mark, and you don’t get who I am, and you don’t get what I care about. And for that, the penalty is I will take my business elsewhere.”

She adds, “Relevance is simply using insights based on data to craft targeted messaging that makes every piece of content in every channel speak to each recipient.”

Sandra offered a consumer marketing example in 1-800-Flowers. The company began analyzing its customer data:

  • Customer name
  • Occasion bought for
  • Recipient’s name
  • Recipient’s address
  • Channel for the order
  • Demographic information

This data was then used to send the right type of messaging, promotion and marketing for each customer. In result, the marketing itself became more relevant for the customer. And, by utilizing all the available data, the process actually fortified itself by continually enriching that customer database.

To provide a B2B case study, Sandra offered Rapid Racking, a UK-based shelving and racking company that used the traditional marketing of “spray and pray” mailings of a physical catalog. Because of this, its customer acquisition costs were enormous.

The solution was to collect data on prospects, such as job title and job responsibility, and then analyze the existing customer database to predict which of the new prospects were most promising. This led to a 25% reduction in mailed catalogs, and a 47% decrease in customer acquisition cost.

“And they got a revenue uptick of eight percent,” adds Sandra.

Data collection and data mining

Just by looking at the two examples above, it’s clear that data can be a marketer’s best friend. At the same time, data can be very difficult.

“Data is paralyzing,” states Sandra. “It is paralyzing to a lot of marketers and a lot of companies because it is inaccurate, it is siloed, it is messy, and no one really knows how to do it.”

She continues, “When you use words like ‘data analytics’ or ‘data modeling’ or ‘developing an algorithm,’ a lot of people get paralyzed, and that causes them to stop and not take action, and then just do what they did yesterday.”

Sandra suggests simplifying the process by starting with the data you have right now and apply it to a campaign with a specific goal in mind, such as retention, promotion, cross-sell or up-sell. Run a side-by-side A/B test with a control and treatment, look for improvement or learning, and expand from there.

Sandra adds that often when people hear analytics, they think “predictive analytics.” This, she says, is the Holy Grail of data, but actually the process of analytics resides on a spectrum:

  • Segmentation analytics – basic data applied to basic business rules
  • Profiling – using high-value customer descriptions to find look alike prospects for targeted messaging
  • Predictive analytics – capturing behavioral data in unique ways to predict future prospect behavior
Missed (and Found) Opportunity: A case study

Caesars Entertainment has a huge marketing budget, and began collecting customer data by using a loyalty card in the casino.

Sandra explains, “They could track 80% of customer spending: Where were their interests? Where were they spending? And the hidden cost this revealed after tracking data for a couple of years was that they had totally missed a customer segment. It was 0.15% of their customers who generated 12% of their revenue.”

She continues, “That is pretty important customer data to have when you are doing your marketing. A lot of us marketers have aggregated data and look at it in average, and we miss the detail that can really make a huge difference in how we connect with our customers.”

In response to this information about its customers, Caesars began target marketing to this tiny segment that contributed so disproportionally to the bottom line. It resulted in a savings of up to $20 million a year in marketing costs and a 400% boost in revenue.

“They credited it all to data,” says Sandra. “They say data presents a single version of the truth. It is not an emotion; it is a fact upon which you can act.”

Data can drive your marketing career

Sandra’s final thought was on how implementing this process can actually help marketers in the boardroom, as well as in the marketplace.

“Let’s make it personal,” she says. “The experts in customer insight, customer intelligence, based on data are, in my view, really becoming the cornerstone of value in a company, and this really places precision marketers in a very strong position to advance their careers.”

Sandra adds, “I think we have seen people who use this data-driven approach also make the jump from marketing to an executive management, CEO-type position.”

Source: David Kirkpatrick July 31st, 2012 –