GDPR Leads Brands to Better CX

A year ago, most companies had no clue where all of their customer data resided, let alone whether or not it was secure. With the implementation of GDPR, and California’s digital privacy law scheduled to take effect in January 2020, companies have started taking their customer and prospect data, and its security, much more seriously.

A year ago, most companies had no clue where all of their customer data resided, let alone whether or not it was secure. With the implementation of GDPR, and California’s digital privacy law scheduled to take effect in January 2020, companies have started taking their customer and prospect data, and its security, much more seriously.

Most organizations keep their customer data in a customer relationship management (CRM) database. However, prior to GDPR, the information was incomplete, the accuracy of the data was not taken seriously, and the data was not secure due to a lack of business process management and master data management policies.

Based on the interviews I have conducted with IT executives involved in databases, big data, AI/ML and security, there has been a significant change in the past year; whereby, companies are now implementing and enforcing data management best practices and creating data Centers of Excellence. Employees are learning the importance of data and its security.

Given that a well-maintained CRM is necessary to deliver a great customer experience (CX), we can expect to see companies begin taking CX seriously, because they are getting their data in order and their competitors will begin using that data to deliver improved CX. We’re now in a race to see who can use data first and best to improve the CX.

Updated privacy policies and security protocols will increase the opportunity to deliver personalized and relevant information of value. In addition to getting consumers’ explicit permission to communicate with their customers and prospects, organizations will want to enact progressive profiling; whereby, they learn more about each customer or prospect every time they interact with your website or organization. The more you know about a customer, the more relevant you should be able to be to them by providing information of value while anticipating needs and wants.

Organizations need to learn what customers and prospects need and want to make their lives easier. This is key to building a disruptive business and earning a customer for life. Lyft has done this for me. Every time I need to travel to or from an airport, I no longer need taxis, rental cars or parking at the airport. Lyft has made my life traveling much simpler and easier. Lyft has earned a customer for life — or at least until its business model is disrupted.

A good CRM with proper data management processes is beneficial to organizations on several fronts:

1. The CRM serves as the repository for all customer data and enables customer-facing employees to have a 360-degree view of the customer so they understand the customer’s relationship with the company — interactions, products/services bought, considered, feedback. All customer-facing employees are able to see the actions that have taken place and know what actions need to take place in the future based on sales and CX processes.
2. Organizations are able to provide more relevant help and information; thereby, making customers’ lives simpler and easier. Some organizations, e.g. financial institutions, are already using predictive analytics to recommend the “next best action” for the customer to the employee.
3. The CRM can be integrated with calendars and marketing automation software for appropriate follow-up before and after a sale, for nurturing marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs) or to market to “lookalike” prospects.
4. The CRM provides real-time metrics enabling team members to see where prospects and customers are in the sales, post-sales, follow-up or problem/resolution cycle.
5. A sound CRM enables the organization to scale in a thoughtful way with proper data management, security and updates. Leveraging even more data to improve the CX.

How has GDPR affected your organization and its data management practices?

How Well Do You Know Your Customer Data?

Some marketers seem to keep their distance from customer data. When I ask what kind of customer information they are working with, I hear things like, “Oh, Mary is in charge of our data. I leave it to her.” This is unfortunate.

Some marketers seem to keep their distance from customer data. When I ask what kind of customer information they are working with, I hear things like, “Oh, Mary is in charge of our data. I leave it to her.” This is unfortunate. I realize that the marketing profession may attract people who prefer to focus on “softer” functions like research, competitive strategy, and value propositions. But these days, it’s a real disadvantage, professionally and personally, to shun data. So, let me offer some painless steps to up your comfort level.

In this context, I am thinking about customer data at its most basic level: the customer or prospect record, which is usually found in a marketing database or a CRM system. This record contains the contact information, and descriptive and behavioral data elements we know about the customer. For B2B marketers, it will describe the account as well as the individual contacts. This subject arose in my mind recently as I read Steven Hayes’s interesting article called “Do Marketers Really Want to be Data Scientists?” in Oracle’s Modern Marketing blog. Hayes correctly concluded that marketers don’t need to do the science — build the models, run the experiments — but they do need to be familiar with the variables that drive customer behavior, in order to apply the science to marketing decision-making.

So, it behooves marketers to be deeply familiar with the customer record, which is where these variables are housed. This information serves as what I like to call “the recorded memory of the customer relationship,” and it reveals all sorts of insights into the nature of the customers and competitors, what they value, and how to communicate with them effectively.

So, how do you get familiar with your customer records, and make them your friends? Here are three steps to consider.

1. Take Mary — or whoever manages your customer data — out to lunch. Demonstrate your interest in understanding her world, her challenges and her interests. This puts a personal face to the data, and also makes Mary an ally and mentor in your quest.

2. Examine a handful of customer records. You’ll find all kinds of interesting things: What do we know about this person? Any ideas on how better to communicate and sell to him/her? How complete and accurate is the record? What additional data would help you develop even better ideas on how to treat the customer? Set an hour on your calendar every quarter or so, to repeat the process, becoming familiar with records from various types of customers and prospects.

3. Launch an initiative to develop a data strategy for your department or your company as a whole. This means a written policy that identifies the data elements you should collect on each customer, where each element will come from, and how you will use it to drive business value.

I guarantee, if you dive into the data records, your comfort level will rise dramatically. And so will your insight, and your skill as a marketer.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The Cost of Marketing to the Wrong Consumer, and How to Get It Right

We all know that Internet marketing is easy and cheap. But regardless, marketing to the wrong retail customer can come at a high price. Here are some suggestions for how to keep your marketing judicious and well-targeted, so you’re reaching the right audience.

Internet marketing is easy and cheap. That’s all the more reason to use it judiciously, because the cost of marketing to the wrong retail customer can cost big. Here are some suggestions to make sure you’re targeting the right audiences.

Effectively used, marketing has the power to connect the right consumers with brands and turn them into loyal, repeat customers. But what happens when it’s not, and what’s the cost incurred? Bigger than you think — bad campaigns are deadly on a number of fronts. It’s not just lost sales. They result in lost loyalty and a confused target market. They can quickly alienate some of a retailer’s most valuable potential and current customers. That leads to further difficulty attracting and maintaining relationships with the very people who could have been your best customers, brand ambassadors or social media amplifiers.

Because it’s easier to reach out in today’s digital environment, retailers can more easily connect with their client base now than ever before, for better or worse. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. It’s very easy to try a new type of campaign or use digital tools like social media, but it’s just as simple for poor planning and execution to lead to a negative result.

With the rise of digital marketplaces and the vast increase in shopper options, the way shoppers buy products has drastically changed. This means that retailers must regularly adjust, refine and improve their approaches to marketing. It’s critical to understand that just using the internet as a marketing tool isn’t enough —it’s easy to market in a tone-deaf manner. As with any other campaign, success depends on careful planning during every stage of development and the judicious use of accurate, current data and relevant analytics tools. When marketers don’t do this, they risk the consequences of directing their marketing initiatives at the wrong consumer. And there are far too many marketing strategies that don’t lead to the generation of value or a customer transaction.

What Sets Great Modern Marketing Campaigns Apart?

It starts with careful and thoughtful direction of resources involves gathering data, collecting and securely storing it, and effectively using analytics tools to derive useful, actionable insights that form and bolster relationships. Drilling down, certain qualities of effective marketing campaigns set them apart from other, less-successful efforts. Here are a few of the most important concepts for reliable, powerful and positive results:

  • Focus on a well-defined customer type: Great campaigns don’t cast too wide a net. Instead, they have a clear idea of whom they’re targeting.
  • Don’t worry about long-tail keywords: Unless your company can compete with the giants of your market segment — and giants of every segment, like Amazon — it’s best not to put too much stock in these keywords.
  • Emphasize qualified leads: A qualified, well-understood customer persona is much more than an email address. With a thoroughly developed customer profile, including data about budgeting and identity, companies have better results. This is one of many areas where powerful, effective analytics comes into play.
  • Align large and small details to the defined personas: A strong campaign should feel relevant, attractive, focused and engaging to its recipients.
  • Segment your database, continually: Building the difference between prospective and existing customers into targeted variations of the same campaign, for example, helps retailers realize the best results. Continually segmenting databases through the use of effective big data and analytics tools is one difference that sets retail leaders apart from the rest of the pack.
  • Properly value existing customers: You already have a stronger relationship with existing and past customers than with potential ones. An incentive like a coupon or discount — with the exact terms defined in part through analytics and big data — is often enough to secure a new purchase.
  • Gather feedback: Valuable intelligence about your products, customer service and brand experience comes from social media and many other online communities. Retailers need to be where their customers congregate online, then gather feedback for review by staff and use in automated analysis.
  • Build emotional connections: Lasting, meaningful connections with core customers are more important than customer service in many instances. Building these relationships means encouraging purchasing over the long term. Consider these examples:
    • Target determined it was too narrowly labeling bedding and toys for children based on gender. Taking changing attitudes about gender fluidity into account, the retailer stopped marketing based on gender. It now markets bedding and toys with a more inclusive strategy.
    • Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would stop selling assault rifles and raise its minimum age for purchasing firearms to 21. CEO Edward Stack decided this would provide an overall benefit and strengthen bonds with customers throughout all of its product lines.

A large part of the fine-tuning involves drawing on the power of data and analytics to ensure they can move at the speed of the modern consumer and connect to them effectively. Many aggressive, short-term campaigns use crowdsourcing, social media and apps to build strong, short-term connections. Carried out properly, these efforts increase positive sentiment among the customers you know are interested in shopping with your company. This turns the digital world into an invaluable public space in which businesses can interact with customers, using existing and custom-built tools to quickly and efficiently reach them. The costs of marketing to the wrong consumer are both clear and substantial. So focus on your current and prospective customers and leverage big data and analytics tools to market to the right ones.

The Day Marketers Became ‘Big Brother’

Data collection is transactional. Before Google and social media, transactions were, for the most part, financial. But now they’re personal. Every friend, family member, like, love, click, view, search, post, follow, preference, location and comment is a piece of transactional data that can be exploited not only for commercial purposes, but for political purposes, as well.

Every breath you take; Every move you make; Every bond you break; Every step you take,

I’ll be watching you

Every single day; Every word you say; Every game you play; Every night you stay,

I’ll be watching you

It’s a bit ironic, and somewhat prescient, that a band named The Police sang those lyrics in the year before 1984. We’ve finally found the Holy Grail of one-to-one marketing … but do we like it?

Back in the ’90s, I was working with a client using credit bureau customer data to build models of people who were likely to be interested in home equity loans. Some people would chide me about invading people’s privacy for commercial purposes, but I would always respond:

“We’re not interested in the personal information points about John Q. Public; we’re only interested in the fact that he belongs to a segment of people who meet a specific set of financial criteria. We market to that entire segment of people without paying attention to any one of single individual’s personal, customer data points. I don’t care about your specific home value or mortgage balance; I only care that you belong to that group of people who would qualify for a home equity loan.”

But now I’m creeped out.

Customer Data Is Integral to the Credit Economy

Customer data collection is transactional. Before Google and social media, transactions were, for the most part, financial. But now they’re personal. Every friend, family member, like, love, click, view, search, post, follow, preference, location and comment is a piece of transactional data that can be exploited not only for commercial purposes, but for political purposes, as well.

And we give it up so willingly!

In order to participate in the credit economy, we tacitly agreed to have our financial transaction data stored and monitored. (Let’s not get into how that worked out recently, but the value exchange seemed reasonable). Now, we willingly give up reams of personal transaction data, and the value exchange is quite different. We get to access pictures of friends with their food, children and pets, we get accurate turn-by-turn directions to wherever we’re going, and we get that leather messenger bag we looked at online to follow us around the Internet for weeks on end.

Can marketers still make the argument, “we’re not interested in the personal information points about John Q. Public; we’re only interested in the fact that he belongs to a segment of people who meet a specific set of criteria”? Even if now, that segment is a segment of one?

And the customer data collectors? Like The Police, they say, I’ll be watching you.

What do you think? Comments welcome.

GDPR and the Data Culture War

GDPR and it’s extra-territorial enforceability are about more than some new rights for E.U. citizens. It’s a response to the fast-and-loose privacy attitude that’s fueled the American Internet boom.

We had an internal “summit” about GDPR yesterday here at NAPCO Media, Target Marketing’s parent company. (BTW: The regulations mandate privacy awareness training for everyone involved in processing data. So if you haven’t done yours, you have about three weeks.) Stephan Garcia, founder of GDPR Superheroes, called in from his home in the U.K well after business hours local time to help us get a handle on everything GDPR is about.

On thing Garcia mentioned was that many of our concerns about GDPR compliance aren’t shared in certain E.U. countries, like Germany, because those countries just don’t have the same culture of data collection and purchasing that we have in the U.S.

This law and it’s extra-territorial enforceability are about more than some new rights for E.U. citizens. It’s a response to the fast-and-loose privacy attitude that’s fueled the American Internet boom.

Backlash Against American Privacy Exceptionalism

The E.U. wants to get away from the fast and loose silicon valley approach to data. No more “Collect it all, we’ll figure it out later.” GDPR says privacy must be in your design from the beginning. Systems and business processes must be designed to protect citizen data and privacy rights from the beginning, not as an after thought.

American companies  like Facebook and Google, and really all of the post-social-media digital world, were built on casual, almost accidental collection of data that could eventually be exploited to turn a profit — since none of them launched with viable business models.

Personal data is the market inefficiency these companies exploited to conquer the world. They collected it virtually for free and sold access to marketers for revenue. Users hardly batted an eye at offering data for the services. In many cases, users didn’t even think of follows and likes as a form of personal data. Consequently, they assigned no value to these items and the resource of data was wildly undervalued.

GDPR is a recognition of this imbalance and the pendulum swinging back the other way.

It’s also European governments taking some power back from mostly U.S.-based economic juggernauts. And old world culture re-asserting itself in a digital world that’s been mostly built on Wild West rules. And across the world, it’s people rectifying the value imbalance these data exchanges have exploited.

In other words, this is a culture war. GDPR and a raft of similar regulations in the E.U. and other countries is a sort of data conservation movement responding to Silicon Valley’s data libertarians.

Marketers in the Middle

Marketers are caught in the middle. And, not to sound cynical, but the only right strategy here is to play both sides against the middle.

Make no mistake: Brands must embrace at least some aspects of privacy reform if you want to maintain customer trust. “All your data belongs to us” is not a viable PR position.

At the same time, we need data to do the kinds of marketing consumers want. You can’t deliver personalized, optimized customer experiences without the data.

And there is a huge opportunity here to prove to customers that they can trust your brand with their data. Some companies have even taken wild leaps of data faith to prove it.

For example, Garcia talked about the U.K. pub chain J.D. Wetherspoon that actually deleted it’s entire customer email database — on purpose — to show customer it was serious about privacy. Instead, Wetherspoon told customers to follow it on social media and visit the website for deals. It also launched a mobile app not long after, which of course is another way of collecting data.

Look for solutions like that; solutions that allow you to build customer trust and your data pool at the same time. That’s going to be key to navigating the post-GDPR digital future.

A lot about GDPR looks daunting. But for savvy brands, it’s a great opportunity to prove you’re on the customer’s side while building new ways to work with data and build higher quality customer experiences.

Why Content Marketers Fail

Without the right foundation, attempting to produce curated, personalized content can quickly become overwhelming and ineffective. Why? In this issue of The Pulse, we’ll address two common problems and how you can overcome them.

Check out even more about personalization and artificial intelligence with FUSE Enterprise.

With 75 percent of marketers reporting an increased investment on content marketing in 2016 and about 70 percent reporting they expect to produce even more content in 2017, it’s clear that content is king. But, without the right foundation, attempting to produce curated, personalized content can quickly become overwhelming and ineffective. Why? According to a 2017 Content Marketing Institute survey, the top two reasons cited for sub-par content programs are strategy issues (49 percent) and a lack of time (48 percent).

In this issue of The Pulse, we’ll address these two common problems and how you can overcome them.

Get To Know <Sally Sample>

Twenty years ago, personalized marketing was as simple as adding a variable name field to a direct mail piece. Today, however, customers expect more. They know we’re tracking their every move on and offline. And, thanks to successful disruptors like Amazon, Uber and Netflix, these customers also know that this data can be used to create VIP-level, curated, customized experiences.

That’s a lot of pressure on marketers.

The good news is that you don’t have to create bespoke content for every single one of your customers. You just need to create an experience that makes them feel like you did.

Done right, personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50 percent, lift revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 percent.

To get results like these, most marketers have the technology and tools needed. But when it comes to integrating and orchestrating the technology stack to unlock the full value of personalization, many marketers get stuck.

Don’t Just ‘Set It and Forget It’

With about 5,000 Marketing Technology companies out there, it’s easy to get swept off your feet with promises of automated success. But, as much as we’d like to believe it, long-term success doesn’t come from flipping a switch and walking away.

Currently, an average of 49 percent of companies use marketing automation technology to help plan, manage and measure content. However, many of these same companies latched onto a technology solution before determining their content marketing strategy — and now they’re out of money and time.

It’s helpful to think about marketing automation technology in the same way you think about a car’s cruise control. Whether you’re driving a campaign or a car, you can tell your machine to maintain a certain speed. However, both scenarios require someone in the driver’s seat to steer and, occasionally, to pump the breaks.

Even the biggest brands have fallen victim to the siren song of automation.

In May 2017, UK-based Walkers Crisps put their #WalkersWave campaign on cruise control. The crisps company featured Twitter-submitted selfies in a video where FIFA World Cup record holder Gary Lineker held up their portrait, showed them performing the Mexican wave and wished them luck in a sweepstakes for Champions League tickets. Unfortunately, trolls overloaded the system with photos of murderers, dictators and other ne’er-do-wells causing Walkers to pull the campaign and issue a public apology.

In 2012, Target automatically mailed promotions to women based on their “pregnancy scores” — a proprietary equation triggered by Target purchases commonly made by women in their first trimester. For those public about their pregnancies, this mail was timely, effective and helpful. However, for a teenage girl who hadn’t revealed her dilemma to her parents, it was disastrous.

In both of these examples, extreme personalization backfired. That’s not to say that hyper-targeted marketing materials should be avoided, but it is to point out that hyper-targeting and personalization isn’t always the right answer. The more important moral to this story is recognizing how quickly things can spiral out of control when you don’t have a contingency plan in place. And, while you can’t predict everything, you can build a solid strategy that can be adjusted along the way.

Building a Foundation for Marketing Automation

According to the 2017 B2C Content Marketing Trends report from CMI and MarketingProfs, the number one factor contributing to B2C marketers’ stagnant success over the last year is strategy issues (49 percent). This is followed by not having enough time devoted to content marketing (48 percent) and the challenge of content creation (37 percent).

In order to avoid the pitfalls of content marketing and customization, it’s critical to partner with someone that understands the value of and is experienced in developing content marketing strategies to unlock personalization at scale.

At HackerAgency, we’ve developed an agile process designed to help us predict the future for your brand and develop the content your customers need before they know they need it. Although we customize our approach for every client, three common elements include:

Plan Ahead to Pivot Quickly

Although a solid piece of content can quickly go viral, the best content marketing programs aren’t built from fly-by-night strategies. Determining the right strategy takes time. Developing the right creative takes time. Measuring results and pivoting the approach takes time. And, although automated marketing technology makes things move more quickly than managing everything manually, it still takes time.

When you’re scrambling to keep up with the content marketing Joneses, the last thing you want to hear is someone telling you to slow down. But the world of content marketing and personalization requires the ability to analyze the past, tune into the present and predict the future — and that definitely takes time.

The return on your investment in the initial content marketing strategy will pay off when you’re about to hit the new fiscal and know you don’t have to create a new content strategy from scratch. Instead, this malleable foundation is designed for year-round testing, analyzing, fine-tuning and scaling. So, although it’s a hefty investment of brainpower up front, the long-term results far outweigh alternate short-term solutions.

Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.

People-Based Marketing: Targeting People, Not Cookies

With the promise of big data being able to provide true people-based marketing, the yearly spend for companies continues to increase. But is your data really as good as you think? Are you truly delivering the right message at the right time to the right person?

the pulse blog

Check out even more about personalization and artificial intelligence with FUSE Enterprise.

In 2016, eMarketer reports approximately $16.2 billion was spent on digital media. With the promise of big data being able to provide true people-based marketing, the yearly spend for companies continues to increase. But is your data really as good as you think? Are you truly delivering the right message at the right time to the right person? The overpromise of big data being able to provide marketers with this solution can create waste — both with money and time. Delivering on people-based marketing, though efficient and lucrative when done well, is turning out to be a lot harder than it sounds.

Cookies Are an Issue

Cookies have a lot of shortcomings when trying to map back to a specific individual. Cookies aren’t persistent. They can be deleted or blocked, and in most cases an individual can have multiple cookies and even have them assigned to the same device. Several advertisers have started to invest in solutions that leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to map cookies back to an individual. But in their quest, they have forgotten the whole point of a cookie, which is supposed to be anonymous and stay anonymous. Yes, Google knows which double-click cookie maps to your Gmail account, but they’ll never share that information. That would defeat the whole purpose of why anonymous third-party cookies were created in the first place.image_1

Finding the Solution

Facebook takes credit for coining the term, and they are definitely leading the pack toward people-based marketing. The key to Facebook’s success starts with the individual versus with the cookie — they map a person’s devices and cookies back to the individual. Not the other way around. It’s a simple but important distinction, and it’s key to their success. This particular methodology works great for Facebook. After all, they already have an exhaustive list of individuals. But what about the average marketer? While Facebook will let you leverage some of what they know on their platform for a price, they definitely aren’t sharing that data. The good news is most marketers already have extensive CRM databases of their existing customers. The key is to unlock that data and target those individuals and other look-alike prospects. While it’s simple in principle, it’s challenging to put into practice.

 

image_2Learn even more about the convergence of technology and branded content at the FUSE Enterprise summit. Artificial intelligence and personalization will be featured among many other techniques and technologies.

Big Data, Little Intelligence

Data gathering techniques are getting more and more sophisticated. Databases are growing bigger and bigger. There are new data mining tools, techniques and dashboards everywhere you turn. So why is it that so many marketers fail to have a database marketing strategy in place?

Little Data Business ConceptData gathering techniques are getting more and more sophisticated. Databases are growing bigger and bigger. There are new data mining tools, techniques and dashboards everywhere you turn.

So why is it that so many marketers fail to have a database marketing strategy in place?

Yesterday, I got three pieces of direct mail in my home mailbox from Farmers Insurance:

  • One was addressed to my mother-in-law, and she died many years ago. Considering she never lived at our address, never had her name on our mortgage, never registered a vehicle at our address, you’d think — at a minimum — Farmers might use birthdate as one of their selection variables. If they did, I think they’d consider suppressing a woman who was nearly 100. Oh, and let’s not forget the death Masterfile that’s available.
  • The second piece was addressed to my husband, but they had matched his name to the name of my old consulting business that ceased to exist in 1995.
  • The final letter was addressed to my husband.

Each of the packages came from a different Farmers agent — and despite the notation of “Visit me, I’m local,” none of them were remotely close to us. According to Google maps, they ranged from 50 minutes to 1 hour away, yet another Google search indicated there was a Farmers agent within 15 minutes of my home.

There were multiple phone numbers on the creative: One for the “local” agent and a toll-free one for Farmers (I guess they were concerned that my “local” call might incur long distance charges!).

What was most interesting is that two out of three of these packages did not include a way to respond via email. I could visit a corporate website and get a quote, but considering the time invested in personalizing the letter, providing an image of the Agent, including a detailed map showing the Agent’s location, and two phone numbers, this key response channel was omitted.

Finally, what happened to de-duping? Or assigning agent’s a territory where “most likely” prospects would reside? Or using big data to help agents figure out how and where to fish for leads while maintaining a strict recency flag?

I’m continually puzzled that marketers still fail to connect all the dots given all the tools in their marketing toolbox. Perhaps Farmers field marketing needs to go back to Farmers University for that data course they slept through.

The Sustainability of Data and the Skeptical Consumer

As long as I’ve been in this business, privacy has been an industry priority for marketers. Just as it should be. When our entire professional lives depend on continued commercial access and application of data, the sustainability of such data depends on trust.

Database & CRMAs long as I’ve been in this business, privacy has been an industry priority for marketers.

Just as it should be.

When our entire professional lives depend on continued commercial access and application of data, then consumer acceptance must be a first-and-foremost focus.

First-party, second-party, third-party — the sustainability of data depends on trust.

But permission is not the only arbiter of consumer acceptance. Relevance matters, too. What do we do with such data — and do we do it effectively? Can we demonstrate wise, responsible use of consumer information to improve the customer experience?

Yes we can, and yes we must.

It’s been a busy two weeks for data “love.”

First we had the Direct Marketing Club of New York presentation (downloadable at link) last month pointing to the heady growth in direct/digital data-driven marketing. While U.S. general ad spending is projected to grow just 1 percent this year – almost shockingly small in a Presidential Election and Olympic year — “direct and digital” are projected to grow 6.4 percent, and digital spend alone by 15.3 percent.

Then this past week, the Direct Marketing Association’s Data-Driven Marketing Institute released its “Value of Data / 2015” study — with an even more remarkable finding: The U.S. Data-Driven Marketing Economy is now $202 billion in net economic contribution and more than 50 percent of this ecosystem “depends directly on individual-level third-party data. Thus the value to the U.S. economy is greater than $102 billion.”

That’s us folks.

Now to consumer skepticism.

TRUSTe has released its “State of Online Privacy 2016” research findings. They include sobering findings:

Today, 56 percent of Americans trust businesses with their personal information online. “Consumers demand transparency in exchange for trust and want to be able to control how data is collected, used and shared with simpler tools to help them manage their privacy online,” the report stated. In addition, 37 percent think losing online privacy is a part of being more connected. Nearly three out of four Americans have limited their online activity last year due to privacy concerns.

A new study by Verint Systems may point to a paradox: 48 percent say they are suspicious about how data about themselves is used — but 89 percent believe good customer service makes them feel positive about the brand. When data is deployed, truly, to improve the customer experience — then the data-driven marketer has done her job.

In both these surveys, the data-for-value exchange is a baseline proposition.

On a macroeconomic scale, consumers and the economy obviously benefit from our increasingly data-driven world. At the customer level, many consumers aren’t so sure. We need to do the best job we can communicating transparency and control to consumers, treating them with respect, and using data to improve customer experiences.

Now, who will be my data Valentine?

What Does a Data Marketer Look Like?

The currency of nearly all marketing today is data. Ten years ago, we might have said much the same of digital marketing, and all the email, display, social, search, and mobile that’s came forward from it.

The currency of nearly all marketing today is data.

Ten years ago, we might have said much the same of digital marketing, and all the email, display, social, search, and mobile that’s came forward from it.

Twenty years ago, we could have said the same of database marketing and customer relationship management.

And wind back—measurability and accountability, the hallmarks of direct marketing—always have relied on data. We may have called it lists back in the day—but data are what lists have become. The inherent value of data is to know the shared attributes among the data elements and to use that knowledge.

Without a doubt, the “marketing of data” has evolved and transformed as much as marketing itself. Every day in our world, it’s not enough to have contact details on people, or any number of the hundreds of demographic, psychographic, contextual, social and behavioral overlays that may be available, we also need analytics power.

Recent research from The Winterberry Group underscores this point: data is now an $11 billion business in America, and that includes analytics services revenue. I recall an unofficial guestimate of a $2 billion data market back in the early 1990s, when that meant a North American directory of 30,000 plus response and compiled lists available for rental and exchanges.

Next month, the Data Innovators Group will host its annual Data Innovator of the Year Award dinner in New York. This year’s honoree is Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp (now owned by Acxiom), who says his mission “to connect data to every marketing application.” And so it shall be… Soon.

But who is going to all make it work? Let’s welcome the data marketer and the data scientists and strategists they employ.

Still, too many brands keep customer data in siloes. And while responsibly using offline data with online data is fast coming down the pike, marketing organizations need people in place who can help clients navigate the brave new world of data management platforms, data quality strategies, programmatic media exchanges, big data and small data, and all the algorithms that drive this important “stuff” often in real time. A list sale exists largely no more. Instead data is a pathway to opportunity, a challenge overcome, by way of a data-to-insights-to-strategy recommendation, and a discipline for testing and data quality that leads brands (and their agencies and data marketer partners) to succeed.

It’s more difficult than ever to be a successful data marketer, but our field is producing the partners that businesses, brands and chief marketing officers need. Now if we could just go find a few.

Thank you to the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association for enabling my participation at its recent “Meet the Masters” event. Ryan Lake (Lake Group Media), Mark Rickard (Rickard Squared) and Rob Sanchez (Merit Direct) are three CEOs of data marketing organizations who have a few suggestions on where we can all go to look.