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?

It’s OK to Hate Data

There’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers. If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

A little secret about Target Marketing: Our data content gets less traffic than just about any other topic we regularly cover.

Clearly, that doesn’t stop us from covering the data-driven side of marketing. In fact, I think some of our best contributors write about data. But there’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers.

If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

Good Good ... Let the Data flow through you.Big data, small data, first-party data, third-party data … it can take the people element out of marketing.

I was at Ad:Tech New York last week and caught the session “Your Data Might Be Crap, But Is It Fertilizer?” Mark Donatelli from Ogilvy moderated a conversation with data-driven marketing experts from the NFL, Gap Inc., Domo and Beckon.

Aidan Lyons, VP of fan experience for the NFL, had a great line: “They’re not users, they’re fans.”

What he meant was, they’re not just users, they’re not just data. Every one of those records is a real, breathing person. A fan of the NFL. Sift and sort what you know about them, and you begin to spot groups with things in common. These are niches in your market who you can target with messaging and experiences.

Most of our readers can get into that. Once you have people to talk to, you’re back in the game most marketers signed up to play.

But not everyone can see those people in the numbers, the data, even at a persona level.

And that’s OK, because not everyone has to. There are a multitude of tools, agencies, consultants and data scientists who can help boil the data down to something marketers can work with.

New Directions for B-to-B Data-driven Marketing

Okay, we’re in the maelstrom. But what is on the horizon for data-driven marketing? Here are some predictions, culled from interviews with several very bright observers who contributed to my new book, “B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results.”

For us B-to-B marketers, the world is changing about as fast as we can stand. My head spins at the speed with which new tools, applications and approaches arrive on the scene. Where does this all come from? The Internet, of course, whose impact on business buying behavior has changed the game. As a platform for communications, for selling, for just about every element of the marketing arsenal, it is forcing marketers to think more carefully about customer and prospect data.

Okay, we’re in the maelstrom. But what is on the horizon for data-driven marketing? Here are some predictions, culled from interviews with several very bright observers who contributed to my new book, B2B Data-Driven Marketing: Sources, Uses, Results.

  1. More power and influence for marketing:
    The sales function has traditionally held the primary B-to-B revenue responsibility, leaving marketers with a history of frustration at their exclusion from a seat at the senior executive table. That is changing fast, as new tools and measurable communications techniques enable marketing not only to demonstrate financial results, but to take on revenue responsibility. “Salespeople are no longer the only rainmakers,” says Thad Kahlow, CEO of the digital agency BusinessOnLine. “Marketers today have serious revenue targets hanging over their heads.”
  1. B-to-C provides the inspiration:
    B-to-B marketing is rarely the leader in advancing data-driven marketing techniques. But it is adept at watching and taking up the new ideas from consumer marketers that apply to business buying, observes David Myron, editorial director at CRM magazine. One example is experiments with unstructured data, like that from social media, where consumer marketers are making headway. B-to-B marketers will likely search and analyze nuggets not only from social media but also from phone conversation content and email content, to identify buying intent, competitive interest and other actionable insights.
  1. The end of the database “build:”
    Digital marketers today are taking greater advantage of “real-time” data, delivering immediate responses to interactive behaviors between customer and marketer. Increasingly, the ability to manage such data points efficiently will make the traditional marketing database too stagnant and unresponsive to be useful. We are not there yet—the idea is still experimental. But the “always-on” future is beginning to be visible, where your storefront is always available for any kind of customer interaction.
  1. A simpler technology picture:
    Most marketing technologies claim to make marketer’s lives simpler. But at this point, marketing technology has become dizzying in its complexity. In the future, says Nitin Julka, product manager at LinkedIn, more and more of the complexity of running marketing campaigns is going to be automated, in a simpler way, so that marketers can focus on what truly matters—their target audiences, buyer’s journeys, and messaging.
  1. A sensible balance between data, insight and marketing strategy:
    “You can have all kinds of customer data, and still not understand how to communicate persuasively with customers and prospects,” notes Howard J. Sewell, president of Spear Marketing Group. “Software and analytics can’t tell you the what and the why.   We need to respect and harness what the data tells us, but also put it in its place.”
  1. Data is the business:
    The appreciation among stakeholders for the importance of customer data will continue to grow. “Data isn’t something we just have stored over there,” says Frank Cutitta, CEO of the Center for Global Branding, and professor at Northeastern University. “Data is the business. Companies that understand this are ahead of their competitors.”The Internet has been with us since the early 1990s, and by now it has impacted every scrap of B-to-B marketing.   But the next stage of its evolution will be to simply go away, as a thing in itself. Digital marketing will become so mainstream that it will be called simply marketing. We will no longer make a distinction between online and offline. We will understand and interact with customer from all sides, in a seamless whole. And the data will be the enabler of that relationship.

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

3 Obstacles in the Way of B-to-B Data-driven Marketing

Ask any business marketer about the importance of data, and you’ll get plenty of good answers. “It’s essential,” they’ll say. “Data drives everything we do.” And that’s a good thing, since marketers are under increasing pressure to manage, collect and make use of data, according to a recent CMO Club/Gartner study. But in my experience, answers like this are just lip service. Most B-to-B marketers really struggle to get their arms around the reality of customer and prospect information. There are at least three obstacles standing in their way.

Of particular importance to data and data-driven marketing are these issues:

1. Inattention to Data and the Database: While most senior marketers and other executives will pay lip service to the importance of customer information, it’s rare that they understand what is in their databases, and how to maintain and improve it consistently. Neither do they invest in the resources, human or otherwise, to manage the data properly. As noted by Derek Slayton, CMO of D&B/NetProspex, “Even companies with data scientists on staff tend to ignore the nuts and bolts of minding the database itself. It’s like they have the back pain, but they aren’t doing the exercises that would keep the pain at a manageable level.”

2. Organization and Process: Taking advantage of the power of customer data requires deliberate consideration of goals and measurement systems to manage the desired outcomes of effective data management. Jim Bampos, VP of quality at EMC, recently explained in DMNews that his group transformed their organization around data to enhance the customer experience. They built a business case, established a partnership with their IT counterparts, and created a roadmap for the systems needed for data access and analytics. Bampos credits enabling technology, organizational and process changes for their success in transforming the EMC’s Total Customer Experience program.

3. Everything Old Is New Again: Database marketing, also known as data-driven marketing, is being used across the B2B go-to-market process today — but it’s very likely called something different. It may be “predictive analytics,” or “CRM,” or “Big Data,” or zillion other buzzwords. So classically trained practitioners need to go with the flow and adjust to the new vocabulary. Ken Lomasney, COO of the agency UMarketing LLC provides a handy illustration of this phenomenon. With his clients, Ken never says “marketing database.” Instead, he says “knowledge platform,” to position the tool as something that provides real value, becomes smarter over time, and comprises an important company asset. A repositioning we might all learn from.

If you are reading this article, you are already convinced of the importance of data in B-to-B sales and marketing. As Alex Kantrowitz of Advertising Age puts it, data is the “new oil” that provides insight, efficiency and scale. For this century’s marketers, it is a new form of currency that gives marketing a seat at the executive table, and the ability to drive shareholder value.

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

 

Hey, Lawmaker: Marketing Moves Today’s Commerce, and Data Moves Today’s Marketing

Members of Congress, and even the White House, seem to forget or ignore that their very own campaigns depended on the flow of information about citizens and individuals and population segments to inform their campaigns. Their respective elections prove that data and marketing in concert are very effective, especially for incumbents. Yet listen to a few among our leaders, and you’d think data-driven marketing is a consumer privacy problem begging for a government solution

I’ll start this blog off with a disclosure: I’m a member of the Direct Marketing Association, serve and have served on various DMA committees, and I count the Digital Advertising Alliance and other data-driven marketing firms among my clients. In short, my livelihood depends on data-driven marketing.

Members of Congress, and even the White House, in good measure, seem to forget or ignore that their very own elections to office depended on the flow of information about citizens and individuals and population segments to inform their campaigns. Their respective elections prove that data and marketing in concert are very effective, especially for incumbents.

Yet listen to a few among our leaders, and you’d think data-driven marketing is a consumer privacy problem begging for a government solution. How they (some of them) ignore 40+ years of self-regulation success in data-driven marketing; U.S. leadership in information technology and its data-driven marketing application (they are not coincidental); and the economic powerhouse of jobs, sales and tax revenue that is created by data exchange for marketing purposes.

Research Proves Our Case … Again
In November, DMA and its Data-Driven Marketing Institute announced “The Value of Data” Study (opens as a pdf), which documented the economic impact: The data-driven marketing economy added $156 billion in revenue to the U.S. economy that fueled more than 675,000 jobs in 2012 alone. (Importantly, the study also provides state-by-state economic impact.) The full study is available here.

This past week, DAA announced results of its own commissioned research which focused on the value of digital advertising derived from data exchange—and its comparison to general ads online. The study reported that availability of cookies to facilitate information transfer increases the average impression price paid by advertisers by 60 percent to 200 percent. Additionally, ads for which cookie-related information was available sold for three-to-seven times higher than ads without cookies. Thus, the invisible hand of the market, once again, proves data’s value. The full study is available at http://www.aboutads.info/resource/fullvalueinfostudy.pdf.

We’ve Got Work to Do … with our Lawmakers
Yet President Barack Obama and Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ed Markey (D-MA) might have Americans believe that National Security Agency surveillance of U.S. citizens, data breaches at retailers and other organizations, and data exchange to drive marketing is one big roll-up of the same issue.

We know they are not. Spying by government on its own citizens is an important civil liberty issue, and while I’m not a fan of Snowden hiding out, NSA revelations deserve a full debate on its own merits and threats. Data security extends far beyond marketing—and marketers and many lawmakers agree that we need one national data protection and breach notification standard (and not 50+1). Data-driven marketing is not a problem at all, but instead a huge boon to U.S. marketing success that depends on continued innovation and fair use of information principles, which deserves government support (or at least government staying out of the way).

Importing restrictive laws and regimes on data flows for marketing has the potential to ruin American commerce by killing relevance. At a time when consumers are becoming more skeptical of brands, the intelligent use of information to converse with consumers with resonance is a requirement of marketing smart today. Dumb marketing wastes resources, annoys consumers and frankly places us at a disadvantage globally. While culture around regions of the world is unique, I believe our sector-specific approach to privacy regulation based on consumer harm potential (credit, health, financial) is superior to omnibus privacy law (all personal data is the same) and has served our economy well. How terrible to find we have our own lawmakers who seem to fail to grasp the evidence. You can believe DMA, DAA and other advertising organizations are working hard to show policymakers the great value we create in the marketing profession.

Politicians sense moods … and read polling. In my next blog post, I’ll look at some of the perception challenges we face with consumers. Clearly, as much as consumers “consume,” marketing is not all that popular with some of them either. We have work to do with consumers, too.

Creeping Up Fast: DMA13 and Making Plans for Chicago

August 6 marked the mid-point of summer—so now we’re closer to summer’s end than summer’s beginning. It’s as if all the back-to-school advertising wasn’t enough to have us looking forward (except perhaps for schoolchildren). In the world of data-driven marketing, my mailbox reminded me this past week, too, that fall is just around the corner: I received a DMA2013 conference brochure mailer

The other day (August 6) marked the mid-point of summer—so now we’re closer to summer’s end than summer’s beginning.

It’s as if all the back-to-school advertising wasn’t enough to have us looking forward (except perhaps for schoolchildren). In the world of data-driven marketing, my mailbox reminded me this past week, too, that fall is just around the corner: I received a DMA2013 conference brochure mailer (October 12-17, McCormick Place West, Chicago). We’re eight weeks out from DMA2013, which means it’s time to start getting very serious, rather than spontaneous, in making our must-attend conference experience the best it can be. (Yes, I’m already registered—and you should be, too.)

For me, this is when I review the print brochure to dog-ear my go-to sessions based on the session titles, speakers and descriptions, and start the online process at MyDMA2013 (by Vivastream) to pinpoint an attempt at an “aspirational” schedule. I call this aspirational—let’s face it, when we get on site, business conversations inevitably happen, and diversions of all kinds are bound to take place.

However, there are some absolutes in my DMA13 calendar—and I’m hopeful you’ll agree.

1. Give Back
The first item isn’t even about DMA. It’s Marketing EDGE (formerly Direct Marketing Educational Foundation) and its Annual Awards Dinner (separate ticket required). This event has always been a go-to, but it’s also evolved to become the first, best networking opportunity for all of us as we gather at the DMA conference each year. These are the VIPs, roughly 400 leaders and future leaders in our business, and here is an organization where our proceeds bring the best and brightest into our field. What a powerful combination, and an affirmation of the future of data-driven, integrated marketing. Even if you don’t attend the conference, you can sponsor a professor’s attendance and make a donation at the aforementioned link.

2. What’s Next?
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the day after the exhibit hall closes—I tell my clients that’s when the real learning begins. What do I mean by that somewhat on-its-face silly statement? That’s when the conference attendees—folks who are real serious about learning—are in the session rooms early, taking notes, and becoming better marketing professionals during the last half-day of sessions, and the post-conference workshops and day-and-a-half certifications. On that final day of the main conference, DMA13’s Main Conference Keynote panel at 11 am (all times Central), will feature “What’s NeXt: A Look through the Lens” with Direct Marketing Hall of Famer Rance Crain of Advertising Age interviewing BlueKai and foursquare execs Omar Tawakol and Steven Rosenblatt.

3. Stand Up
I’m a member of DMA for many reasons—but certainly advocacy is one of them. A lot of my clients literally are focused day-to-day on campaign development and implementation in an omnichannel world, and often don’t dwell on the policy implications that affect it. DMA13 offers marketing execs a chance to listen in, catch up and make sure that policy—legal, ethical, best practice—is aligned with our strategy and execution, and that innovation is fostered across all media channels that customers use. Hence, I will be attending DMA President & CEO Linda Woolley’s address “Listen to the Data” (Monday, Oct. 14, 8:45 a.m.) and Spotlight Session on Privacy: “Top 5 Privacy Issues … Revealed” moderated by Ginger Conlon, editor-in-chief of DMNews, with panelists from DMA (Jerry Cerasale), Eloqua (Dennis Dayman) and LoyaltyOne (Bryan Pearson). Responsible data collection and use is clearly under threat from Washington and elsewhere—we need to stand up for ourselves.

4. Inspired and a Party, Too
What’s the best proof point about data-driven marketing’s success—worldwide? If I had the chance to grab a policymaker and make them sit down and see what data-driven marketing can do—I would make him or her attend what I’m hopeful all DMA2013 delegates will attend: the 2013 DMA International ECHO Awards Gala, “Data-Driven Marketing’s Most Important Night” (separate registration required—and well worth it, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 6:30 pm to whenever). I’ve seen a sneak peak of what’s in store for this year’s gala, and this will be not only a Chicago-size party, with a DJ and Comedian Jake Johansen as host, but also truly a celebration of courageous brands, innovative agencies and the marketing strategies, creative executions and outstanding results that leave me—and many others—inspired. Left-brain, data-driven marketing combined with right-brain creative genius—what a combination for brands in both consumer and business-to-business marketing.

That’s enough for now—with more to come. Feel free to post your DMA13 “would be” favorites for blog readers below … and by all means, get yourself and your colleagues registered if you haven’t already. Get a game plan together, the conference is coming fast!

Judging the 2013 ECHOs: A View of Data-Driven Marketing’s Best

Two weeks back, I had the opportunity to judge Rounds 1 and 2 of the ECHOs this year—and while sworn confidentiality requires me to remain mum on actual campaigns I encountered there, I want to comment on the value of judging itself, from my perspective as a public relations practitioner in our field. The ECHOs have been around a long time—since 1929 to be exact. But what really makes me excited to see the campaigns as a judge each year, is that they represent agencies’ and brands’ self-selected choices on what they consider to be award-winning and innovative work

This past year, I had the honor of joining the Direct Marketing Association’s Board of Governors for the International ECHO Awards. That’s my disclaimer.

Two weeks back, I had the opportunity to judge Rounds 1 and 2 of the ECHOs this year—and while sworn confidentiality requires me to remain mum on actual campaigns I encountered there, I want to comment on the value of judging itself, from my perspective as a public relations practitioner in our field.

The ECHOs have been around a long time—since 1929 to be exact. But what really makes me excited to see the campaigns as a judge each year, is that they represent agencies’ and brands’ self-selected choices on what they consider to be award-winning and innovative work based on the three criteria: marketing strategy, creative and results in equal parts. 2013 is no exception. The honors—which will be announced on October 15 in Chicago—will be the world’s best in data-driven marketing. (Breaking News—comedian Jake Johanssen will be this year’s host.)

There are no longer media categories among the entrants—a reflection of how marketing has converged. Instead, channels serve as brand engagement vehicles, and what matters most is their effectiveness in design, dialogue and generating responses to calls for action—from leads, to sales, to audience engagement on a measured scale. So a direct mail piece that is entered may exist (and be judged) alongside entries that represent Web sites, search campaigns, mobile apps, call center efforts, or—most often—integrated marketing campaigns. Again what matters—and only matters—are the strategy, creative and engagement metrics that define marketing effectiveness. Both consumer and business-to-business markets are incorporated.

The categories where entrants are recognized are by industry—15 altogether. You can review the list here.

This is what being an ECHO judge tells me every year:

  1. How are brands and their agencies measuring effectiveness in data-driven marketing? What metrics have they chosen to index or communicate? How is marketing return on investment conveyed? Increasingly, marketing dashboards appear to be in use—with relevant components part of the external results story.
  2. What creative trends are in play? What constitutes break-through creative? What is the unusual and innovative? Where has risk been met with reward? And who (clients and agencies) are being the most courageous worldwide—while also being effective?
  3. How are data being collected, analyzed and—in some cases—visualized? While the entry forms this year were streamlined and don’t have as much budget information in the past—this really has served to heighten visibility on the data, analysis and segmentation techniques being deployed in the strategy.
  4. What is state-of-the-art in data-driven marketing on a global scale? This year, as always, entries were submitted through various partners and submitted to early judging in Denmark, Australia and the United States, comprising dozens of countries in nearly all continents. It is great to see how globally data-driven marketing is practiced—and the creative genius and extraordinary results achieved in both mature and less mature markets.
  5. Finally, judging happens on an individual basis—as a judge you evaluate a campaign, providing your own perspective. But the judging is a collective one—bringing together experienced peers from all over the nation and world. Once the entries and judging scores are in, we do tend to share with each other our impressions of the experience in the aggregate—and meet great people in the process.

In brief, the ECHOs are an idea store for marketing strategists, creative professionals—and the PR folks like me who support my clients in entering awards. I’ve learned not just about how to create great marketing—but how to tell the story behind great marketing. Both count when it comes to crafting an award entry that wins.

You can find out who the winners are firsthand by attending DMA2013 in Chicago, USA, this year (October 12-17, 2013). Make sure to indicate in your registration for a ticket to the ECHO Awards Gala where a separate registration is required: http://dma13.org/registration/

Come October, I’ll definitely be sharing in this blog snippets from some of my favorite campaigns this year!