The Grand Reopening of the U.S. Economy Will Happen, Plan for It

We are in uncharted territory, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

I love defaulting to optimism – even in the darkest of times. It’s been part of my survival mechanism through all sorts of crises. That being said, we are in uncharted territory in this new normal, much as we were in previous economic downturns and recessions. “The Great Recession” of 2008-2009 was largely Wall Street born and Main Street slammed. But remember, the Great Expansion followed. A possible recession stemming from COVID-19, however, would be largely reversed, with millions of livelihoods suddenly denied, and both Main Street and Wall Street being slammed in tandem. Yet, do know, another expansion will follow … eventually. There will be a grand reopening of our economy, and as marketers, we need to plan for it.

Listening to the U.S. President talk about getting parts of our country back to some semblance of normal by Easter may seem wild-eyed and some might say irresponsible. In reality, China is reportedly already back on line – after six-to-eight weeks of paralysis. Does this mean a possible “V-shaped” recession (very short), a “U-shaped” one (mild), or an “L-shaped” one (long term)? We don’t know.

It’s always dangerous to make prognostications, but we can learn from patterns elsewhere in the virology. With the United States now the most afflicted nation in sickness, we yet have a massive fight ahead to control viral spread. And doubt and fear have taken hold as two debacles have come about, one public health and one economic.

Unfortunately, there is no “on/off” switch for the viral crisis. Even when its spread is curtailed, which will happen, we’ve been shaken and edginess is going to remain. That’s only human.

Patterns of consumption will not resume as if nothing happened. Unemployment shocks will not reverse as easily as they came. So there will be a “new” normal.

However, a reopening is coming. You might say that’s my optimism, but folks – we are going to be okay in a time. It may not be of our choosing, as Dr. Fauci faithfully reports, but one that will be here nonetheless. As marketers, let’s get ready for it.

Look to Your Data to Prepare for What’s Next

Recessions are actually good times to look to the enterprise and get customer data “cleaned up.” The early 90s recession gave us CRM, and database marketing flourished. The end of the Internet 1.0 boom in 2000 brought data discipline to digital data. And the Great Recession brought data to the C-suite.

So let’s use this time to do a data checkup. Here are four opportunities:

  1. Data audits are often cumbersome tasks to do – but data governance is a “must” if we want to get to gain a full customer view, and derive intelligent strategies for further brand engagement. Quality needs to be the pursuit. Replacing cookie identification also is a priority. Understand all data sources to “upgrade” for confidence, accuracy, privacy, and permissions.
  2. March 15 might be a good date to do an A/B split with your customer data inputs – pre-virus and during-virus. What new patterns emerged in media, app usage, mobile use and website visits? Are you able to identify your customers among this traffic? If not, that’s a data and tech gap that needs to be closed.
  3. Customer-centricity or data silos? It’s always a good time to tear down that silo and integrate the data, yet sometimes healthy economic growth can mask this problem. Use the recessions to free up some time to actually get the work done.
  4. Test new data and identity solution vendors to increase match rates across your omnichannel spectrum – to better create a unified view of audiences, both prospects and customers. I’ve already seen one of my clients come up with a novel offer to analyze a subset of unidentified data to drive a substantive lift in matches.

As we work remotely, it’s important to understand that this current state of crisis is not a permanent state. Only once the virus is conquered, on its weaknesses not ours, can we really have any timetable to resume the economy. That being the health science, it just makes great business sense now to “stage” your data for that eventual Grand Reopening.

Understand and Optimize the Value of (Third-Party) Data for ’Growth’

With DMA’s &Then18 in Las Vegas taking place this past week, I may report that the transformation from “direct marketing” to “data-driven marketing” is complete, and that the disruption of marketing overall, in all its forms, continues to accelerate. Third-party data, for growth, is a marketing trend we’ll discuss here, too.

With DMA’s &Then18 in Las Vegas taking place this past week, I may report that the transformation from “direct marketing” to “data-driven marketing” is complete, and that the disruption of marketing overall, in all its forms, continues to accelerate. Third-party data, for growth, is a marketing trend we’ll discuss here, too.

DMA, a division of Association of National Advertisers, now represents mastery in “Data Marketing & Analytics” and the conference curricula certainly emphasized the present and future of data-inspired marketing. No time for tears and nostalgia, we all have work to do. Yes, direct marketing has provided the foundation and discipline for data-driven marketing to flourish — testing, measurement, accountability — but with the speed, sources and size of data, it’s clearly a new day.

Brands (ANA) are now firmly focused on data and measurement (ANA’s ownership of DMA). As one big family, the conference opened with a hefty statement from ANA President & CEO Bob Liodice and DMA Group Executive VP Tom Benton about why all this matters: “Growth.”

If we’re not disrupting, we’re being disrupted — and probably we’re being disrupted, anyway. Growth does not belong to the hesitant. Still, being agile doesn’t mean being foolish, it means being “fuelish” — understanding the data you have and acting on the insights data, the fuel, presents. Perhaps this is good reason why Bonin Bough served as emcee for the conference. His in-your-face energy reflects the energy in Data Marketing & Analytics that must be unleashed for desired business outcomes to be achieved.

It’s not so easy.

Data sits in silos. Enterprises have legacy systems. New marketing technology doesn’t easily interact with these systems, if at all. Data goes stale. Data isn’t trusted. Quality may be elusive. Integration raises conflicts. And well-meaning but ill-advised privacy regimes, as public policy, could tank responsible data flows.

Use Data Wisely, Responsibly and With Confidence

One focus in programming was a needed one: how to make sure brands access and use data with confidence.

Matt Tipperreiter, senior product strategy director at Experian Marketing Services, presented an enterprising perspective on “data4good.” This was not about social good and cause marketing. It was about providing a professional approach to pursue quality, actionability and best for first-party data management, third-party data sourcing, identity profiles and single customer view, campaign and media activation. I’ve included this image that speaks to this helpful construct.

DMA talks third-party data for growth
Photo taken at DMA, a division of ANA &Then 2018 Conference, Experian Marketing Services Talks Data4Good. | Credit: Chet Dalzell by Experian Marketing Services

Another panel included data experts from Alliant, Dun & Bradstreet, FCB Chicago, LiveRamp and Stirista — which examined third-party data, in particular. [Disclosure: I have a client relationship with two of these companies.]

Of late, brands have expressed some concern with their planned use of both online and third-party data. In research from the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, “The CMO Survey,” nearly 12 percent report they are likely to decrease third-party data use in the coming two years — while six in 10 will maintain a steady commitment. If brands and businesses are truly committed to growth — as ANA and DMA maintain — then they must not abandon reliance on third-party data. All the first-party data in the world cannot provide a whole view of the customer — at least one that can enable smarter decisions about audience targeting and understanding.

“The customer must be the central focus — not the data, not the technology,” said Josh Blacksmith, SVP, General Manager — CRM, FCB Chicago. While brands are sacred, the audience is more sacred.

I’ve maintained that without third-party data, customer growth in an efficient manner is much less likely. So it is imperative that data providers tackle brand safety and brand confidence concerns with third-party data for growth — which is most often tackled through data due diligence, testing and proof of concepts, and a commitment to data quality.

‘Data Label’ Me Transparent

Right on cue, another panel explored the new data labeling initiative by ANA (DMA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab, among others. Currently, the marketplace is being asked to provide comment on the proposed label [label sample available at the link] that the working group has put forward. The goal is to increase transparency as to the source of commercially available data, and to give an apples-to-apples view for such data.

Finally, making the greatest business case for data marketing and analytics expertise is showcased in this year’s ANA International ECHO Awards. Congratulations are in order for all this year’s finalists and winners. DMA members have access to a brief synopsis of each winning campaign, but anyone is free to read of them online here.

The next ECHO Awards presentation is slated for the next ANA Data Marketing & Analytics conference, March 2, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. See you there!

A Data Quality Strategy: On Everyone’s Wish List

There’s a granddaddy in AdTech that all too often gets lost in our fascination with what’s new — to everyone’s peril: data quality (DQ).

Data DrivenThere’s a granddaddy in AdTech that all too often gets lost in our fascination with what’s new — to everyone’s peril: data quality (DQ).

One would think when Big Data comes together with contact data; when offline and online data are integrated; when algorithm performance and CMO dashboards and marketing automation triggers all become vitally important; when unstructured meets structured information in the customer file; when customer centricity, preference and engagement become priority; and when we hold up the marketing databases as the center of customer truth, that DQ would demand its rightful place atop enterprise and brand investment.

Well, finally, perhaps it has.

Data Quality StrategyI appreciate eMarketer — and Experian, Loudhouse Research, and Ascend2 — giving this topic necessary attention.

Veterans of customer relationship management, database marketing, segmentation and attribution models, and the like have well understood that a data-driven marketing strategy is useless without a data quality strategy as its lead component. Everything hinges on clean, accurate, timely data.

We all may know the shibboleths and variations: garbage-in, garbage-out; what you don’t know can hurt you; collect what you need and nothing more. It’s incumbent on all of us to recognize that as we crave the right data of our prospects and customers, we need to be able to stage, parse, score and correct it — before we analyze, apply and move it into the customer file.

Is your current data quality strategy keeping up? Take some time to read up on data quality software solutions in the marketplace. Gartner offers this periodic report (just announced 2016 report for sale here – its 2015 report freely available here); Forrester’s version (December 2015) is freely available through Oracle here. These reports offer expert observations on marketplace application and trends.

And I wish for everyone clean data this holiday season — and a data quality strategy every day of the year.

6 Thorny Data Problems That Vex B-to-B Marketers, and How to Solve Them

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

  1. Data entered by our sales people ends up as mush. They don’t follow the rules; or there are no rules. That may be okay for the rep, but it’s not okay for the company.
    Here’s the best practice: Create a centralized data input group. Train and motivate them well. Give them objective rules to follow. Develop a simple method for testing the accuracy from this group as an ongoing practice. If this group cannot follow the rules, then the rules should be re-evaluated.

    Then, develop a very simple process by which reps pass their data to this group. Dedicate particular group members to certain reps, so the input person builds experience about rep’s behavior and communication style. The bonus: these two parties will team, build a valuable relationship, work together well, and improve data quality.

    Consider enabling the data input group with a real-time interface with a database services provider to prompt the standard company name and address. This can be an expensive, but very helpful, tool.


  2. How do I match and de-duplicate customer records effectively?
    Some approaches to consider:
    • Establish—and enforce—data governing rules to improve data entry, which will keep your matching problems under some semblance of control.
    • Find a solid software vendor with a tool specifically designed to parse, cleanse and otherwise do the matching for you. Test a few vendors to find the one that works best with your data.
    • Create a custom matching algorithm. As a place to start, ask several match/merge companies to show you examples of the results of their algorithm against your data.
  3. When data elements conflict in my house file, how do I decide which is the “truth”?
    The short answer is: by date. The most recent data is the one you should default to.

    But also keep in mind when importing data to enhance your records that appended data will always have its limitations, and is best viewed as directional, versus real “truth.” Be careful not to build targeting or segmentation processes that are primarily dependent on appended data.

    You could consider conducting an audit to validate the quality of your various append sources. (This is usually done by telephone, and it’s not cheap.) Then you can add a score to each appended element, based on its source, to manage the risk of relying on any particular element.

  4. Which corporate address should I put in my database? There’s the legal address and the financial (banking) address, which may be different. Or there may be a street address and a P.O. box address. Equifax and D&B often supply the financial address. The address to receive proxies is different from the address to receive advertising mail. How should I sort all this out?
    As a marketer, your concern is delivery. You care about a bill to and a ship to. Focus on the address where mail and packages are delivered.
  5. Measuring the impact of each touch in our omnichannel world is driving us nuts. Any ideas?
    The attribution problem has heated up recently, fueled by the rise of digital marketing. But it’s really nothing new. The traditional attribution methods of assigning the credit have long been either the first touch (the inquiry source medium) or the last touch (the channel through which the lead was either qualified or converted to a sale). Marketers are in general agreement today as to the deficiencies of either of these traditional methods.

    Digital marketers are experimenting with various approaches to the attribution problem, like weighting touches based on stage or role in the buying process, or by the type of touch—attending a two-hour seminar being weighted more heavily than a content download.

  6. How should I handle unstructured data, like social media content. All this “big data” stuff is getting bigger, and meaner, every day.
    User-generated social media content may offer valuable insights into customer needs and issues. But marketers first must think through how they will use the information to drive business results. First you must develop a use case. Then, you must develop a way to attribute the information to a record. For example, one method to allow the match is collecting multiple cookies to find an email address or other identifier. There may be situations where you want to track sentiment without attributing it to a particular customer but to a group, like large companies versus small. In either case, we suggest that you test the value of the data before you put a lot of time and money into capturing it in your marketing database.

You can find more thorny data issues and solutions in our new whitepaper, available for free download. Please submit your issues in the comments section here, and we’ll be happy to suggest some solutions.

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

Take Command of Marketing Data Governance—Because We Have To

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern. I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it).

The emergence of “big data” as an enterprise concern for many businesses and organizations is, as with most trends, both an opportunity and a concern.

I recently was involved in reviewing new and recent Aberdeen Research on “Big Data”—how it is defined, how it is changing information volume (astounding in quantity), variety (both structured and unstructured, with tremendous pressure to integrate and make sense of it), and velocity (pushing the insight, analytics and business rules that flow from such data to lines of business that can best profit from it). An infographic that captures some of this research is now posted at Mason Zimbler, a Harte-Hanks Company, which created the visual presentation.

Alongside this current fascination and business trend, perhaps it’s not surprising that members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, also are posing questions at the marketing business as to how we collect, buy/sell, rent and exchange data about consumers online and offline, and if there is adequate notice and choice in the process. In the rush to capitalize on Big Data, we need to ensure that we’re collecting and using marketing data for marketing purposes only, and doing so in a manner that is respectful of fair information practices principles and ultimately serves the end-customer, be it consumer or business individual or enterprise. [See Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA: http://markey.house.gov/content/letters-major-data-brokers.]

All too often, privacy adherence is considered a legal matter, or an information technology matter—but I maintain that while these two business areas are important in respecting consumer privacy, it is marketers who have the most to gain (and lose) by smart (or insensitive) information practices. Data is our currency, and we must treat data (our customers as data subjects) as our primary asset to protect. Our method of marketing is in the balance. One or two major privacy mishaps can spoil it for everyone.

Of course, marketing data governance is far more than privacy compliance. Data quality, data integrity, data security, data integration, data validation and data flows within an enterprise all, too, are part of marketing data’s customer intelligence equation. It is in this spirit that the Direct Marketing Association recently introduced its newest certification program for professionals: “The Institute for Marketing Data Governance and Certification,” taught by marketing veteran Peg Kuman, who is vice chair at Relevate Group. The three-day course, which has launched on a two-year, multiple-city tour, is indispensable in understanding how multiple channels, multiple data sources and platforms, customer expectations and business objectives combine to command better understanding, tools and processes for data handling for smart integrated marketing. Forthcoming course dates and registrations are available here: http://www.dmaeducation.org/dm-essentials/marketing_data_governance.php

For three days last month in New York, approximately two dozen professionals from large and small enterprises, both commercial and nonprofit, attended the first seminar. I, too, attended. There were representatives from marketing, public relations, analytics, legal, IT and fundraising, representing brands, agencies and service providers. This group was engaged—providing examples, asking questions and reporting experiences as the curriculum moved along. (For those who don’t know Peg—a former client of mine—she is quite the facilitator.)

Alongside a workbook, I took home some great handouts, too:

  • A sample security policy; a sample information security vulnerability assessment;
  • A security due diligence questionnaire;
  • A sample vendor risk management program vendor questionnaire;
  • The latest copy of the DMA Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice (recently updated with new email append guidelines, by the way) and a bevy of news articles that captures the media’s and public policymakers’ current attention on consumer data in America.

The meat of the course tackled, among other topics:

  • Categorizing data and assigning priority and sensitivity (personally identifiable information, sensitive data and other categories);
  • Mapping data flows and interactions with customers; enhancing data with appended information, and ensuring its use for marketing only;
  • Having a data quality strategy as part of a data strategy;
  • Calculating return on data investment;
  • The emergence of digital, mobile and social data platforms, and how these present both structured and unstructured data collection and insight analysis challenges;
  • Assigning data “ownership”;
  • Calculating and assigning risk regarding security;
  • Monitoring security, investigating potential incidents of a breach, and handling a response to a breach were it to occur (using recent breach response examples of LinkedIn and Epsilon); as well as
  • Laws, ethics and best practices for all of these areas.

One of my concerns is the importation of European-style privacy protection in America, and current fascination with such protections by U.S. regulators and elected officials. That is worth another blog post in itself, but I can assure you that we need to educate politicians about the superiority of self and peer regulation where no consumer harm exists.

Thank you, DMA. Marketing data does not harm. It only creates consumer choice, commerce, jobs and (tax) revenue—and pays for the Internet and other media, too—and it is ridiculous to even entertain government-knows-better regulation of such information through a potential omnibus law in America, or other notions such as a government-mandated “privacy by design” requirement in marketing innovations. (On the other hand, I’m more than happy to see laws pass that protect Americans from potential government abuse of private sector marketing data—Big Brother should not be getting access to marketing data for non-marketing purposes, unless there is a demonstrable greater public good, where subpoenas are served and heard.) Privacy by design is smart business, but only when left to the innovators, not the policymakers.

Which brings me to close—and if you’re still reading this, I congratulate myself for not chasing you away. Big Data (which can incorporate far more than marketing data) goes hand-in-hand with marketing data governance. Whether a Big Data user or not, we all use marketing data everyday as our currency. Protect it. Respect it. Serve it. Govern it. So we can use it.