Data Fusion delivers the “Why” Chromosome In Customer Management

When considering the uses of a database for marketing, the issues go far beyond the realms of purely direct marketing. There is a role for the database in supporting most elements of the marketing mix. Advertising can benefit from the profiling of the database to determine the tone of voice of copy, the image of the characters in TV commercials or press ad photography and the media selected to carry the ad. Similarly, market research can be segmented and directed to profiled individuals so that more robust samples can be constructed. The database can assist in product development, the management and motivation of a sales force or channel of distribution and in sales promotion.

However, as we have seen in this column in previous issues of Review the integration of data into data warehouses or data marts for marketing analysis means that the elements of the marketing mix can contribute as much to the database as the database benefits those elements. Knowing who has bought what product, when and in response to which campaign, through what communication channel and with which payment method is very useful. We can understand the “Who”, “What”, “When” and “How” that were behind the customer action. What if we were able to add the “Why” factor – the psychographical element that establishes true differential between customers. Why does a customer remain loyal? Why does the customer value the relationship with the company? Why does the customer maintain a dialogue with a preferred supplier?

The same techniques that have brought about the expansion of data warehousing have facilitated the use of data fusion, the process by which marketing research data can be introduced into the marketing database and matched to customers and prospects so that the complete view can be established.

Whether the marketing research is bespoke to the marketer or is syndicated or publicly available, the ability to match it in to the customers either by direct personal identifier or by segment or cluster, behavioural type or demographics can permit the extrapolation of the research factors right across the marketing database.

This means that response by a representative panel of customers or prospects to questions regarding key purchase considerations, performance indicators or customer expectation levels can be levied right across the database to help derive more intense customer profiles and establish the key differentiators between clusters previously considered similar.

Knowing a customer’s expectations in terms of quality of product and service, preferred channels and extent of communication and preferred promotional activity can enable marketers to tune services and propositions to meet perceived customer needs. Knowing how the company matches up to these expectations provides an important new dimension to customer relationship management which, if acted upon, will result in customers that feel valued and are likely spend more and be increasingly loyal.

Whilst scoring techniques such as compiling recency, frequency and value quotients give an important basis on which to determine segmentation, it does not necessarily demonstrate loyalty. Customers will find their own level of relationship with the company and cannot be forced to assume a closer one.

There is nothing to say that a customer at the left end of the spectrum is any more loyal than the customer at the right end. The fact is they may be both equally loyal but view the relationship differently, both equally satisfied. The customer who expects everything, however, may end up being less profitable than the other extreme, since the level of communication may will be greater for perhaps an equal (or even lesser) amount of sales activity. Hence the need to understand the customer attitudes and aspirations to establish the performance indicators that mean the company can gauge if they are getting it right.

The actual data fusion process requires an understanding of the data that will contribute to the analysis universe. This will normally start with the company’s house database of customers and prospects. The data will need appraisal and a high level audit to ensure that it is fit-for-purpose and to highlight any issues concerning data quality or integrity that may affect the creation of the survey panels and eventually the outcome of the analysis.

An initial round of data analysis to establish customer segmentation and profiles for the research would then need to be undertaken. Often this will entail constructing purchase value or product profiles and the introduction of external qualification data such as demographics or lifestyle information, to help establish the segments for research. Then it is just a matter of running extracts of the data that meet the profile requirements for the research panels; remember, the research will normally be far more meaningful if applied to segmented panels rather than solely right across the database. These extracts can then be used to create representative samples, output as:

–         Call lists for telephone research

–         Mailing lists for postal research

–         E-mail lists for electronic questionnaires

In each case the segment reference is maintained against the customer record and the response process designed to make the loading of the responses as easy as possible.

Having carried out the research, the raw response data can then be matched back to the database, with response outcome extrapolated throughout. Once complete, the database can then be analysed using the analysis tools I have discussed in this column previously, to follow train-of –thought exploration and data mining discovery techniques to identify the latent trends, opportunities and threats.

 This technique can address some of the key business imperatives uppermost in the minds of marketers:

 –        The need to know more about their customers

–        How to identify and protect against churn

–        Direction for business growth

–        Areas where customer service needs improvement

–        Pinpointing the opportunities for cross sell and up sell

 The company can be in a stronger position to increase sales to current customers, improving customer retention and loyalty and to find new customers that match the best customers already on file. Similarly, by profiling prospective customers, the research findings can be applied from the very inception of the relationship, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the prospect conversion process. In both cases, the company can see increase in turnover, a reduction in prospecting costs and maximisation of the efficiency of the marketing budget, meaning more to bottom line profit.

The combination of research and database analysis will also provide the basis for development of new products and identification of new markets and can be a key factor behind maintaining and increase market share. It will provide a competitive edge that not only helps prevent market share erosion but also assist in gaining rapid share of new markets.

 Last, but by no means least, the ability to carry out the data fusion process and regularly refresh it provides a powerful measurement tool to assess the effectiveness of marketing initiatives.

Turbocharge automotive marketing

The key to building insight about automotive customers and prospects lies in bringing together everything you know about them. This can reveal the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ but what if you were able to add the ‘why’ factor?

 To achieve this you must also include attitudes and aspirations that drive their purchase decisions.

 Consider the scenario where information acquired through tracking response and behaviour is matched to the researched view of attitudes and aspirations to create profiles. The outcome can then be used to create communication strategies to ensure no opportunity is lost and the customer or prospect is always directed towards the best next action, driving relevant, targeted communications.

 A good example of this occurred when consulting for an automotive manufacturer. A list of potential customers for a new mid-range car was tested and ostensibly, the profiles absolutely matched the positioning of the model to be sold. However, research revealed their preference for a pre-owned luxury car with personalised plates to disguise the age of the car, as they could not afford their ideal car new. So a new mid-range car proposition would have been totally irrelevant and failed.

 Such insight can also be used to determine how best to move customer relationships forward or flag danger signs. Does recent action (or inaction) indicate possible churn? Has an enquiry been exceptionally different to all those before? Are they approaching a milestone in their relationship with the company?

 Similarly with prospects – insight can help in directing their passage through the ‘prospect funnel’ and reduce the number that are normally haemorrhaged on the way through.

When is a prospect not a prospect? When they are purely a suspect (or at least have a pulse)!

Just think how leads come into your business.

Unlike traditional marketing where specific, targeted campaigns generate a qualified response, today a company’s broad presence on the web can mean that response is uncontrolled and is not necessarily representative of a valid lead for your sales operation. Potential customers today go online to research products and services, review recommendations and compare prices. This means an initial enquiry may not generate a sale for a considerable time and the enquirer can only be viewed as a ‘suspect’ – not even a prospect. 

So, once a ‘suspect’ is acquired, a relationship must be created to establish qualification and evaluate and build on the potential until such time as the lead is ready to be passed to sales. But what constitutes a ‘sales-ready’ lead? This is a strategic decision to be agreed upon between sales and marketing. Remember, it may vary by type of prospect, by product or market.

This ‘pre-sales’ process is known as Lead Nurturing and involves scheduled time or event driven communications aimed at establishing the prospect’s needs and delivering soft sell support, with appropriate messaging, landing pages, tracking and measurement.

These communications can take the form of blogs, newsletters, thought-leading statements and tailored, personalised messages, normally delivered via e-mail marketing techniques or social media.

Insight into the behaviour demonstrated by different profiles of suspects, prospects and customers will enable a company to build a lead nurturing strategy that ensures as many as enquire turn into customers or repeat purchasers as possible. The strategy also controls the level of resource used to convert the sale, meaning improved ROI.