E-communication underlines the need for greater control of the Campaign Management cycle

The growth of the internet has implications on both sides of the data-driven communications equation. On the one hand, it provides an exciting and convenient medium for delivering a message to customers and prospective customers. On the other, it presents a channel for data collection that makes possible concepts that were only hypothetical in the past.

The beginning of the 1990s saw the introduction of data to drive variations in customer magazines and newsletters across a variety of media channels, bringing lifestyle “versionalisation” and reader personalization.

However, in all of these cases the systems that drove them relied upon pre-selection and qualification of the data. The influence of the internet imposes new complexities to the concept of the strategic cycle.

In a traditional, tactical direct marketing scenario, you can start with planning a campaign, which will generate a response, which, in turn can then be analysed (even a zero response can be analysed!). This analysis of the performance of the communication can then be used to fine-tune the communication strategy for the future, and so the process continues. One needs to imagine this in 3-D, more of a spiral than a circle, because, if all turns out well, the initiative will be moving the enterprise forward while the strategic cycle turns.

The key element here is control. The introduction of the campaign to the marketplace is controlled: The marketer knows when this has been done; and the expectation of response is controlled, because the execution of a campaign will generate response over which the marketer has control in terms of channel and timing.

The internet has imposed new, reduced timescales between those points in time when the relationship is measured and tested or where opportunities for collecting, verifying or qualifying information are encountered. Previously, the direct marketer could establish when a mailing or phone call was executed and within some degree of control anticipate when a response would be generated. Access to the web has reduced this element of control. A marketer can no longer engineer when a contact may encounter his message, proposition or brand. One now has to consider the implications of both broader data source opportunities and communication media. With the web and the attendant swing toward a demand-led marketing environment, with its greater customer expectation of availability, the response is no longer controlled, and your strategy must account for that factor.

For years marketers strove for one-to-one relationships relying on the traditional tactical spiral model discussed above, and its success has been commendable within the context of the available techniques. New concepts, tools and expertise now help deliver an outcome that is closer to the vision. The development of the web has coincided with an increased awareness of the availability of data within organizations and the appearance of new, intuitive data analysis tools, employing techniques that provide for the derivation of information and the definition and interpretation of patterns within timeframes conducive to achieving the required dynamics.

As companies seek to integrate their suppliers, their customers and their marketing partners in complex relationship structures, new quantities of data are becoming accessible for exchange and sharing, and the value of the data as a corporate asset is increasing.

The income of inquiries, web site hits, new data, business intelligence and market data can have a real-time effect on the way the strategy proceeds, and so the strategic cycle becomes more complex. The marketer must now be prepared for uncontrolled response arriving from customers and prospective customers drawn to or discovering the company’s web site. Similarly, as new information is acquired internally into the data warehouse from, say, the accounts system or externally from suppliers of market information and competitive intelligence, the data has to be analysed and its value to the strategy interpreted and used to automate variations in the strategy. This ensures relevance of message, continuity of relationship and maximal effectiveness of any marketing communication, getting ever closer to the “holy grail” of real one-to-one marketing.

The strategic cycle, therefore, takes on new elements, to account for the uncontrolled data entering the process and the need for aligning its value to the strategy and translating it into rapid response in terms of proposition and delivery of a communication.

The sheer wealth of information available now flowing from the web, the ability to identify and acquire it and the tools now available to manage it in all its varying formats and structures all mean that disparate data, wherever it may reside, can be made available to add qualification, enhancement or verification to a marketer’s database. The natural corollary to that is a keener degree of customer profiling and targeting, a greater level of personalisation of message, proposition and presentation, resulting in improved marketing effectiveness and efficiency.

The Power Of an MBA (Market Basket Analysis)

Businesses can find tremendous benefits from analysing the vast amounts of data they collect finding hidden nuggets of information among their data, once they know how to go through it systematically and leverage the effect on profitability.

In practice, all too often marketers are concerned with using data to drive promotion, but true insight into customers has impact on all the elements of the marketing mix.

The knowledge to be derived out of customer data can be used outside the selling or marketing communications environment. Knowing what products different types of customers prefer is fundamental in planning range, in stock control and in driving cross-selling or up-selling opportunities. Being able to compose and analyse the combination of products that customers buy, either at one visit or over time, will enable the marketer not only to determine how best to develop the business with those customers, but, by extrapolating this information, estimate the buying potential amongst the remainder of the customer base.

The often-cited (and some say apocryphal) “beer and nappies” story is an illustration of what can be achieved. Those that don’t know the story can read it at www.dmcounsel.co.uk. A notable example of this concept took place in a Spanish airport duty free shop. Analysis of the EPOS data showed a significant trend of purchases that comprised solely either brandy and cigars or whisky and cigarettes. When the airport data was matched by flight number (remember, each duty free sale has the passenger’s flight number on the transaction record) it became apparent that the first transaction type related to passengers en route to Germany and the second type related to passengers with the UK as their destination. What was also noted was that these purchases were all made within 10-15 minutes of the scheduled departure time for the respective flights. This meant that people were passing through the shop quickly at the last moment, just picking up the two most important items on their shopping list.

The management therefore put sales points for the respective combinations of products actually in the gate area for the German and UK flights, thus generating incremental sales amongst the passengers who really felt they had no time to make a purchase at the shop.

This type of analysis is certainly not the exclusive domain of duty-free shops, supermarkets or Amazon.com (we’ve all encountered their ‘people who have read this book have also bought this other book’).

If a company can identify a customer as having purchased a product then market basket analysis such as was applied here can deliver cross-sale opportunities by making the right proposition in communications, positioning complementary products together on the shop floor or on the website or catalogue page or driving the pitch made by a telephone sales agent.

You can use such techniques to determine the real cost of being out of stock of key items and the implications on supply chain. But, by combining market basket analysis with customer profiling, you unleash powerful techniques that can generate significant increases in sales.