Who I Am Is Less Important Than What I Do: Identifying the ‘Right Data’

What data is important to your data-driven marketing? It’s the central question of our age. Modern marketers who are able to determine the key elements of data that make a difference in response, ROI, and business performance are the ones who will earn a market advantage. The good news is that automation software can help you make the right decision.

First, a quiz. What data is important to the ultimate goal of right message, right person, right time?

A. Gender
B. Household location
C. Presence of children
D. None of the above

The right answer is “D.” Who I am is less important than what I do. When we select the data that is most important to achieving our key business indicators (KPIs), we must focus on the data that drives the next action – hopefully the one that we are nurturing, or that moves the relationship to a richer, more interactive, and profitable place. How many times do we hear from customers (or say ourselves), “They think I’m a man!” or “They think that just because I have kids that all I buy is children’s stuff!”? (Put aside the fact that consumers gleefully boast when they think they’ve fooled a company about their identity or preferences.) In fact, it doesn’t matter if the person has children; what’s important is that I research, share, purchase, or demonstrate intent to buy children’s stuff.

Most customers are people, with a personal life and a business life and a digital life – all mixed together in a crazy, modern goulash. We are all multi-dimensional. So at any given time, one customer might fit into several buying behaviors. How can marketers keep up, and stay relevant?

The relevancy sweet spot is the intersection of “the customer cares” and “what the marketer has to say.” With multiple consumer behaviors and thousands of marketing offers, the matrix of what is right for right now in this particular channel gets to be a complex matrix. This is where automation tools can be very helpful.

As everyone in B2B well knows, scoring is a methodology for ranking potential customers in terms of readiness to purchase. There are typically three factors to a score – fit, interest, and buying intent. In the past, someone seriously looking to buy and someone just surfing around the web looked the same to the marketing database. Sophisticated scoring has changed all that. However, be careful. Interest is not enough. Interest is passive engagement. It requires some sort of spark to bring behavior up to the buying level. Buying intent is active engagement. It’s when you see a customer behaving with buying intent that you put the offer in front of her, or send her to the sales team.

The key is being able to detect the behaviors that matter from those that don’t matter. Someone with a very low score, perhaps even her first visit to your site, if she takes an action that really signals buying intent, should be escalated to an immediate buying action – give her the commerce button or call her right away. Don’t wait. Emailing the offer or calling three days later will miss out to competitors, or encourage lethargy.

Buying intent can be varied for your business. Even sharing content could signal buying intent, in both B2B and B2C. Plus, social has the power to get the people you know to share your content with the people you don’t know. Intent could also be a combination of actions in a certain timeframe. Reviewing 10+ pages of product info and downloading a white paper may signal intent, while just downloading the white paper off an email promotion will not. Similarly, a visit to online product pages just after a catalog purchase may be a sign of intent. Recency raises the score.

A challenge is moving people from anonymity to known status. However, automation tools today are adept at tracking actions in the anonymous phase, so that when something occurs that is so compelling that people fill in the form, sign up for email, and otherwise introduce themselves, then all that collected back data lights up.

The more data you have, the more tempting it is to use it all. However, this is a quality, not quantity game, despite the advanced processing power of many marketing tools. Marketing gets creepy when we fail to recognize consumer choice and preference. Modern data governance approaches and tools make it an achievable imperative to be evermore responsible and trustworthy. Customers are too smart to trust companies with data without evidence of that governance and respect.

Marketing is now the art of being found. No one wants to be targeted. Engagement is a combination of customer-initiated dialogue and the availability of data-driven, customized experiences.

Please comment and let me know how your company is identifying the right data to create satisfying customer experiences.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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