Relevance may be the one term on which marketers from every discipline can agree. If you are sending out a communication via direct mail or email, you want to be sure it will be relevant to your targets based on what you know about them. If you are running display ads online, they need to be served within a context that is relevant. If you are delivering content on your own web site or via social media, that has to be especially relevant to gain any attention.
Although there is no agreed definition or standard for what relevance actually means, there is one undeniable component - your marketing will only be as relevant as your data on its targets is accurate. So marketers should be giving special emphasis to the information that underpins their activities, from defining who is the most appropriate audience for a message through to what type of message will resonate best with those targets and which media are most likely to reach that profile.
Given this dependency of marketing on being data-driven, you would expect its critical asset - in the form of a marketing database or CRM system - to have reached an optimal state. Yet, in the latest wave of the research carried out among DataIQ readers, in association with Royal Mail Data Services, the number one obstacle to data-driven marketing was named as “our database/CRM platform”, with 43 per cent of respondents identifying this problem.
Allied to this issue, undoubtedly, was the fact that 31 per cent said “technology is holding us back”. With all the excitement and emphasis that technology for data and analytics has gained in recent years, it is surprising that at the level of the basic building blocks, marketing is still struggling to get things right.
The problem is not particularly with data in itself, although 27 per cent complained that they lacked the data they required. Knowing that data exists somewhere is one thing - extracting it and transforming it into an actionable marketing resource is quite different. It requires skills, processes and technology to ensure data is flowing from where it gets created to where it gets consumed and acted on.
Instead, the reason why technology may not be serving marketing in the way it requires is more of a cultural problem - second on the list of obstacles to data-driven marketing was “the culture within my organisation”, according to 40 per cent, while a further 26 per cent said there was a lack of understanding of the importance of customer data.
How can any business still doubt that the use of data has the potential to transform its performance, especially when it is deployed by marketing? Identifying the best prospects based on what your customers look like, knowing when a life event has triggered a purchasing phase or new set of needs or modelling propensity to respond and buy - these are all central to every type of marketing across all channels. Choosing not to take advantage of data when it can deliver significant uplift is wrong-headed.
Although 31 per cent reported that budget requirements were the biggest obstacle, data can not be thought of as separate from the marketing budget any longer. Successful businesses do not develop their marketing and then find the data to support it as two distinct activities with their own budget lines - they have data integrated from the outset, informing and improving everything that marketing does.
Having worked with clients on data-driven marketing programmes with significantly positive outcomes, it is always a surprise to learn some organisations have yet to yolk these two activities together. Perhaps we have just been lucky to work with the 11.5 per cent who said in this survey that nothing is holding them back. For the rest, knowing there is a way to enhance marketing’s performance through the adoption of data-driven techniques has to be a message that is relevant.
(For more information, visit Royal Mail Data Services at www.royalmail.com/corporate/marketing/data-services)