Data-driven marketing: will anyone listen to you if you can bring good results?

MarkPriceOver the past two weeks, our team has been working on a campaign analysis that was the first using the new customer segmentation for one of our clients. 

It got me to thinking: Why does customer-focused marketing fail in some companies, while in others it seems to catch fire?

If you are working through your first efforts in data-driven marketing, perhaps using segmentation for the first time, you know what I mean.  Not only must the results meet  hurdles, but they must run the fine line between boastful assertions and timid results so caveated that the results are quickly disregarded. 

The impact of your results will be in the eye of the receiver, as it were, and your conclusions must come from above to have validity.

Many marketers who aspire to data-driven marketing have the same challenge: Management has offered cautious encouragement — ‘you can test these sorts of programs as long as you do not disrupt the sales efforts and current marketing programs.”  “Feel free to work harder and use less money, but just make sure to keep the current programs in place” (needless of analysis that may show that those programs do not perform).  If you cut those programs, you will upset (a) customers, (b) the sales force, (c) our suppliers, and the end result will be that performance suffers.  Results are just “support.”  The main point is perception, that we are going “hard” at the market  or competition.  If we lose that perception, then we lose momentum, and our leading share  in our categories.

Now I am exaggerating for dramatic effort, but every single one of our clients has faced or is currently  facing such a challenge.  Essentially, the message is “go innovate on your own time, and don’t rock the boat.”  Well, many of our clients have triumphed through what I call “the dark night of the innovator” – when you are the one ones who believe in your new way  of business. 

Here are some learnings that you can apply as you engage in a similar struggle in your company:

  1. Find and nurture your sponsors. Your sponsor will be motivated by some combination of personal connection to you, the chance to be associated with innovation and/or a real desire to position the company for the future.  Figure out their motivations and tune your presentation to meet those needs.
  2. Make the “case for change” based on risk. The most effective selling case these days for something new is not the opportunity, but the risk the company faces from losing customers to the competition.  Find research on competitive technology purchases and customer initiatives (don’t forget social media) and present that information as stand-alone communications to key decision-makers.
  3. Let the field make the case. As results come in, do not find yourself as the primary deliver.  Make the team in the field, whether store management, salesforce or store operations, the heroes by bringing them front and center to share their feedback and take a bow.  Video tape them, get testimonials and share the hard numbers too, to make a case that is credible.  It is not the crazy marketer drunk on his/her own analysis — rather it is the field that brings it forth, with credibility.
  4. Over-communicate your plans, results and learnings. This one speaks for itself.

This post today is not a comment on someone else’s news — I wanted to share with you some of the “practical best practices” that our clients share with us, about the little things that make big differences in helping data-driven marketing succeed in their company.

Do these experiences and approaches match your experience? 

What am I missing?

Mark Price is Managing Partner at M Squared Group.
He is a leader, writer, speaker and consultant on how to increase
revenue by retaining and growing Best Customers by improving their
experience. His particular concentration is “bricks and clicks” —
businesses that engage their customers through the web and through a
physical contact (retail or saleforces). Before founding M
Squared Group
, Mark was the practice leader for customer
intelligence for Zamba Solutions. Mark also blogs on
and is a father, husband, tennis player, skier and fanatic science
fiction/fantasy reader.

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