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Data-driven marketing strategy mixes old, new practices

The wealth of customer data available today has changed marketers' job descriptions. But the more things change when developing a data-driven marketing strategy, the more they stay the same.

Today, marketers have resources that were unimaginable a short time ago. They have volumes of data on prospects and customers at their disposal, which changes their mission. They also have technology at the ready that helps them organize and make sense of customer behaviors, habits and preferences to more accurately target consumers with messages and offers.

Despite the increasingly data-driven mandate, which has given marketing departments new ways to connect with potential customers, some aspects of marketers' jobs have remained unchanged. Marketers need to have a grasp on technologies and practices but also maintain the knowledge of how to derive action and insight from a vast amount of data.

Here are some ways in how marketing has changed and how it's stayed the same:

Ways marketing has changed

Big data. Big data refers to the increased volume, velocity and kind of data that companies now generate and have to manage. This mix of structured and unstructured online data allows companies to mine for information on their prospects and customers. Big data gives companies information on consumers' preferences, buying habits and how much time they spend in various places and helps find those who might be interested in various products. Part of the marketer's job is to segment the customer base and to accurately target the company's resources to maximize a campaign's visibility. While big data promises insight into consumers' online behaviors, it is not an exact science.

Customer profiles. For too long, marketing departments relied on customer surveys that suffered from poor respondent pools and imprecisely worded survey questions, leaving them open to interpretation. To combat this uncertainty, companies compile customer profiles to target certain consumers based on lifestyle, demographics and other information. These profiles aim to boost content effectiveness and efficiency with ad budgets. Data-driven marketing enables marketers to take action based on facts about customers and prospects. Marketers don't have to rely on the dubious opinions offered in surveys and focus groups when they can see precisely how potential customers spend their time and money.

Customer experience analytics. In the past, companies tried to offer better products than competitors. Now the new battlefield centers on customer experience. Consumers no longer solely buy products but also the experience and service associated with it, so it's just as important for companies to cater to customer needs. For companies, the challenge becomes  tracking customer experience, with tactics such as customer journey maps and business intelligence giving marketers greater insight into the success of campaigns and the right time to target specific content. Furthermore, companies now need to be able to address customer needs in a variety of channels and provide stellar customer experience and measure that experience with consistent metrics over time.

Ways marketing has stayed the same

And yet, many marketing practices never change. It is still marketing's responsibility to turn data into action. Marketers have a wealth of data, but a good data-driven marketing strategy starts with asking the right questions of the data and discerning insights from there. The answers and insights must then be converted into an overall marketing strategy that includes customer segmentation; products and services; and business strategy.

Align your goals. Marketing must continue to fulfill its role as the orchestra conductor for the entire corporation. Knowing how to improve customer experience doesn't have impact without widespread goal alignment throughout the company keeping everyone focused on a common cause. Establish what kinds of people you want to engage with and what your company needs to get out of its data-driven marketing tactics before you invest in technology or put your plan into action.

Background factors. For any data-driven marketing strategy to work, there needs to be buy-in from the C-suite as well as a focused corporate culture that is dedicated to the voice of the customer. There must be a certain level of autonomy as the organization must trust marketing to identify the target and define the plays. Every function has a role and it is marketing's job to usher them along in support of achieving the goal. This includes finance, legal, HR, customer service, operations and more.

For marketers, these practices are commonplace. But it's nothing new for marketing to fail if its case is not compelling. Supported with unprecedented amounts of data, marketing now has the opportunity to be more effective in driving the company-wide alignment, focus and speed required to execute targeted, data-driven marketing campaigns.

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This was last published in June 2015

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What technologies help your data-driven marketing strategy?
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The entertainment industry has always tapped into user data to determine film budgets, cast, marketing costs, audience profiles, even the best day of the week and the best time of year for films to open.

Data aggregators such as Baseline and Variety and Q Scores (big data, all) shape everything from planning through marketing and the release.
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I might sound like a broken record, but I think communication and reporting is most important. Surely, you need to have some metrics to reference, but you might want to have a plan in place - that every buys off on - so you can respond to what your metrics tell you. Perhaps the argument might be that communication isn't a technology, but there's nothing in tech that is as important.
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This is an interesting subject. I particularly use Mail-chimp and Google Analytics to do make some decisions about our email campaigns, release dates of publications etc. 
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The main takeaway I am seeing here is that data is driving the marketer’s understanding of the market and customer experience, but relationship building and communication within the organization are still key to stewarding a marketing strategy. What’s missing is the degree to which data has entered HR, customer service and other functions. As marketers work with other departments, they should approach them as resources with potential insight of their own, not merely means to execute a marketing strategy.
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Marketing is a proven 'science'. There are key things that the best marketers do, there are proven ways they get info, there are methods they use to build upon successes and mitigate failures. So, the key here is that data allows marketers to have a better view of the landscape so they can up their game and try out some new techniques in reaching audiences.
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