Data dos and don’ts

Data is discussed in increasingly reverential tones within the marketing industry. “The oil in the marketing machine” as someone (probably) once said.

Russell Parsons

Of course, this is an aphorism that is embedded into the DNA of the direct marketer. DM, by nature, being data-driven. It is also wisdom that it is being received by the great and good of the marketing industry.

Contained within Marketing Week’s vital quarterly supplement CMO Strategy last week was a feature that should have the audio accompaniment “Just the two of us”. High profile CMOs such as Unilever’s Keith Weed and Nigel Gilbert of Virgin Media and their CIO counterparts discuss their ever-deepening relationships.

Effective use of data is essential to the success of the marketing and business function those quoted insist. Without it, you cannot hope to retain a customer’s loyalty.

This is a particularly relevant sentiment when considering the other major data story covered by Marketing Week last week. Charities have seen the number of complaints they receive about addressed mail and email soar in recent months, according to research from the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB).

The blame was laid squarely at the door of data management. Breaches of data protection, poor and outdated data are rubbing existing and prospective advocates up the wrong way to the point where donations are being put at risk, those who should know say.

Email campaigns in particular are making people bristle. Complaints rose 282% year on year in 2011, according to the FRSB.

The third sector is just one of many that are turning to email because of its low-cost and potentially high impact nature. Understandable. Data management needs to be elevated to the levels opined by Weed and Gilbert when planning email campaigns, otherwise charities and others risk doing more harm than good.

The potential of effective use of data is best surmised by Gilbert: “Customer strategy is, at its simplest, driving sustainable growth through customer advocacy, which requires you to analyse your data and understand your customers in a way that perhaps hadn’t been done in-depth before. In so doing, you actually give reason and purpose to the whole of customer marketing – and hopefully to the organisation as a whole.”

Data can be the oil in the machine but it can also be the spanner in the works.

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