Data fidelity matters, online and offline

If you want to be a better marketer, you need to start with clean data. Columnist Jose Cebrian discusses why clean data is essential for helping you target the right people effectively across channels.

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Data Analytics Love Heart Ss 1920 IltrpiMarketers are often wooed by the channel capabilities that technology offers. And why wouldn’t they be? Those capabilities are impressive — from display to social to email and so on, the technologies are cutting-edge and constantly getting better.

But at the core of marketing are audiences, segments and people. And the better you know your audience, the better you can tailor your message, improve efficiencies, hone measurement and minimize fraud in your marketing. This statement is obvious in its simplicity, but most technology doesn’t adequately address this goal.

Personally identifiable information platforms for direct mail, email, telemarketing and some social are mostly technology shells and presume some level of cleansed data. Essentially, they are bring-your-own-data platforms. By cleansed data, I mean that the individual is known and multiple records of the same person have been consolidated to get to a single, more robust view of the person.

These platforms — whether marketing clouds or customer data platforms — miss the fact that data from disparate sources needs to be cleansed. Choices must be made about which data to keep when different values for the same data field come from two different sources; one must be deemed the source of truth.

Why it’s imperative that you have clean data

Direct mail is the best example of why it’s necessary to have clean data. Comparatively, it costs a lot of money to send direct mail versus other channels. Therefore, you want to make sure you know who you are sending to, that you have an expectation of return on that mail piece and that duplication is eliminated.

The argument tends to be less appreciated as you move to cheaper channels, like email. Cleanliness is often considered less important because the cost of inaccuracy and deduplication is lower. And that may be true if you’re a channel marketer who views the channel as independent. Your job is to maximize the channel.

Companies that buy technology to allow for efficient cross-channel marketing need to be able to leverage enterprise data across sales and service. In this case, knowing the individual person you are marketing to becomes essential.

You need to know who these people are, their value to you as a marketer and their relationships with your company. This helps to manage messages to them, whether you are promoting something new, reinforcing a purchase decision or deciding not to market to them.

Know who you’re marketing to

People do not always convert in the same channel in which they were initially engaged. A company’s ability to measure effective marketing is dependent on knowing who you’re marketing to and understanding conversions in all channels. For most marketers, this makes sense in the context of CRM (customer relationship management) — hand-raisers, existing customers or lapsed ones.

But prospect marketing can and should take the same approach. Presumably, your products and services have a target audience that can be refined better than basic publisher demographics and intent behavior. And presumably, your acquisition or prospect marketing is across more than one channel.

To make the most of your marketing budget, start with individuals who align with the target audience, market to them and see which people convert based on messages and experiences exposed. This approach allows you to see which segments and messages convert, so you can confidently expand your audience definitions.

This also allows you to use the right marketing mix for the value of that person to your company in economic terms. For example, for your highest-value prospect audience, it may be worth it to combine direct mail plus prospect email plus addressable display and social. For another audience, direct mail may not provide the return needed, so leverage addressable social and display.

By knowing who you’re marketing to at the individual level, your inbound channels, such as your call centers and owned sites, can be aligned with the offer.

Lastly, if your company wants to own your audience across all channels to drive business, you have to know the person, not the cookie. Cookies change, as do the rules around them and access to them.

Instead of the cookie, you need to go for the person, which will then allow you to select only the customers you want to market to from within a publisher’s ecosystem — and possibly layer on some publisher-specific data, but only when the person is known first. That precision will provide greater results at a lower overall cost while giving you the ability to reach individuals wherever they are, not at a single publisher with an audience that looks like the one you want.

To efficiently get in touch with your audience, targeting people and being consistent across channels is key. The only way to do that is to start with the individuals, then connect with those people in other channels and measure effectiveness wherever they convert. But if you start with unclean data, your marketing will be inefficient, because your measurement will be inaccurate.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Jose Cebrian
Jose Cebrian is Vice President and General Manager of Email and Mobile Messaging for Merkle. He came to Merkle after spending nine years at Acxiom, where he grew to Managing Director, Global Client Services for Digital Impact, Acxiom’s email and SMS division. Jose led a global team responsible for optimizing interactive direct marketing campaigns across the web, email, and mobile.

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