How marketing turns data magically into profits

Marketing has evolved - thankfully - from the days when everyone just thought of us as the brochures and tradeshows people. Nowadays, we're as likely to be focused on creating digital content that's worth sharing as we are putting a tradeshow sponsorship together, but all of it is data-driven.

Marketing may seem magical, but it's not pulling rabbits out of hats.

Marketing, while sometimes magical, is not this kind of magic.

So what does it really mean for marketing to be data-driven? And how does marketing turn data "magically" into profits? In the spirit of full disclosure, it's not magical in an abracadabra or Harry Potter sort of way, and it's not entirely mystical in a crystal ball sort of way. But the results can indeed be magical and quite profitable. And the best magician marketer I can think of to illustrate that point is Jim Foreman, most recently Director of Analytics and Customer Insight at Staples Corp.

Jim spoke recently at a DMA Annual Conference and provided some good, specific examples of how to turn customer insight into profit with analytically-driven marketing automation. So once you collect the customer data and apply the analytics and start getting the insights, what can you actually do with it? That's what Jim delved into and I'm happy to share with you here.

Very simply - the magic starts when you begin to launch successful campaigns. Per Jim, SAS Marketing Automation software "takes all of the good work that our analysts are doing for us – descriptive work, segmentation, modeling – and it lets us bring that right into a campaign, on the fly if we want to." To illustrate his point, he detailed three types of campaigns he led at Staples to great success:

  1. Attrition campaigns:
    Find predictors of existing customers' likely attrition and design campaigns to proactively address those factors.
  2. Browsed-and-abandoned campaigns:
    Identify the online behaviors of new potential customers that lead to abandoned shopping carts and have responses at the ready.
  3. Trigger campaigns:
    Provide suggestions to consumers who may not realize they need something additional to give the end result they want (i.e. a specific type of paper for the printer ink they want to buy).

Once you have your successful campaigns in place and operational, then there are five final steps to take to get to profitability:

  • Identify critical metrics.
  • Use decile analysis.
  • Profile the top 10% of customers.
  • Test the offers, segments and campaigns.
  • Do incremental analysis - refine and retest.

Each of those five final steps are detailed in the paper, How to Turn Customer Insight into Profit with Marketing Analytics. It's an interesting read that includes many practical guidelines from a master data-driven marketer, and some of Jim's more colorful anecdotes, such as whether marketers may have anything in common with blind squirrels. Let me know what you think.



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A 20-point Scrabble word that matters: quality

Try as we might, we aren’t ubiquitous creatures. When you can’t be everywhere at once, there is usually data somewhere to fall back on. So you review that data, gain insights. If you’re smart, you take notice those insights, evolve and then forecast what’s next. (That’s analytics by the way.) SAS and IndustryWeek on the quality-themed #WQChat on Twitter.In case you didn’t make our SAS and IndustryWeek-sponsored Twitter chat on quality, join me for a few highlights.

With a set of pre-determined questions and a collaborative effort between industry and independent thought leaders, manufacturing customers and SAS experts, the conversation around quality was lively. If a 140-character limit responses were difficult for our participants, you sure wouldn’t know it.

Starting out with definitions of quality, there were a wide range of responses from traditional to more modern insights. What was once product-focused and intended to be a measure of excellence, quality now resides more in the realm of total experience, from research of a purchase to service after the sale.

Image of a #WQChat tweet.Amid the stream of commentary was an overarching theme became apparent, a foundational concept for quality that’s been around for decades thanks to methodologies of Six Sigma:
voice of the customer, or VOC. Read More »

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Whose story are you telling?

The Big Data MOPS Series with Tamara DullSometimes a life lesson smacks you right upside the head—and if you’re anything like me, it may take a day, a month, or even a year or ten before you “get it.” Fortunately, this particular life lesson hit home quickly, and has quietly reminded me of its truth over the years. However, with my more recent focus on big data privacy, this lesson’s reverberations have become almost deafening.

About the life lesson. The colleague/friend balancing act has always been a tricky one. Earlier in my career, when the internet was still making a name for itself, a dear colleague/friend was going through a challenging time in her personal life. I knew some of what was going on, but not much—given that it wasn’t any of my business and it wasn’t anything we really talked about. But due to the nature of our respective roles and the relationships we shared in the company, I was often asked by others about my colleague/friend’s situation. The questions made me uncomfortable, yet each time, I responded with, “You need to ask her.”

One day, I mentioned to my colleague/friend that I was being asked a lot about her personal situation. Instead of her responding with the expected “yea, so-and-so asked” or “who’s asking” or “what are you saying” questions, she said rather indignantly, “Why are they asking you? It’s not your story to tell!” Needless to say, the discussion ended there.

Little did she know that I wasn’t telling her story, yet through this brief exchange, she gave me a not-yet-realized, valuable life lesson: “It’s not your story to tell.”

Why this matters. Just like “I see data. All the time. It’s everywhere.”, I marvel at how technology, the internet, and this digital age have forever changed how we share our personal information—and how others (individuals, companies, and governments alike) share ours. Read More »

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Consumers confirmed - retail loyalty is all about the experience

Customer experience matters most for loyalty.It seems like every retailer nowadays has a loyalty program. From the local coffee house to “big box” national retailers to almost any online merchant, everyone has a loyalty program. But do people really want them? It turns out the answer is yes – a resounding yes.  But are those programs actually what drive loyalty, or is something else driving behavior?

That question loomed on my mind this year as I had the opportunity to work with two organizations to research customer loyalty - one project focused on the enterprise view, and other to get the consumer view. For the consumer view, I had the privilege to work with graduate students from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and that study confirmed a few suspicions I had about customer loyalty programs. And it’s a combination of good news / bad news.

The Bad News
Let’s start with the bad news and get it out of the way. It seems that consumers have come to expect loyalty programs, so in many situations not having one may put you at a disadvantage if your direct competitors have such programs. The other bad news is that so many loyalty programs are tied to discounts and have been aggressively promoted as such that it’s the benefit that consumers associate most strongly with loyalty programs. So, the upshot is that with a loyalty program in place you’ll need to figure out how to operate on slimmer margins, or make other accommodations.

The other bad news is that loyalty programs designed to keep the customer coming back do little to trump a bad customer experience. As a result, retailers must first ensure that they are delivering quality shopping experiences before offering perks for return trips. So as they are designed today, do loyalty programs actually engender loyalty? Apparently not, according to the Kellogg study – it’s a combination of factors.

The Good News
It’s not all doom-and-gloom, however. The good news is that the combination of factors to drive loyalty have many elements that are within your control. Read More »

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Failing tiny cookie at a time

The higher the revenue potential, the more interesting the idea.Back in 2007, the NY Times published an article about “The Google Way.” The premise behind the Google Way is to give engineers 20% of their time to spend on new company related ideas and projects that interest them. For a while this became the management strategy du jour as every large company attempted to inject a culture of spirit and creativity into their businesses (with very mixed results).

Even Google recognized that the strategy was flawed. Large initiatives generated from The Google Way projects begin to distract them from their core business.

Taking the reins as CEO in 2011, Larry Page announced a new focus with “more wood behind fewer arrows.” Google put guardrails on how innovation time is spent: “Urgency without alignment is wasted energy.

Marketing organizations have taken a page from the Google playbook. In my previous post, I noted the disparity in organizations with marketing innovation budgets (who has them, who doesn’t), and highlighted some examples of organizations putting their innovation dollars to good use. But how do we validate and prioritize those innovation ideas, align them to our marketing goals, and execute? Read More »

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Marketing analytics for attribution modeling

Marketing attribution has been a hot topic for marketers as long as we’ve had marketing. Everybody talks about it, few really know how to do it, and everyone thinks everyone else is doing it - so everyone claims they’re doing it.

This may be different where you are, but what I've seen here in Europe is that many folks are not aware of the full potential of marketing attribution modeling. They don't know which types there are, if it's only online or offline data, and all the other permutations and nuances. So let me see if I can sort it out for you.

What is marketing attribution?
Marketing attribution is all about understanding how marketing channels impact the customer experience and drive revenue for the company. In other words, it answers the perennial question - which lever works best (or not at all)? Christopher Ratcliff from @econsultancy gives a good definition for attribution modeling:

"Marketing attribution is the practice of
determining the role that any given channel plays
in informing and influencing the customer journey"

Why is marketing attribution important?
During any given purchase journey, a customer engages with different marketing channels, such as catalog, email, website, contact center and so on. When he finally is comfortable to place an order and the sale is made, all the marketers that touched that sale wants to claim responsibility. The customer journey has multiple steps that are relevant.And why not? The web team will cite the great web design, the direct marketing team will trumpet the beautifully crafted email, the contact center has their transcripts to document the interactions, and so on. And the truth is that they probably all had an impact. But in order to make fact-based informed decisions for future strategy, knowing the value of all the marketing efforts is key. Read More »

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A cautionary tale: Are you clicking your privacy (or that of others) away?

The Big Data MOPS Series with Tamara DullThe big data privacy discussion is subtle, complex and complicated – and we each have a role to play. What’s yours going to be?

It was 9:53 AM. Sarah was racing against the clock: she wanted to finish a long overdue email to a Canadian colleague before her team’s weekly 10:00 AM meeting. Just as she clicked the ‘Send’ button, her manager, Mason, appeared outside her cubicle.

“Are you headed to the meeting?” he asked her.

“Yep, I was just heading over.”

“Great. I’ll walk with you. I was wondering if you had time after the meeting to go talk with Angie in HR. I got a call from her this morning, and a situation has developed that she wants to talk to us about.”

“What’s going on?” Sarah asked.

“I don’t know. She wouldn’t tell me. She said she wanted to discuss it with the both of us at our earliest convenience.”

“Well, I hope everything’s okay,” Sarah replied, trying not to think too much about it.

It was 11:05 AM. Mason and Sarah sat down in the two chairs across from Angie in her office. “Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice,” Angie began. “I wanted to talk to you about the summer picnic your department had a week and a half ago.” Read More »

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Hey innovation! Have you met rapid experimentation?

The online dating website OKCupid recently posted the results of some real life experiments that they had performed on their user community. The experiments included three tests to evaluate the influence of certain user profile changes in compatibility matching (manipulating compatibility scores, suppressing user profile photos and the impact of rating scales and photos – the cool versus pretty test). All websites perform experiments, but at what risk?

OKCupid CEO Christian Rudder posted on the company’s blog: “If you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.” He goes on to say “OKCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website…Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”

Like OKCupid, more and more data-centric companies are using rapid experimentation approaches (also called test-and-learn) to better understand how consumers react to their products and services.
This not only influences product development cycles, but drives more effective marketing and contact strategies. Read More »

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Let’s chat about quality on Twitter

A Twitter what? Chat? With @SASAnalytics and @IndustryWeek? About World Quality Day?
How do I get in on this? #whatsatwitterchat #whydothis

See how I did that? In 139 characters too. Yep, I thought that would catch your eye. Now that I have your attention, please mark your calendar for our World Quality Day Twitter chat event with IndustryWeek magazine – it’s well worth an hour of your time. It happens on Thursday, November 13, 2015 at 11:00a.m. - 12:00noon ET on Twitter at #WQChat

World Quality Day Twitter Chat is at 11am ET on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2015If you’re not familiar with it, a Twitter chat (or tweet chat) is a free online event at a designated time with a set of questions around one topic. The host account poses questions to their followers using a specific hashtag. Anyone in the Twitter sphere can search that hashtag and participate in the conversation – usually involving thought leaders, practitioners and many people who are simply interested in the topic.

Why a chat on quality, you ask? Simply put, the manufacturing business world revolves around quality and it’s a core element of business strategy. TQM, ISO 9000, Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Deming, Baldridge are all terms you may have heard in relation to quality management.

And quality is important for manufacturing to be sure – but it’s also important to marketers because it usually forms the basis for the customer experience. Read More »

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CMO Council research reveals opportunities with mobile

The CMO Council research reveals key ways marketers view mobile as critical.Few advances in technology have impacted how we do business as broadly and profoundly as mobile devices. They are creating new opportunities for organizations to engage with their customers, but more importantly, mobile devices are changing how people behave. For that reason, we partnered with the CMO Council to study the opportunities and challenges presented by mobile and how marketers are responding to it. The findings were just released in a report titled, Getting in Sync with Mobile Customers.

One clear conclusion of the report is that marketers are missing the boat with mobile if they think of it as just another channel to reach their customers. Such an approach is too company-centered and if not well executed, will repel customers by being too intrusive. The opportunity lies in considering how the customer wants to engage with your brand and engaging on the customer's terms. Doing that builds goodwill that teaches the customer to trust your messages.

The CMO Council research reveals 4 key opportunities to advance mobile.The other reason mobile devices are not "just another channel" is that they are highly valued and always present, so there is an emotional dimension that's not associated with email, digital or other forms of engagement. That emotional dimension is an opportunity for brands to forge experiences that have a lasting impact - if done right. Read More »

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