In an increasingly digital world, it can be challenging for marketers to meaningfully engage customers and provide a seamless experience across different channels. Michele Eggers, Senior Director of Marketing Sciences, Technology, and Digital Experience at SAS, discusses how data and analytics can be a marketer’s secret weapon for engaging customers throughout the whole journey from consideration to purchase. And make smarter, data-driven, analytically charged decisions along the way.
The secret to successful business transformation seems simple – establish strong business goals and strategy, learn from what’s working and what’s not, and adapt. While we have certainly learned to be adaptable while navigating the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic, understanding business problems and opportunities can be anything but clear cut. Analytics and data are key to enriching your customer understanding and delivering meaningful, relevant customer experiences.
With international and state borders slammed shut in COVID-19, the world no longer had the luxury of visiting different work sites, learning from peers through osmosis, or engaging directly with customers. This posed a critical need for businesses to maximise their data through smart AI and analytics, allowing informed insights to help solve problems and drive business growth.
Developing a tailored strategy
As marketers, we need to think about the entire customer journey to determine how we engage. From the need phase, where a customer determines they have a problem to solve, all the way through to buying, using, and (hopefully) recommending the product or service to others. Across those different stages there are many ways to engage the customer. For many B2B companies, like SAS, this has traditionally been a hybrid approach of digital and physical tactics, with many leads generated from in-person events. However, this approach has been disrupted; and as marketers, we have been forced to think differently about how we can maximise impact through digital channels.
With many companies having a global footprint, localising the go-to-market strategy is integral. We need to understand and deliver on globally set priorities but develop a localised approach with teams of regional and core domain experts that can analyse historical campaign performance, develop targeted segmentation, and incorporate analysis, testing, and insights. For example, through data analysis we may see webinars are performing strongly in the Australian banking industry, while podcasts are leading in the US. We can use this insight to shift and localise our marketing approach and ensure maximum customer engagement.
While knowing your customer and developing a tailored go-to-market tactical strategy is paramount, ensuring consistent messaging across geographies and platforms to underpin the strategic approach is also a must.
The power of data and analytics
Data and analytics can drive personalisation, relevance and a more favourable customer experience, which in the current competitive environment is key to strong business growth.
Customers want to be understood and valued and have a personalised experience based on their wants and needs. Some brands use a “spray and pray” approach. Yet once customers sign up to the marketing list, brands bombard their inboxes with emails that are not relevant or targeted. At best, the customer becomes tone deaf to that brand and glazes over their communications. At worst, the marketing drives the customer away, losing brand loyalty and damaging their reputation with the customer and their peers.
By introducing data to the mix, this can create a more relevant, targeted result. For a B2C brand, that might be demographic data like gender, location or age. For a B2B brand, that might be firmographic data like industry or job title. We can take personalisation and relevancy further by incorporating customer interest and behavioural data, making the customer feel heard and understood. While data can lead to superior customer outcomes, data privacy and governance must always be a priority to build a trusted relationship and be used responsibly to create value for all.
Data is the foundation of analytics and intelligently leveraging analytics can give businesses a strong competitive advantage. Analytics can be used to determine customer interest through understanding past behaviours and using AI predictive power to determine priority customers. For example, as events moved to a digital forum in 2020, my team at SAS wanted to understand not only the customer appetite for digital events but also the predicted attendance at these types of events. We also wanted to reduce email fatigue and only target customers most likely to attend. We piloted this gradient boosting predictive model for an event in our European region and saw an industry-leading attendance of 73% – approximately 30% higher than the typical industry benchmark. We have now taken the success of that effort and are using it at scale across other regions.
Marketing your skills
Having the tools to transform the customer experience through data and analytics is not enough. Modern day marketers need to know how, and when, to leverage these capabilities and, most importantly, how to communicate the ‘why’ to business decision makers. To successfully transform data into insights there are three key skills marketers need.
- Problem solving
Data analytics needs to have a purpose and a clearly defined problem it is trying to solve. Identify your business goals and prioritise your approach based on the potential for business impact. Understanding the data and how to manipulate it, as well as a test and learn culture, will be key to this.
- Technical skills
Having access to the resulting data is not enough. As marketing sciences analysts and data scientists, you need to understand what the data is telling you, its potential business impact, and how you can adapt your strategy to respond. You need data management tools that helps identify the maturity of marketing and analytics capabilities across five competencies: strategy, organisation and structure, technology, process and measurement, and developing a game plan for reimagined marketing. For example, an Australian telecommunications company had the significant challenge of providing tailored, individual experiences for each of its 9 million customers, many who were disengaged and lacking brand loyalty. Through strategically analysing data gathered through Net Promoter Scores (NPS) the organisation was able to identify at risk customers and those who wanted more support and develop campaigns to deliver targeted service and advice. Transforming data into actionable insights is key to creating impactful business change.
- Storytelling through data
Access to data and analytics is great but if no one in the business understands the story being told it will not ignite change or impact. You need to visualise the data to ensure it is clear and engaging for the broader business and its decision makers. Communicate the business problem being solved through smart data interpretation.
In the end, curiosity needs to be in a business’ DNA. Curiosity also needs to be in your DNA. As marketers, we need to be empowered and skilled to ask bold questions of data, to successfully inform and tailor our business strategy, and meaningfully engage with our customers.
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