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Why you need to turn insights into income

So you’ve got yourself some big data, you’re storing it in a big fat data warehouse and you’ve read all the latest stuff on creating a single customer view. Well done you, you’re already well ahead of the game. But before we share high fives, answer one question: are you using this stuff when talking to customers?

If so, take a bow — and another. You’re at the very cutting edge of New Zealand business.

From where we sit, as the experts in big data engagement, we reckon less than five percent of Kiwi businesses are successfully leveraging the huge potential of big data.

If you’re in that elite group, you’ll already know how powerful it can be. Not just in terms of getting closer to your customers, but in driving significant bottom-line results. The sort of results that impress your chief executive, board and your shareholders. And award judges, for that matter.

We recently cleaned up at the NZ Direct Marketing Awards with more accolades for a single piece of work than anyone else. It was a major, and ongoing, campaign for Westpac, a bank that takes big data and turns it into the next best conversation for each of more than a million individual customers. 

Not only were the customers more engaged with the bank, but they also delivered a sizeable hike in incremental revenue, exceeding some pretty tough targets by a country mile. 

Once you ‘get’ what big data can do, you’ll realise what a powerful competitive edge it can give your company. 

The amount of investment going into it is growing at an astonishing rate. Not only are individual companies building up their own stores of customer data, but supplementary data sources such as social media, economic performance and even geolocational insights from recently opened Government sources, are growing exponentially. Even weather pattern and forecasting data can help predict the best time to have that ‘next best conversation’. Just as a spell of settled, sunny weather lines up, you’re talking online with customers about their list of DIY chores.

The stories that can be told about customers’ lives, inclinations to behave in certain ways and, most importantly, what makes them interested in buying your products and when, are becoming creatively, laterally and strategically broader every day.

Knowing how to pull together the gems from such disparate places, to weave together meaningful narrative that marketers can make sing, is increasingly the territory of the brightest and best data strategists. 

The trick is then turning what you find out into real marketing, connecting this treasure trove of information into meaningful customer communication. It’s the bit of the equation that even some of the brightest companies don’t get right, despite spending a small fortune to get to that point. Yet it’s where the real dollars are generated.

Try this quick checklist:

1. Do your communications reflect the last conversation you had with your customer, or the last one they had with you? Or are they just the next message in a pre-ordained sequence that pops out according to the marketing calendar, or worse, the latest knee-jerk campaign from the sales team worried about next month’s figures? 

2. As a whole-of-business approach, are you using your data to improve your service and customer offerings? Do you use what your customers tell you to feed directly into your product development, your on-boarding and customer servicing, your payment systems?

3. Are your channels aware of each other? Do your retail staff know about the last email or online conversations you’ve had with your customer? 

These are provocative, but valuable questions. Large business can spend millions of dollars on data warehousing and analytics programmes and we applaud their vision. But we’re often left wondering where this big data investment leads if it’s not helping fuel a holistic customer strategy.

Too often we see a trail of baffled marketers who can’t figure out why things aren’t firing better. They’ve often bitten off more than they can chew and they’re left trying to reconcile marketing and IT’s big data spend. 

Ironically, starting small usually works best, no matter how huge your data capture. Build the customer story up, piece by piece, overlaying every data source until you’ve got the insights you need to converse meaningfully and follow where the conversation leads.

And remember, the most important data point is actually your customer, after all.

Greg Doone is general manager at Affinity ID. [email protected]

This story originally appeared in the May/June edition of NZ Marketing

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