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Data debate: findings from the great CRM pub quiz

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Intermarketing's Tap event was held at Clerkenwell’s The Crown Tavern.

We’re swamped with data these days. But is it doing us any favours? Is marketing intelligence becoming more stupid than smart? Do we embrace new channels for the sake of it? Or are too many marketers stuck in a traditional CRM rut?

We set out to answer these questions and more by turning on our thought leadership event, The Tap, at Clerkenwell’s The Crown Tavern.

Jamie Allan, Intermarketing’s group managing partner, played the role of quiz master. Answering the all important questions were Helen Hunter, head of marketing strategy and innovation at Sainsbury’s, Adam Morecroft, senior propositions manager at NSPCC, Eilidh Macdonald, head of agencies at pulsar and Zach Thornton, external affairs manager at DMA.

The key takeout for the night was that people need to be at the heart of data. CRM is about building trust. Doing the right thing, at the right time, again and again and again. With so many channels to consumers, it’s easy to see how brands can fall into the trap of blindly chasing the latest shiny object that comes along. But consistency and relevance will always outperform fads. If you can’t show that you understand people, all the delivery channels in the world won’t help you.

Our first question concerned the data deluge facing marketers. The sheer weight of all those noughts and ones is in danger of suffocating its effective use. So, how do you recognise what’s important and build a better understanding of your customer? For Eilidh, this is where social listening plays an important role. Tapping into Facebook gives you access to the largest pool of data in the UK other than the census. The conversation is also as organic as it gets, making it easier to pick up on trends – and more importantly, understand why those trends are gaining traction.

While social is the voice of the consumer, Hunter sees it as more of a brand channel than a CRM tool. Her view led into our next question. Given how acute the emperor’s new clothes syndrome is at the moment, with too many brands chasing all the channels, how can you provide a seamless cross channel experience? Our panel were unanimous in saying relevance is the key.

Adam highlighted how the NSPCC use the different social channels for specific purposes. For them, one is best suited to engaging supporters about events, while another is used strictly for news, never fundraising. He continued by saying the myriad of data sources is far too broad to direct into a single strategy. A bespoke approach to each channel is required.

The discussion then moved on to DM. Are brands still using it? The simple answer is yes, somewhat helped by consumer concerns around privacy online. With the new GDPR regulations on the horizon, it’s imperative to make privacy a brand asset and treat data responsibly.

Another factor is that we like tangible things. Just look at book sales, which have been resurgent recently, outstripping those of e-readers. Perhaps the world isn’t changing as quickly as we think after all. As human beings we still respond to the same things we always did.

DM has also been helped by the possibilities afforded by digital printing. Mailings can be as timely and relevant as you want. Hunter cited Sainsbury’s recent Easter mailing, which had a mind-boggling 1.8 octillion variable options – that’s one followed by 48 zeros. This allowed each DM pack to be so perfectly tailored, so in-tune with the customer’s shopping habits, that many tweeted how well the retailer knows them.

And isn’t that the point of CRM? To show how well you understand your audience and can treat them as an individual. That’s why it’s essential to put humans at the heart of data. Being customer first should be much more than a nice soundbyte. It should be a commercial KPI, because at the end of the day, we hang out more with people we love.

Adam Reynolds is senior copywriter at Intermarketing Agency

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