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Forget the fads, data requires a lifestyle change



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September 28, 2015 | 6 min read

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We don’t need to make the case for data. It’s already widely known. With smartphones, wearables and the increasingly adopted Internet of Things, consumers are giving us more information than we know what do with. We know it’s out there. We know it will help us. We know we need to heed the information that consumers are sending our way.

But several years into the Big Data era, our marketing – which was supposed to be more efficient and effective thanks to all of this information – is still astoundingly dumb. Digital banner ads follow us long after we’ve made a purchase. Direct mailings are sent to consumers who would rather shop online. And we still can’t connect with consumers across multiple touch-points with any real predictability.

It’s not for a lack of will. Every marketer says they want more data-fueled marketing programs, and many have tried to implement them. But real change is hard work. Really hard. Too marketers seek a quick-fix, set-it-and-forget-it solution, rather than making a wholesale commitment to using data as a primary marketing driver every day.

The overweight person determined to lose pounds is a real-life analogy. Hitting the gym once in a while or cutting carbs for two weeks is not enough to effect lasting change, and old habits are hard to break. What’s required are sustainable changes that become ingrained over the long term. In the marketing world, what many organizations really need to embrace is a “Data Lifestyle.”

Right now, too many marketers approach data in the same way they might make a “New Year’s Resolution.” When planning for the next year, they resolve to use more data for their marketing programs, and they may even dedicate resources to make it happen. But – failing to see immediate results – they soon fall back on old habits, concluding that their approach isn’t working, that they just aren’t ready for it, or that it’s simply too much, too soon. Then they give up, satisfied they’ve given it a good effort, Maybe they’ll try again next month, next quarter, or next year.

But implementing a data strategy – like changing one’s diet and exercise – takes time and tenacity to realize meaningful results. It takes a year. Maybe longer. It requires a true lifestyle change from everyone involved.

A data lifestyle requires entire organizational alignment and commitment, from day one and every day thereafter. It starts with developing some foundational knowledge. Why it’s important, what results one can expect, and how it is different from what’s been done in the past. Every person in the organization needs to know exactly how he or she will apply data to achieve the results they want. There must be regular updates and consultations (akin to a weekly weight check), and a clear plan outlining how to achieve the goals you’ve set out, with measurable, definable results.

Just as one can’t jump from the couch to an elite-level exercise program, adopting a data strategy requires patience and discipline. So, like a trainer who develops a regimen that starts slow and builds upon itself, we offer these tips to lay the groundwork for living a long-term data lifestyle:

Identify all your sources of data that can have an influence on your marketing. This can (and should) include first-party customer information, as well as any other third-party information you might need. Your CRM, point-of-sale or analytics teams – or marketing/media agency teams – are ideal places to start identifying data assets that are available.

Determine which sources of data are going to benefit your marketing the most, and limit your information to those sources. Don’t simply use data for data’s sake. Start by identifying data that are not scalable or feasible—these will be among the first sources to eliminate.

Prioritize which data will give you the largest return on investment. Despite popular belief, too much data can be a bad thing. It may seem elementary, but establishing a High, Medium and Low ranking system is an easy way to start grouping your data, putting most of your efforts into the data grouped in the High value category.

Draw a multi-year roadmap that addresses the feasibility and value of reaching specific and identifiable goals. Your consumers don’t think of your brand based on an annual cycle; neither should you. Make it manageable and break your roadmap up into three-month increments. This will allow you to not feel overwhelmed and identify the milestones you plan on hitting along the way.

Be flexible. Consumer behavior changes. Data assets will emerge and change as well. Revisit your roadmap and reassess it with the changing market. You’ve already broken your roadmap into increments; use this as a time to reflect on what you’ve done and whether or not you’re on the right path. If not, change it up.

Yes, creating (and living) a true data lifestyle is hard work (no one is saying a marketer’s job is easy any more), but doing so is essential to creating long-term, sustainable, viable brands and companies. Just as the key to a long, fruitful and less complicated life involves a healthy lifestyle, the brands looking to thrive will do the same with their data.

For more on modern marketing challenges, join VivaKi at the Advertising Week New York panel, “Today’s Consumer is Always On. Is your Marketing?” Thursday, October 1st at 10am.

Kelley Maves

SVP, Data Solutions & Product Management


Tel: +1 312 253 5000



Twitter: @VivaKi

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