Audience with Rory Sutherland

February 18th, 2011

I’d been looking forward to this week’s Institute of Direct Marketing Members’ Evening, An Audience with Rory Sutherland since it came up on the event schedule. I last saw Rory in full flow at a previous IDM event, their 2008 Business-to-Business Marketing Conference and enjoyed his combination of levity and original thinking. We weren’t disappointed this time-round, as Rory was allowed to run-over his time slot with a steady barrage of witticisms and insight.

Among them were an observation regarding the importance of behavioural data in determining consumer preferences. Rory pointed out that relying on what consumers tell us in terms of their preferences and requirements can often be unreliable. Instead, paying attention to behaviour, and increasingly this means online, can enable unstated interests to be revealed that might otherwise remain out of sight. Putting it into metaphorical terms Rory said, “the conscious mind is not like the Oval Office,” suggesting it’s in charge, but that many actual decisions are made unconsciously. This makes it pretty hard to ask someone what they intend to do!

I was also struck by Rory’s comments regarding the perceived value of TV or other traditional media compared to digital. Everyone knows that TV airtime is expensive, not to mention the cost of creating the advertising, so a certain value is attached to it. Even direct mail, perhaps given its tangible form, is viewed in a similar way. In comparison, digital media, with its much lower cost of production, doesn’t have quite the same cache, Rory posited. This isn’t to say it isn’t effective, but perhaps the tendency for brands to reallocate spend from traditional to digital media, rather than simply adding resources to new media, may be a mistake.

His parting thought though was that “there’s more than one way to do everything”, which seems like good advice.

Percassity Perspectives

January 20th, 2011

Latest edition of my company newsletter.

Issue 6, January 2011 In the news this issue, we highlight fines levied in the UK for data privacy breaches and examine trends in social media marketing. Our guest contribution looks at some key considerations regarding vertical specific CRM solutions, plus our usual round-up of Percassity updates, events and round-up from the web.

Inbound is the new outbound in marketing engagement

January 17th, 2011

This post is a slightly longer version of a piece I recently contributed to Database Marketing magazine’s annual What lies ahead feature, published in their January edition.

Since its inception as a discipline, Marketing has essentially consisted of sending out messages to the marketplace, promoting products and services. This process has certainly become increasingly sophisticated, with direct and data-driven marketing holding out the promise of better targeting and more personalisation. Digital marketing has driven this development forwards, with greater segmentation, customisation and the ability to more reliably track and measure marketing outcomes.

However, the phenomena of search marketing, social media and other forms of user-generated content are leading to a reversal of this process. Consumers (in both the B2C and B2B sense) are increasingly rejecting this marketing-out scenario, leading to the falling effectiveness of email and other direct marketing communications. Instead, they are seeking out companies and their products, based on search results, referrals and online “buzz”. This is nothing new, with search optimisation and social media presence having represented key marketing priorities from some time now.

The emphasise though is moving to the question of how to engage those responding to marketing stimulus (whether “pushed” or more organic) in order to initiate the relationship that is crucial to successful marketing? This is where inbound marketing steps in, and where I believe significant development is taking place in focus and sophistication. Marketing is used to sending out communications with content customised for specific groups of recipients, but increasingly the same experience is now expected by website visitors.

Based on previous visits, IP look-up and online profiles, website visitors can experience content relevant and optimised for them, increasing the effectiveness of a brand’s web presence. The introduction by Facebook earlier this year of Instant Personalisation is an example of this trend, and according to Mark Zuckerberg we are moving from a web that doesn’t know who we are to one where the web knows exactly who we are.

And it’s data that drives the ability to provide and track this experience between visits and web locations? As database marketing and web analytics necessarily converge and evolve, the next generation of direct marketing will get underway.

Definition of Marketing Automation

December 14th, 2010

Earlier in the year I added a comment to a post on Mac McIntosh’s blog regarding his definition of B2B Marketing Automation. In essence, I returned to my oft-visited theme of the role of automation in bringing about agility, allowing Marketing to get on with its job. I was rather touched a few days ago to have my comments referred to in a post by Jep Castelein, on the Marketo blog, Marketing Agility and Marketing Automation. I know it seems like blatant self promotion, but I stand by my original comment and completely agree with both Mac and Jep’s posts, so I thought I’d share here!

Percassity Perspectives

October 14th, 2010

Latest edition of my company newsletter.

Issue 5, October 2010 This edition’s news round up takes a look at the potential of transactional emails, the BBC’s take on social media monitoring and court action against the UK by the EU data protection authorities. We also write on how old-style email campaigns waste marketing resources, and look at some low cost CRM technology solutions for SME’s.

Percassity Perspectives

July 21st, 2010

Latest edition of my company newsletter.

Issue 4, July 2010 News round-up includes a renaissance for direct mail, and the latest on data protection and cookies. We also take a look at the best marketing operations news on the web and also question the existent of the “marketing all-rounder”, and debate the internal vs external database resource question.

Database and digital marketing: two sides of the same coin?

July 9th, 2010

Earlier in the year I commented on a series of posts on the excellent Customer Experience Matrix blog maintained by marketing technology analyst and consultant David Raab, comparing and contrasting database and digital marketing. I’ve been meaning to highlight the posts here for a while as I think they’re thought provoking and important to the future of these two disciplines, and I’ve finally got around to it. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure (as I make clear in my comment) what the answer is here, and there’s a good deal of evolution yet to come. Still, David’s posts make interesting reading which I wanted to share.

In Unica and Alterian Lead Database Marketers to the Digital Promised Land, David reports on a recent Unica acquisition and a survey released by Alterian, making the observation that longer-standing database marketing vendors “have failed to adapt to the new world of digital marketing”. Although David contends that this doesn’t apply to Unica and Alterian, he cites a statistic from Alterian’s study that 61% of marketers do not integrate Web analytics with other customer data, to support his overall position. “Marketers are eagerly moving from classic direct marketing to digital…but still lack the skills and resources to do it effectively,” he says.

David’s follow-up post, Can Database Marketers Learn Digital Tricks? goes into more detail. He comments on the relative measurability of the two disciplines, particularly concerning “addressable individuals” and the greater comfort that database marketing has in working with existing, well-known customers rather than prospects about which less information is available. Finally, in Clarifying the Differences Between Database and Digital Marketing, David outlines a detailed comparison of key aspects of both database and digital marketing, highlighting common characteristics and key differences.

“There’s no reason the same organization or individual can’t master both database and digital marketing,” David concludes, but “it will take conscious effort to address the differences and fill the gaps that they imply.” A crucial topic that necessitates further discussion…

Does Data Quality matter?

June 11th, 2010

Very touched to have been asked to speak at the recent British Computer Society/Data Management Association joint meeting on the topic of Does Data Quality matter? Rather than writing a lo of words here, I thought I’d just share the slides from the talk!

Does data quality matter? View from the business

View more presentations from Percassity Solutions.

Institute of Direct Marketing Business-to-Business Marketing Conference 2010

May 21st, 2010

This week’s Institute of Direct Marketing B2B Marketing Conference threw up a few thoughts and anecdotes, as usual. In answering the questions “Why bother with marketing”, Professor Paul Fifield from the University of Southampton suggested that seeking-out and identifying customer value through a number of approaches is they key. One of these approaches includes ensuring the organisation achieves alignment with the market by generating insight and reacting rapidly to it.

The theme of rapid reaction, and what I like to call agility, came up again in the session from Vodafone’s Head of Devices, Online and Campaigns, Deane McIntyre. Referring to the recent ash-cloud crisis, he described the campaign he and his team were able to rapidly put together and execute, thanks to their marketing automation platform and flexible processes. This ability to react is very much what I have in mind when I talk about creating a marketing environment that enables and encourages innovation, rather than leaving Marketing wondering how they’re going to get the job done.

I was also amused by Deane’s comment regarding inserting a degree of opacity around the Marketing process as far as Sales are concerned. “Don’t show Sales the engine,” he said, referring to the processes and systems used by Marketing to run campaigns and generate leads. Whilst transparency is generally the best approach, I’m always saying that, for instance, it’s best not to send Sales all the leads so they don’t get the opportunity to crititise the poor ones. A certain obfuscation never goes amiss… I was less impressed though with his admission that he tended to undertake limited measurement of marketing activity, in favour of “just doing it”. And this from a former accountant!

Matthew Palmer from Deloitte was less sanguine about measurement (as you might expect from a big consultancy), with advice for Marketing on engaging with Finance. This included ensuring budgets are actively agreed together to encourage buy-in and developing easy metrics to demonstrate success. He also suggested explaining why budget is being spent a certain way and linking outcomes to corporate targets – which after all, should be the point of Marketing, right?! In addition, some advice regarding making cuts in spending were he offered, including the avoidance of simply reducing all line items by the same percentage. Instead, examine what really can be done-without and what needs to be retained at full strength, he suggested.

A good day as always and well worth the investment in time.

When to stop flogging a dead horse

April 13th, 2010

There’s a strong tendency when planning a data selection for a forthcoming campaign or programme to pull as much as possible in order to maximise the reach of the activity and corresponding response. This is nearly always self-defeating however, and not least when it comes to using every record meeting your selection criteria, regardless of how long ago it was collected or when any kind of response was last received. Even if such data is not obviously out of date, there are many reasons to exclude it from ongoing activity.

Although this is likely to be an issue restricted to email activity rather than relatively more expense direct mail, it’s still applicable to both. The greater cost involved with DM creates a natural incentive to fine-tuning selections ahead of launching a campaign. Even so, it’s extraordinary how poorly targeted such activity can often still be, with the obvious parameter of data age not taken into account.

The seemingly next-to-nothing cost of email though makes it easy to think that that there is no impact to using all available data, but as we all know (albeit don’t necessarily acknowledge) this is not the case. Diligent email marketers will of course remove bounced email addresses from their lists in order to maintain a clean database and eliminate records known to be no longer active (although not always, see Email bounces and database updates). And it goes without saying that opt-outs and unsubscribes must be removed in order to maintain privacy compliancy. Other than that, if you’ve got a usable record, use it, right?

Well, an obvious effect of taking this approach is to actually diminish your percentage open rates, since the opens that you do achieve will be diluted by all those disengaged recipients. Now you might be thinking that this is just damned lies and statistics, since the overall number of opens isn’t changed by the total number of recipients. If you’re monitoring these metrics however, they will be giving you a false, and unnecessarily pessimistic, impression. It will be much harder to achieve improvements due to the dead weight of of those recipients who are never going to look at what you send them.

Continuing to market to an artificially inflated list also obscures the number of people you’re actually reaching. The absolute open and click rates are crucial of course, but continuing to hope that non-responsive recipients will at some point come to life again may mask deeper issues with your database. Perhaps you should be looking for fresh subscribers or prospects via external data acquisition or increased social media activity to encourage opt-in. (Don’t just rush out and rent a list though – see the point on Data acquisition in my recent post How to take advantage of a recovery.)

How then should you go about honing your list selection when preparing a new campaign? Well obviously it goes without saying that your activity should be carefully targeted at individuals meeting relevant criteria across role, industry, interest, behaviour and so. A quick and easy way to eliminate the unresponsive element of your database however is to apply a filter I and others often refer to as “recency” (accepting this is a made-up word!). This is by no means rocket science, but takes a little discipline and good data management. Put simply, those individuals in your database that have not responded or interacted in any way for a defined period of time, usually 2-3 years, should be excluded from activity going forwards. Even if their email address is still in use they’re simply never going to respond and are just skewing your results as discussed. The minuscule possibility that they will respond in the future is just not worth the negative impact of continuing to include these recipients in your activity.

The trick here of course is the ability to effectively determine who these non-responders are. You will need the outcomes of your email and other direct activity to be fed back to your database in order to readily make a selection based on these criteria. As well as email opens and clicks, you should also take into account website log-in if applicable, event attendance, purchase (obviously) and any other behaviour you can identify and track. Increasingly, this might include social media activity, such as Twitter or Facebook. It’s quite possible that lack of actual response to email doesn’t mean lack of interest, but you need to demonstrate this, not just make an assumption. The ability to make this part of your selection criteria clearly needs to be a “production” capability, built-in to your marketing operations, and not a hugely labour intensive task for every campaign execution.

It’s worth noting also that the lack of response to marketing activity could itself be used as a trigger for some other kind of follow-up, particularly for high value contacts. If a past customer or senior-level prospect has stopped responding, a quick call using a low-cost resource (i.e. not an expensive Inside Sales rep) to check their status could be worthwhile. Maybe the contact has left and been replaced, changed roles or allowed your company to fall off their radar. You might be able to re-engage, but if not, move on.

Recency should be a field in your database that is constantly calculated based on all the criteria outlined above, which can be readily included in a selection. Just to make the point, this is completely different from “last edit date”, which can often be set when a record in a database is merely viewed, regardless of whether a real change was made or activity performed by the contact. Implementing this simple addition to your campaign selection will have an instant, positive effect on your marketing metrics and save you from flogging dead horses.