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Putting data at the heart of customer insight

6th February 2015 • Opinions

With a recent survey finding that only 6% of Customer Insight leaders viewed database marketing as part of Customer Insight, consultant Paul Laughlin takes a look at three key starting points to make the most of a data marketing team.

One of the advantages of having a data team within a Customer Insight department is delivery of measurable commercial benefit in the short term. The incremental profit delivered from this team can help fund the longer-term work of research teams, so here are three tips for getting the best out of your data marketing team.

Tip 1: Visit touch-points (customer closeness)

Going outside to experience first-hand who your customers are, and the experiences they have when interacting with your business, is something I’ve always recommended to my teams. Often the kind of people who excel in this team are analytically strong & commercially driven. They are motivated by seeing the difference they can make to tangible business results. This can be a real bonus to your wider CI team, but also runs the risk of a team who are too internally focussed. In other words they can become both rationally and emotionally distant from real customers.

Seeing and hearing customer experiences can be both a revelation and a strong motivation for data analysts. Firstly, they are powerfully reminded that they are designing interactions with real people. Secondly, being ‘at the coal face’ can highlight practical problems or give ‘eureka’ moments to improve the interaction.

Tip 2: Share commercial targets with sales/retention teams

In recent years CI teams have risen to greater influence within large companies. However, one silo of skepticism that many have still encountered is sales, or those ‘on the spike’ for critical commercial targets. This is unfortunate for both sides, as CI should be a benefit to an entire business and certainly has as much to share and learn from sales as it does from marketing.

As measurement of the effectiveness of marketing improves, data teams should be able to more accurately predict both the volume of leads to be provided and the likely sales they will generate. The first stage of warming relations with your sales teams is to share this with them. But the signature action that I found made a step change in relations was for the CI leader and data team to also take commercial targets. To calculate the proportion of overall sales which can be generated from leads and be ‘on the spike’ for hitting those numbers.

Tip 3: Invest in commercial understanding

One of the mistakes you can make as a CI leader is to assume that your team know more than they do. Over the years it has been eye opening for me to see that many very capable analysts, who may wow audiences with their statistics or visualisations, actually understand very little about how the business really makes money. Such commercial naivety can really trip them up in future, through inappropriate recommendations. Beyond this potential for embarrassment, it is also a huge missed opportunity. So much of the quality of DBM work comes from domain knowledge; really understanding where the opportunities lie, where things are not working and what can be done to improve results.

It can prove very valuable to invest in ‘commercial understanding’ training. This includes understanding the general principles of how a business makes money. One of the best trainers I have heard on this is Dave Meckin, author of Naked Finance. Then building on that improved financial competency, your DBM analysts will also benefit from understanding the market your business operates in, how it competes and the major profit levers used in its strategy. Getting experts in from your market intelligence or strategy teams can really help. As DBM analysts look at their data, processes and customer behaviour with fresh eyes – they often spot areas for improvement which they now know will impact the bottom line.

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