Data-driven or data-integrated marketing is something of a buzz phrase. There are many definitions around Integrated Marketing Management (IMM) but I came across that of the Financial Times who capture the whole concept of data-driven/integrated marketing nicely as …
“… the marketing insights and decisions that arise from the analysis of data about or from consumers…”.
To paraphrase, it’s not the data itself where the value lies. It’s how you use it. That takes organisation.
However you define it, there’s no doubt that the ability to capture and intelligently use data has become one of the fundamental drivers of many forms of direct marketing – email included. In a recent Forbes Insights Report, 64% of respondents strongly agreed that data driven marketing was crucial to their business success. And it works. Along with many others, business consultants Capgemini report that companies emphasising data-driven decision-making in their business processes have elevated productivity levels – around 5-6% higher than average.
In the Adobe survey ‘What keeps marketers up at night’, data or data related issues dominated the responses. It seems our struggle as marketers is not in the creative nature of our craft – these days creating and delivering email campaigns is relatively easy – but more in our ability to harness and apply the information which is potentially available to us.
Useless fact! It’s not widely appreciated but the word data is actually plural – it’s the plural form of the Latin noun datum, originally meaning “something given”, but often interpreted as meaning a fact or statistic. Today of course it’s largely synonymous with computer related content, signals and information. Like the words food, music and indeed information, in its scientific use the word data is commonly accepted as a ‘mass noun’. This means it can be considered as singular and we don’t have to wrestle with the awkwardness of a phrase like ‘our data were collected…’ – our data ‘is’ collected is perfectly acceptable. That’s that out of the way!
It’s no wonder that the big boys of the information market are involved in data related activities. Data statistics are as fascinating as they are frightening. Professional services provider KPMG estimate that more than a zettabyte of data (1bn terabytes) now circulates around the internet – a zettabyte is 1024 exabytes. If that doesn’t help, think in terms of the storage capacity for around 2 billion years of music files on your iPod. It’s recent too, and increasing rapidly. The BBC report that around 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last few years and Gartner predict a 650% increase in data over the next 5 years, with business related data increasing by 40% per year for the foreseeable future.
Aside from its size and origin, an important part of most definitions of data is the concept of its use or usability. Business and financial publisher Forbes report that “…data itself has no inherent value. The value is in the processes, decisions, customer experiences, and differentiators that it enables”. It’s a common theme. KPMG take a similar line saying “…winning businesses don’t simply gather data, they understand insights from what they already possess”.
This is certainly the case with email marketing. To me, the essence of data-driven email marketing is about being audience centric. With email there’s a very strong correlation between relevance and engagement – the more individually appropriate a message is the more a subscriber is likely to open and engage with it. Relevance and personalisation are similarly linked. Although it’s easy to think of email marketing as a mass broadcast medium, to the recipient it’s still a one-to-one communication. Talking to our email audience as individuals is a much overlooked marketing strategy. Precision marketing, that is using usable insights in our data to provide subscribers with personally relevant content, is slightly more involved but even more powerful.
The good news is that email databases are relatively small (It’s not big but it is clever). Only around 20% of SMEs (according to the EU definition) have opt-in databases of more than 10,000 subscribers. It varies but around 3,000-5,000 could be considered a typical opt-in email database of an average medium sized SME (that’s turnover less than 50m Euros). As blogged before, 5,000 opt-in subscribers can be considered as something of an arrival point. It can be effective with smaller, but databases of this size are the threshold for effective use of many automation and precision techniques.
More good news is that email marketing data is relatively easy to mobilise – most customer type data applications are designed with integration to other similar applications in mind. And finally, as structured, formatted information the value in customer/email type data is close to the surface. It’s relatively easy to extract and apply.
To summarise, for us as email marketers, data has three main uses.
Email addresses. Subscriber email address data is the basic ‘fuel’ for email campaigns. It’s not surprising that the best ways to collect and grow an email subscriber database is one of the most commonly asked questions. Without this email marketing is a non-starter.
Insight. A next level of audience ‘insight’ is the intelligence needed for precision targeting of email campaigns. Understanding in many cases just a little more about our subscribers is the catalyst to elevate email marketing from a mass broadcast type of strategy to a much more personal technique. This is where email marketing really begins to perform.
Performance. And let’s not forget – post campaign data allows us to analyse our performance and to understand in detail how our audience are relating to and engaging with our content – both our email campaigns and, using techniques like Audience Insights, our related online content.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about many aspects of data-driven marketing, from how to collect insightful data to how to integrate your various data applications and mobilise your information right across your business. Stay tuned. I’ll be back.