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Why Data Fuels People-Based Marketing

January 22, 2018
By Kirsten Onsgard

Data People-Based MarketingYour customers — ahem, people — each expect personalized service. They want to have two-way, ongoing conversations with brands: customers tell and show brands what they want, and brands react with personalized offers.

But for marketers, this can feel like a lot to ask.

Marketers used to shout at their customers and prospects. Then, they segmented their outreach lists — or at least, a little. They may have had some data on their customers behavior — such as their last online purchase — but they couldn’t predict future purchases. They had customer data on mobile, social, email and on their site, but they couldn’t connect those IDs to create a complete, cross-channel picture.

They had data. They had technology. But it still didn’t quite address real needs.

Today, that’s changed. We have big data, artificial intelligence and powerful automation tools. Now, brands can put that data to work, fueling predictions about their customers — like what they might want to buy next — and creating a streamlined experience.

Here’s how members of our expert panel are using data to power People-Based Marketing.

Why are data and intelligence important to understanding your customers’ needs?

Gary Beck, Chief Strategy Officer at Endai, a data-driven online marketing agency: Simply stated, data and intelligence help us to understand the profile of customers who purchase and engage in certain ways. In a competitive marketplace, you’re operating with both arms tied behind your back if you aren’t using data intelligence to better understand your consumers.

Alessandra Ceresa, Content and Engagement Specialist at GreenRope, a small business CRM: Data tells you what your audience likes, dislikes, who they are, what they buy, where they go, etc. The more you know, the more you can tailor and personalize your marketing messages. You can’t use what you don’t have and without data, you have to rely on ineffective mass communication like the old days of marketing. It is basically like throwing something out there and seeing what sticks. You are looking to waste a lot of time and resources with this type of strategy. Data gives you power as a marketer. It gives you the power to actually address the needs and wants of your leads and customers. It takes out the guesswork, so you can do more with less.

Jason Oates, Chief Business Officer at LiveIntent, which connects brands to people along the customer journey: Data and intelligence is only useful if it can help predict and drive a desired outcome. Data is the collection of attributes on a consumer derived from online or offline sources. For instance, BMW stores the terms of my lease in a database. Incidentally, my lease is expiring in a few months. Intelligence is critical for interpreting and activating information to drive a desired outcome. Continuing with my example, BMW can use that data along with their ID graph and activation partners to engage me and members of my household anytime, anywhere, because they know I am in market for another vehicle. My wife Shanny and I are getting emails and calls from our sales guy, we’re getting other emails from BMW’s CRM team, and since I’ve been watching videos of the new X3 M40i on YouTube, I'm getting new video alerts to my phone about that SUV, and I love it, because the messaging is relevant.

Debbie Tolman, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement at Cox Media Group, which integrates broadcasting, publishing and digital media to create a local impact with real journalism: It is kind of like trying to assemble an Ikea bedroom set without opening the instructions. You can eventually build the furniture but you probably had to redo a few steps and wasted a lot of time. I can batch and blast my way to the KPIs I need. However, if I let the data provide guidance I can do it faster with a much better ROI.

Are you using data more often, or in new ways than before?

Beck: Yes, yes and yes. Every day, we get smarter about what works and what doesn’t. We continuously test new data sources, channels and marketing treatments to evolve our capabilities.

Ceresa: Definitely. We didn’t use to segment our lead nurturing as much as we do now. Because we have three different suites – sales, marketing and operations – we now utilize data like title, interests, etc. to deliver more relevant content to our leads. Instead of sending them anything and everything about GreenRope, we send content as it relates to what they do and who they are. Since being more focused, we have seen increases in open rates, click-throughs, conversions, etc.

Oates: We use data and intelligence both more frequently and in new and more effective ways. There’s an abundance of third-party data, first-party data, and modelled audiences available for activation on LiveIntent. When this data is used in concert with our machine learning and optimization algorithms (i.e. our intelligence), we can drive superior ROAS for marketers. As mentioned previously, we’re also leveraging our graph and new in-house tech to deliver dynamic product ads into our customers’ first-party emails and across our platform to drive reach, frequency and conversions from new and existing customers.

Tolman: Yes. I have always leaned toward data in my tactics. For email it was a natural process. Everything you did used data and created more data. Now, I am trying to get into MarTech and what that means to being an omnichannel business. It is really exciting to learn.

What technology do you use to understand your customers?

Beck: We use a software platform that we created, BuyerGenomics, to help us better understand who the best customers are and which campaigns are most effective.

Ceresa: We use our own platform, GreenRope. It combines CRM, marketing automation, customer service, event management and more into one single dashboard making it easy to collect and use data across departments. When it is all integrated into the same platform, you alleviate the risk of bad or inaccurate data due to importing and exporting, accidental data loss and/or a lack of transparency that comes with disparate systems.

Oates: We leverage first-party, third-party and modelled data to understand customers. Additionally, we use a machine learning and optimization tool, Predict™, that is constantly analysing many variables to assess which predict value for performance or outcome. More specifically, the tool is looking at demographics, time, location, intent and quality of identity. Then, at the time of auction, Predict™ is choosing the highest potential ad or marketing message to be served.

Tolman: We are using first-party data coming from our subscription business, social data, Adobe and now GA360 data, identity resolution services and chat bots.

What emerging technology are you watching?

Beck: Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play an increasing role in people-based marketing in the next five years, so we keep a close eye on the latest techniques. Stay tuned!

Ceresa: AI (artificial intelligence) is obviously a big one, but I don’t know enough about it to really predict how it will affect marketing this year. Also, I think we will see a shift to more integrated platforms, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. As more people are investing in CRM and marketing automation, they are realizing that the total cost of ownership when having multiple systems goes up substantially, affecting positive ROI. Integrated systems, like GreenRope (wink, wink) really do save people time, money and frustration. Trying to connect different systems is hard, requires a specific skill set, and can be resource-consuming. The same goes with having to learn how to use each system. All of the training, custom code, connectors, etc. cost money – bringing your total cost of ownership up. When you have all these features in one platform, you are eliminating a lot of those costs, which means you are up and running (and saving money) quicker and more efficiently.

Oates: We’d love for the multi-touch attribution companies to continue to move away from cookie-based attribution because cookies only measure 8-16% of all media. We’d like to see the industry embrace a server-to-server methodology that can leverage ID graphs to gain one view of a customer, and then measure attribution across many more online and offline touchpoints.

We’d also like CRM teams to embrace CMS (content management systems) that help them create and distribute CRM creative/messages in third-party display channels like the open web and email. CRM teams are used to creating stand alone first-party emails, but struggle when it comes to creating assets that work within their activation partners like Google, Facebook and LiveIntent.

Tolman: AI is fascinating to me. I understand a thimble worth of it. The more I see the power of it, the more I see the possibilities.


Data used to simply tell marketers what they needed to know. It used to report back and show success.

Now, data is integral: plugging into CRMs or other marketing tools, saving time and providing a better picture of what’s working, and what’s not. It’s crucial that marketers patch their own data with intelligence and connect customers across channels.

Data is the core of People-Based Marketing, and the fuel that makes those personalized campaigns run.

In our next post, we’ll look at the future seemingly old-school technology with huge ROI: how email fits into a People-Based marketing approach.

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