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Data-driven marketers are computer scientists? Or riverboat gamblers?

Way back when, in the early stages of my career I was told that my job was to be half computer scientist and half riverboat gambler. The trick was to figure which half, at what point in time and in what situation.

Teradata recently ran an ad in Forbes magazine with the headline, "Data-driven businesses outperform" and the sub-head of, "Becoming a data-driven organization is now a matter of survival in the market, because such organizations tend to outperform."

Oh really?

A few pages later, Rich Karlgaard makes a persuasive case about "Data Wimps" with the following closing thoughts, "In the early 1990s Starbucks hit a slow patch. "Putting his career and reputation on the line [Howard] Behar told [Howard] Schulzt and the Starbucks board, "We don't need more data. Our problem is simple. Our employees are unhappy. Is that enough data for you?"

Dear marketers, are your customers unhappy? The data looks great... but are your customers unhappy? It pays to ask...

And then, listen to your gut and make the right decision, even if it flies in the face of all the science, statistics and predictive models that say otherwise. Remember, all the data is looking in the rear-view mirror. It's in the past. Your decisions need to take advantage of the future.

Householding - is it a thing of the past?

Twenty-plus years ago when I started in direct marketing "householding" was a condition that every marketer with a database of any size had to deal with. For those that are too young to know what this is, let me explain:

Let's say you work for Sony and you want to market to Johnny Smith who lives at 123 Main Street, Toledo, Ohio. Johnny comes to a landing page, enters his name, address and email address into your nifty form and submits. He tells you he wants to receive email promotions and a catalog. Seems simple enough to interact with Johnny based on the information he provided.

Traditional campaign marketers fail when it comes to lifecycle marketing...

Unless they change their thinking and their behaviors.

Take a look at the ugly / simple chart above. Notice that a 5 day gap exists between each email in the campaign. Now consider that this drip campaign has 8 steps in the series. Simple math tells us that 40 days will pass before the prospect or customer passes through the entire series...

Years ago when I first started in direct marketing, one of the companies I studied was Reader's Digest. As I recall they used a 37 step renewal series. That's right, 37 steps! And they weren't mailing every 5 days. It took years to complete the series.

Why did they do this? Simple. They knew that it cost less to obtain an order by mailing their house file 37 times than it did to find a new customer that would buy that first time...

Sometimes marketers act as if the only answer they know is "more is better" and "faster" must be best of all.

This is foolishness...

But even more so, if the marketer is steeped in traditional campaign practices where they view the world as a singular campaign that can be dropped today and measured over the next 72 hours only to make a decision based on the number of responses, the response rate and the very short response curve of that single campaign.

Didn't get enough responses to keep your guys busy on the phone? Pull another list, let's mail again.

This is a very expensive process and counter productive - especially if the marketer works for a company that has embraced the idea of life cycle marketing.


Here are three simple reasons why lifecyle marketing is more productive and less costly than traditional campaign management:

  • Life cycle marketing happens over time. Sometimes long stretches of time. It is not a singular event.
  • Life cycle marketing is much easier to manage once it is setup. Load your list segment into the series and let it run. Using the example above, load the list once and the system will drop 8 emails to your customers or prospects over the next 40 days.
  • Creative efforts shift from always creating the next new promotion to monitoring, measuring and improving what the market is responding to
As marketers we love the practice of life cycle marketing - and not just for the three reasons noted above. The biggest reason is this: we're focused on the customer instead of trying to push things out the door in order to get a response. Yes, we want responses, but we want those responses to be driven by the customer. We know this is what creates life-time value... and that creates long-term profit.
There are no secrets on the web...and everything is on the web.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have an app that let's everyone in the family know where everyone is, at all times and in all places. Parents would love it. Kids would hate it - especially the teenagers. And some spouses would never stand for it. This little marvel of an app could not only identify location but send timely and relevant messages to members of the family using location based data. Example, Joe stops at the gas station to fill up his car on the way home from work and instantly he gets a text message from his wife asking him to pick up a gallon of milk and bring it home.

Does your customer journey start like this?

Recently I signed on to receive emails from a specialty clothing retailer - just to see how they do their marketing. What you see above is the result of my first 20 days of emails received. Notice that the Welcome Email came on day one, then a pause until day 7, then every day a new email. A few other things I'd like to point out:

  • No personalization exists in any of these emails
  • No dynamic content has been delivered
  • No gender specific offers

London School of Marketing discusses the importance of conducting email marketing throughout the consumer lifecycle

It's refreshing to see the university crowd getting on-board with the idea of customer lifecycle marketing. Not that schools haven't previously been on-board, but the industry can use more marketing students coming out of school that have some concept of lifecycle marketing.

This is the 2nd article I have seen in recent weeks highlighting the usefulness of email marketing when applied to a defined customer lifecycle. Clearly this is not new to the marketing technology industry, but whenever 3rd party sources make the observation and emphasize the value of this typie of marketing, it is satisfying to those of us that have been practicing it for decades.

Brands Set Rules to Manage Email Frequency

In the old days of direct marketing we called this recency, frequency and monetary value (RFM).  It is a highly useful technique and it's great that and others are applying it to frequency of email touch.  

The other method that is referenced we called, frequency momentum and again this is a highly useful technique but one that is rarely used.  It's too bad, because when frequency momentum is applied to "big data" it is exceptionally powerful.  Consider that mass x velocity = momentum and you begin to get the picture on what this one metric call tell us when dealing with "big data" customer files, transactional files, site traffic, etc.

How Bank of Montreal has achieved one-to-one customer engagement - CMO Australia

Excellent view on transitioning an organization to become focused on the customer.  If you get only one thing - get this point:  The customer-centric approach also triggered a reorganisation of marketing in the last six months from a focus on product, to customer acquisition and lifecycle management.  Great products are wonderful, but they needed to be delivered to serve the needs of customers.  Focusing on the customer is the answer.

Publishers' Top Email Marketing Pain Points |MarketingProfs Article

This shouldn't be much of a surprise.  Magazine publishers have deep circulation expertise, which is a great direct marketing skill to have; but it does not translate directly into marketing automation, email marketing and dynamic content.  For this you really need to add to a deep technology skill set and strong process design capabilities.

How do I know?  I was Circulation Director for a BPA qualified magazine with over 200,000 paid subscribers, including newsstand distribution.

Publishers are in a great position to leverage the latest messaging platforms, but they will have to beef up on the technology skill sets withing their circulation departments.  And they will have to combine editorial direction with circulation skills in order to deliver relevant dynamic content to their readers.

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