Friday 27 March 2015

Data driven marketing - then and now

Marketing has always been data driven, at least some marketing.  In the old days there was something called mail order.  We now call it e-commerce and its not so different. I started my career in the family mail order business and there was a fair bit of data around even then.  My Dad could often be found making complex calculations on the back of an envelope. Things called cheques used to arrive in the post so envelopes were not in short supply. He would figure out what people had bought and what we should sell.  Then we got something called a computer. At least we called it a computer ...

Now I could regale you with stories about how the computer looked like a space ship (not a joke, it really did) but that’s not the point.  The point is that data driven marketing isn’t new.  What’s new is the amount and quality of data that’s available, and the tools we have to analyze it.  All of which is a lot more than an email away from those happy day of envelopes and biros. 

Data sources

Even the smallest businesses hold data in a multitude of systems: accounts, CRM (customer relationship management) system, stock control, estimating, custom databases, spreadsheets, the list goes on.  Many businesses now have data in the cloud (a concept that well confuses my Dad), as well as in-house PCs or servers.  Then there’s data held in third party systems such as Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter and more.  Our most precious marketing data is held all over the place – quite literally.

Data quality

If you suffer from poor quality data in some of your systems, you are no doubt expecting me to talk about improving the quality of data before its analyzed.  That’s certainly important and relevant.  But on a more positive note, the amount of high quality data that’s available to us is quite staggering.  We can see who has visited which web pages, we know what people are saying on Twitter, we can target advertising on Facebook to a degree that was a much more expensive in the biro days.  Although less business is conducted face to face now, we have the opportunity to know more about our customers and how they buy.  If we care to look, that is.

Marketing Analytics

So what to do with our data, data, everywhere?  Sense-making would be close to impossible if it wasn’t for two great marketing saviors – SQL Server and Excel.  We can join up disparate data sources in data warehouses (they sound huge, but you can have little warehouses too), we can analyse data from multiple perspectives (data in cubes), and we can manipulate it in Excel.  This is where the PC really starts to show it can face up to any envelope!

Marketers no longer have to rely on static reports, they can work with the data.  There’s all the difference in the world between passively reading data, and being able to manipulate and play with data.  You can create a graph, perform calculations, create pivot tables, look at a sub-set, and add in extra information.

Bringing it together

Bringing it all together isn’t nearly as daunting as it sounds, and surprisingly you already have the software on your PC.  Creating marketing dashboards using Excel is now both feasible and powerful, providing you have the data to feed your dashboard. 

It seems a world away from a small mail order business, but the principles are just the same.  Only the shape and power of the computers has changed.  Plus some neat technologies that are well suited to solving marketing problems. Oh, and there are fewer biros around.

Talk to us!

Have you got something to say about data driven marketing?  Or biros?  Do you want to talk about how Microsoft technologies could help you on your marketing data journey?  We are specialists in databases for marketing, data warehouses and joining the marketing dots.  Leave a comment or get in touch.

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