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Upper Management

How advances in data collection and management are reshaping targeted marketing

July 2012 By Sean Norris

George Orwell was onto something. Maybe not with the dystopian society, giant-faces-on-video-screens stuff, but with the whole "Big Brother is watching you" thing. Websites monitor who clicks on what and relay that information to advertisers. Many large retail chains employ teams of statisticians to analyze consumer shopping habits and offer coupons accordingly. Some grocery stores and shopping malls have begun using surveillance camera footage to track crowd density and movement patterns.

Okay, maybe the future is a bit less nefarious than he predicted, but Orwell was right in his prognostication that technology would be used to monitor our habits and tendencies.

Technology has indeed driven data collection and demographic analysis to staggering levels of sophistication. For marketers, especially those dealing in cross-media or direct marketing campaigns, that can be a boon—but only if they are able to process and manage that information.

"Data gathering and management is absolutely essential for successful cross-media direct marketing programs," said Sarah Mannone, director of account services for Trekk, Inc., a marketing agency based in Rockford, Ill. "The more data we have, the more we're able to segment that data, the more we're able to target audience members uniquely and relevantly—using messages, images and incentives that are compelling to them on an individual level."

Robert Becker, vice president, account services group, for KBM Group, Richardson, Texas, noted that data management, when executed properly, allows marketers to better identify their target customer. "Proper management of enterprise-wide data allows companies to truly understand their customer needs and behaviors, which enables interactions that mean something to both [parties] and improves the overall consumer experience," he explained.

"Data management today includes seamless integration of data from each part of an organization's marketing and operational ecosystem," Becker continued. "Consumer interactions with a brand are recorded in real time and stored within a master data repository."

Becker listed program registration, surveys, purchase transactions, website visits and e-mail responses as some of the main consumer interactions from which data is gathered. Using these sources, he said, marketers can determine varying degrees of demographic, lifestyle and attitudinal information.

Mannone elaborated. "We're typically looking for first name, last name, company name, title, e-mail address, phone, etc.," she stated. "Ideally, we would get additional data like title, gender, age, length of relationship with company, birthday, last engagement/order, etc."

Collector's Items: Using Your Data

So you've identified your target market, collected and analyzed the demographic information. What's next? Sarah Mannone, director of account services for Trekk, inc., Rockford, Ill., provided some ways data can be utilized in cross-media or direct mail marketing campaigns:

  • Personalized salutations or greetings
  • Imagery, incentives, messages or value propositions based on age, gender, hobbies or areas of interest, company type, product preferences, etc.
  • Event-triggered communications where communications are automatically sent based on a date (such as a birthday or anniversary), a purchase, length of time between purchases, etc.
  • Incorporated into the artwork of a direct mail piece using variable imaging
  • Determining tactics for deployment (print, e-mail, mobile, social, etc.)
  • Organizing target groups by priority (based on historical purchase activity, likelihood to buy again, etc.)


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