Posted by: garyskidmore | November 30, 2014

A Love for the Customer Equals a Love for Data

When I started Select Marketing in 1981, one of my goals was to enable clients to provide the best customer experience through the power of one-to-one communication, via the telephone – at that time, the most personal of all media.

The customer experience – or the prospect experience – has always been make-or-break for any business, so it was quickly apparent that somehow, some way, metrics were needed to measure customer interaction, establish baselines and benchmarks, and leave client customers – and the clients as a result – feeling very satisfied. At that time, the Quality Movement was in full swing, making a discipline of internal and external measurements, methodologies for improvement, and incremental changes always for the better.

In short, data served to define better customer relationships.

During the next 3+ decades, data-driven marketing and customer relationship management came to define a discipline of its own. At Harte Hanks, which acquired Select Marketing in 1994, the contact center was integrated with other media and communications channels, to represent a “complete” customer experience driven by databases, and the analytics made possible by data collection and use. My rise to lead that company coincided with near-universal business recognition that no matter where the customer is, no matter what channels and media he or she interacts with, that the ability for brands to access data, transform it into intelligence and apply it for a better customer experience is a winning combination.

Look what has become of it. The Direct Marketing Association’s Data-Driven Marketing Institute determined that data helped drive $156 billion in revenue and 675,000 jobs in the U.S. economy in 2012. Furthermore, fully 70 percent of this value – $110 billion in sales – depends upon the exchange of data between entities, and its subsequent application.

I see this figure only growing, and significantly so. Look at what’s happened to media buying, for example. In the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s become largely programmatic-driven powered by data. In fact media buying is less about the media, and more about the audience attributes that reside in the media. That’s nearly always been the case, but now the algorithms that drive advertising exchanges are highly defined by audience selection – the media matters, but only as much as the actual or intended customer is engaged with each channel.

Very few brands truly achieve “omni-channel” marketing, where a complete view of the customer is identified and recognized across all channels (and devices), and the data generated in each channel is integrated and analyzed accordingly to devise and create more relevant communication. That nirvana is now a stated goal for many forward-thinking CMOs and CIOs (and quite a few CFOs and CEOs, too), working together – as well as many innovative ad technology developers and entrepreneurs I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

It’s certainly part of my marketing DNA. Now I’m advising a company called DataMentors, which provides integrated data quality, data management and business intelligence solutions to help brands maximize customer value, reduce risk, and grow customer relationships.

Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) has been made possible by

  • the Marketing Cloud,
  • chief executive buy-in of data’s transformative power,
  • the abundance of smarter tools and analytics to take data’s volume, variety and velocity and make it true business intelligence — often in real time.

That’s a lot of “processing” going on, and the results get immediately applied to serve the customer.

If you love your customers, then your love for data simply goes hand-in-hand. .

Helpful Links:

Data-Driven Marketing Institute: “The Value of Data: Consequences for Insight, Innovation, and Efficiency in the U.S. Economy” (October 2013):

The CMO Club and Visual IQ Team Up for Groundbreaking Study on Big Data and Marketing Attribution (January 2014):

Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB): 85% Of Advertisers And 72% Of Publishers Use Programmatic Auction Strategies, According To A New Survey of Digital Marketing Leaders (November 2013):

Opportunities for Global Expansion of Programmatic Expertise Spotlighted In Exclusive Study from IAB and Winterberry Group (July 2014):

DataMentors: More Revenue from Big Data (a video):


“Big Data is growing, and growing fast. We get that. However, like many marketers, you may be grappling with the challenge of finding the RIGHT data to target your customers and prospects – and with the RIGHT message. This is where DataMentors’ Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a game changer and the fuel to power your competitive advantage.”

— DataMentors Web Site on DaaS


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