As I watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, I reflected on where I think we, as marketers, dropped the ball in 2017, and what we could do to improve in the new year. And my mind kept coming back to customer data — namely, how we use it, control it and share it to inspire smarter customer engagement strategies and stimulate business growth.
Here are three resolutions I think all marketers should strive to keep in 2018:
1. Put your customers first — really
A lot of you may believe you put your customers first. But if you’re working with siloed data sets that you don’t own and control, you’re actually putting some business requirements first.
Far too often, marketers give up control of their customer data to a vendor and hope for the best. But when vendors don’t — or can’t or won’t — return data to a brand’s internal systems, the brand can’t close the loop on attribution, let alone gain visibility into what customers need now and may desire tomorrow.
To really understand your customers, all of your data must be persistent and centralized into one location that the entire organization can access to drive better business outcomes. Customer service issues, email glitches, defective products, website functionality — these are all vital pieces of information that should inform the next logical step in a brand-customer relationship.
Beyond technological considerations, implementing true customer-centricity also requires a total buy-in across the enterprise — a steadfast commitment to believing that your customers are literally the most important thing about what your business does. It’s one thing to read a mission statement about a company that wants to deliver the best customer experiences possible; it’s another to actually invest the time and resources to make this happen.
2. Stop chasing strangers
Admit it, it’s exhausting — not to mention, infinitely more expensive — to continually try to rush new customers in the door to replace the ones who’ve rushed away. Obviously, finding new customers is essential. But finding quality customers is the key. After all, if you acquire bad customers, you’re not going to retain them.
Thanks to the evolution of customer identity solutions, marketers can now connect acquisition efforts to a larger strategy to retain customers and grow high lifetime values. By continuously recognizing customers across touch points from the moment of acquisition and beyond, marketers can build durable identity graphs for insights and targeting.
This means once new customers have been acquired, brands can use that first-party data to reach them with accuracy and relevancy outside of owned channels and in paid media, building upon that first transaction to foster long-term, high-value relationships.
3. Learn to share
C’mon, we’re not five years old. It’s time for our mindset about sharing data to grow up, too.
In an age when businesses are being built on a foundation of customer data — think Amazon, Airbnb, Uber or any of the other data-driven brands that are recognizing (even inventing) new consumer desires — brands that lack competitive first-party data assets can’t afford to go it alone.
I get it — for some of you, the thought of sharing your brand’s hard-won first-party data runs counter to developing and sustaining a competitive edge. But if you’re handing over customer data to walled gardens to achieve scale while sacrificing insights, then backing away from data-sharing opportunities actually runs counter to increasing the value of your customer data.
By sharing first-party data in strategic and secure partnerships, brands can increase scale and strengthen their customer data assets, leveling the playing field and potentially opening up game-changing opportunities.
Consider the alliance between a consumer packaged goods company and a big-box retailer, a quick-service restaurant and a beverage brand, a sports site and a men’s lifestyle brand, or any combination of automotive, financial services and insurance brands that all share common audience demographics and interests. All of these businesses have data in various places, accessible in various ways. What doesn’t exist for one exists for another. Working together, data partners can create larger, more valuable data pools that get them a lot closer to a lot more customers.
Look, no business can be everything to everyone. Even Amazon has its shortfalls. So while your brand may not have the advantage of entering this new year with a clean slate, it does have the advantage of years and years of rich customer data that, if leveraged effectively, can improve customer relationships and your company’s bottom line.
To thrive in 2018, marketers should stop questioning the value of building and enriching their brand’s customer data asset. Rather, we should all be asking how much money that asset will make.