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February 8th, 2018

Is Your People-Based Marketing Stacked for Success?

This article was originally published on on January 30, 2018.

Customer obsession is one of those trends worth the hype. Who would argue the virtue of knowing your customer so well that you actually anticipate their interaction with your brand and outperform against their expectations?

And technology today is fast proliferating to enable this promise of customer-obsessed, people-based marketing at scale. Marketers can now realize the potential of serving customers the kind of meaningful interactions that used to only happen in real life. Like the nice couple at your neighborhood grocery store that know your name and the way you take your coffee, technology exists to facilitate experiences that are light on friction and rich with personalized surprise and delight.

Still, just like today's consumers are willing to pass up the big players for lesser-known brands that “get them” better, it's not enough to pick marketing technology based on name and familiarity alone. The big, well-known martech clouds have saturated the market with the promise of a fully integrated stack.

The problem is that when you choose these stacks, you also choose to sacrifice the ability to do effective people-based marketing. That's because these cloud-based stacks don't possess the foundational identity required, or the customer analytics necessary, to measure those efforts. Gartner's Martin Kihn got it right when he said: “Ad tech and martech are parallel universes, but they have points of convergence. And the big point is around identity; the marketing record. And the other is around analytics.”

And on this front, the martech clouds miss the mark.

The Purpose of True Customer Identity
The basis for customer knowledge resides in two existing marketing technologies: the CRM (customer relationship management) database and the DMP (data management platform). It is within these technologies that we know which current customers are worth engaging, and what the most promising new customers look like. It tells us the best things to say to make this customer happy, and when to say it. It tells us the kind of in-store experiences that resonate most, and what this customer will expect when they phone a call center.

The CRM houses a wealth of valuable – some might say the best – customer data. But as great as it is, CRM data only goes so far. For one, its accuracy degrades over time and needs to be updated and verified. And since the typical customer also researches and engages with the brand online, that digital dimension is essential for a single customer view. This is where a DMP comes into play. A DMP can house all digital data, including first-party identified data as well as third-party data; it is also built to do segmentation and connect to online platforms such as DSPs (demand-side platforms) that enable advertising directly against those audiences, in near-real time. The DMP, therefore, not only offers an exceptionally robust view of the customer, it also helps form similar-looking prospects besides. This combination of CRM and DMP is the foundation for customer-obsessed marketing at scale.

The key that connects and unlocks enhanced CRM and DMP data: A customer identity system that links and unifies the data into a single profile. This system is:

1. Authoritative: grounded in offline sources of consumer identity like physical address, phone number, etc.

2. Persistent: constantly corroborated and updated

3. Integrated: connected to all other customer data

4. Privacy-friendly: in line with industry privacy standards

How are these different than what the clouds provide? First, the clouds don't have any experience in the offline world. Clouds rely on third-party vendors to provide a view of identity that is typically based on email-address-matching alone. As such, they have no ability to help brands enhance and correct CRM data, and then bridge that offline data with online data. And when the core data is faulty, imagine how difficult it is to build on that data with additional identity-based behaviors or characteristics.

Second, low-fidelity identity means your omnichannel customer view is flawed and inaccurate out of the gate. This impacts true, meaningful reach. For example, a cloud that uses an email-matching mechanism to assign customer identity might wrongly define a single customer who has a work and home email as two different people. That splinters marketing efforts across every single channel. And beyond weakening cross-channel accuracy, the efficiency of your marketing spend also falters.

A technology solution built with identity at its core, however — one containing linkages to offline (CRM) and online (DMP) data — can link to privacy-friendly, household and individual identity. This enables marketers who are trying to reach customers who make decisions at a household level: car purchases, insurance, banking, home improvement, and the like, to effectively target messaging without duplication.

The Power of Integrated Analytics
Imagine if you could measure all of your advertising and marketing efforts – all of your customer engagements – against that same customer identity key used to inform your efforts in the first place. So, not just measuring discrete website interactions or banner-ad ROI like some of the clouds provide, but more robust measurement that can, for example, tie in-store purchases to a host of other offline and online media engagements.

The ability to holistically understand and respond to interactions across channels puts marketers closer to customer omniscience. Individual, customer-level analytics enables the following:

Measurement that reveals, among other things, propensity to respond to media. That means definitively knowing which customers to spend money against, predicting in advance and knowing their likely response across media channels.

Insights that propel decisions across all experiences, online and offline, and from messaging to creative to content type.

Putting It All Together
Building truly people-based marketing technology starts with a sound customer identity foundation. Is that what your current stack partner is providing? Ask questions about whether you're getting a true identity solution, one that connects CRM to DMP, and enables measurement against that single customer profile.

Because only once you've got an omnichannel, high-fidelity view of your customers can people-based marketing follow: the kind of marketing that will help your brand get better at identifying high-value customers, at calculating the true lifetime value of those customers, and at crafting superior, personalized experiences for those customers.

In other words, don't rely on stacks just because they're familiar, or say they're simple. Pick a technology partner offering a solution that actually helps you become a better marketer.

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