There has been a big flap going on in the media over the last four of years about something called “Big Data” often in quite sensationalist and fatalistic terms, which to my mind have a parallel with the fear conjured up in the minds of Victorians by the thought of travelling on the early steam powered locomotives.
(Caption: Source Google Trends)
Some feared that it would be impossible to breathe whilst travelling at such unprecedented speed (about 30 mph) or that their eyes may be damaged by having to adjust to movement at such high velocity.
One suspects then that in 1830, had I been riding on the Crab & Winkle Line from Canterbury to Whitstable, I would either have had a death wish or perhaps enjoyed the great convenience that the this cutting edge technology afforded me; assuming that I had looked out from under my top hat or bowler and beyond the doom-mongering.
Admittedly, I may have simply been in search of risqué and vicarious thrills; the like of which perhaps the subscribers to Ashley Madison may too have been hoping for in more recent times.
In all seriousness though, I don’t think that the hype around data is entirely valid because it isn't really anything new. Data has become a buzz term with which to associate the output of rapid advances in information management systems, connectivity and the capacity of computer hardware to process it. Some may argue that “Data” has driven these advances but I see it more broadly as a by-product of the human desire for greater knowledge and understanding.
A side effect of these advances is that there is a lot more data being generated, captured and stored but as with all these things, the really exciting opportunities are in how we can apply it.
Considering this in the context of marketing, I see another parallel with the Crab & Winkle, where Stephenson’s Rocket ran on 4ft 8 ½ inch gauge track to which the locomotive was specifically designed; to make it work effectively you need a system or strategy in place that works interdependently.
All Aboard The CRM Circle Line Driven By The Data Locomotive
At the core of any effective Customer Relationship Management strategy is quality customer knowledge. If your business has greater insight and more relevant knowledge than your competitors about prospective customers or consumers; then you can shape your strategy across the customer life cycle to succeed.
The increasing availability of data and tools for measuring the efficacy of your CRM strategy offers perhaps a clearer view of what is happening in this respect but the results that it will deliver are inter-dependent upon how you shape your response. Its about how you interpret that information and use the insights gained to define your steps forward.
For many SME businesses, therein lies a great challenge and it is perhaps one that many have not even begun to consider addressing. If data is an evolution of long established CRM and lifecycle management practices, how do you choose the right sources of information and the correct platforms for your needs?
Well, you wouldn't expect a Javelin train to run without maladies down the Crab & Winkle line in 1830 and similarly with data driven marketing you need the right fit between strategy (or track) with technology (or locomotive).
If your business is one of these, then I would recommend that you consider working with specialists who understand your market place and who can enable you to shape a strategy that reviews your existing approach or can create this for you from scratch. Remember, the only good advice is advice that is made clear to you and is presented in the form of actionable plan.
There are easy starting points for working with data and delivering tangible results to your business. Tools and services such as Google Ad Words, Social Media, Digital Display Marketing are all rich sources of data which can provide you with highly measurable insights to help you drive better customer responses to your brand and message. As initial building blocks they offer a great way to take your first steps from potential vulnerability in the market place to establishing a clear competitive advantage over those who have stayed standing.
We are living in very exciting times and data can potentially open many new doors. The basic principles though of finding new customers and keeping your existing ones happy is the same as ever before; the more you know which is relevant, the more effectively you can manage their lifecycle and engagement with your products and services.
Don’t be over awed by the buzz and the hype around it but do get started on the journey because sooner or later your competitors will be up and running. If you need help, then look for an agency that you can trust to deliver clear advice and work with you to create an actionable strategy. Strategy is key and you should view it as an interdependent part of how you engage with your customers or consumers.
Most of all though, enjoy the journey. Data driven customer engagement, rather like the Crab & Winkle train line was to the Victorians, is going to connect you to the future.