Tap Into Your Inner Data Scientist

Patrick Tripp | September 14, 2016

It’s time to embrace your inner data scientist. Why? All the effort your team put into creating that strikingly beautiful and skillfully crafted multichannel campaign is only as good as tomorrow’s trash if response rates and conversions are abysmal.

Taking a data-driven approach to the art of marketing is now compulsory. You need to be data-driven to understand your audience, avoid mistargeted and wasted spending, and improve retention and campaign performance.

But you knew that.

Marketing has always blended art and science, and always will. This is a new technology era though – in being able to leverage all the data available, and turn your artful marketing into performance masterpieces that are highly personalized in the context of an individual consumer. The internal beauty of this is that you don’t need a degree in advanced analytics to make it happen.

There are three key steps to accepting today’s marketing reality, reframing your thinking, and laying the groundwork for your inner data scientist to thrive.

Accept today’s marketing reality

Today’s demanding customers are clear on their expectations: Be relevant or be gone. This dictum means marketing needs to be more about personalization and context than ever before.

There’s no wiggle room for targeting the wrong audience or overcommunicating. Needling customers with irrelevant and repetitive messages leads to fatigue and churn.

By embracing data-driven marketing, marketers are better able to personalize, as well as use cadence and frequency to create the right conversation at the unique speed of each customer.  That conversation might include an offer, an exclusive preview, or helpful content—dictated by knowing customers’ interests and preferences. Better decision making leads to better engagement. And a one point increase in retention can be worth millions of dollars.

A word of caution, or perhaps relief: Personalization isn’t about addressing millions of customers individually, with wholly unique content.  It is important to have a base set of offers and content that is as granular as your operations are able to support.   However, that base set can be further personalized, as being more data-driven provides the insight you need to select the best message to deliver the right customers, or prospects, at the optimal time. Less is more though, as technology simplified this complexity for the marketer, making it easy to use and manage. Automating the segmentation process will help you scale personalization and reduce all of the manual work needed to get the right messages to the right segments. Your customers will thank you for it.

Reframe your thinking

The best change you’ll experience from truly tapping into the power of analytics at scale is empowerment. You’ll have your intuition, and you’ll have data to back it up. This will elevate you personally as a marketer, and will elevate your team’s marketing.

Getting there requires thinking differently. You need to be…

Willing to change: Get excited about taking a data-driven approach to marketing. Consider Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a house of brands which created a unified view of more than 100 data sources across 54 retail locations, thousands of hotel rooms, and multiple sub-brands such as Windstar Cruises, Yellowstone Park, and Austin Adventures. The primary goal was to uncover missed opportunities for engaging customers within and across brands. A stunningly successful pilot that generated results such as 800% and 1,400% increases in revenue per email at a resort and a state park lodge, respectively, spurred cautious data stewards to wholeheartedly embrace the change.

Willing to let go a little: All that modeling, segmentation, and targeting could be overwhelming—if you had to do it all yourself. That’s where technology comes in. Get comfortable letting automation take over some of the heavy lifting. This will allow you to focus more on building hypotheses and honing strategy.

Willingness to experiment: If you haven’t already done so, it’s well past time to embrace testing and try new things. Examine campaign results and be willing to let go of approaches that aren’t working. Experiment, learn, and adapt. Testing will also help you avoid getting paralyzed by all the data at your fingertips. For instance, if you’re concerned about making a wrong decision, you can test multiple models at once. Most of all, know that it’s OK to fall down a bit as long as you learn from it.

Willingness to be awesome. And successful.
Public media organization WGBH Boston is PBS’s top content producer—and a source of marketing inspiration. Its more than 30 marketers are using data-driven marketing in ways they probably never thought before to better engage donors. They use data management for identity resolution, to improve messaging cadence and to increase retention. Cate Twohill, Senior Director & Managing Partner, CRM Services at WGBH, says the organization’s marketers are “smarter segmenters” who have seen significant improvements in their ability to test and track, “and know that we’re getting reliable results across platforms.”

Lay the groundwork for your inner data scientist to thrive

Having data-driven capabilities that are accessible by marketers enables you to change the game. Begin by rethinking your marketing strategy. This includes formulating a set of plans for how you plan to use data to engage with customers. For example, if you have ability to score customers or track lifetime value, you might decide to use that data to determine which customers should receive which messages. Your plans should also including testing and analyses that allow you to determine what works and what doesn’t, as well as learn who are your most valuable audiences.

Since you’ve already made the decision to let go a bit and use technology to guide you, use it to help you access all relevent data. Drill into your audiences, look for commonalities and outliers that may be unexpected opportunities. Examine customers’ histories to help decide how to evolve your segments. Don’t stress out over all the different data access points; collaborate with your data analysts to help you get the data you need from across multiple systems.

Immerse yourself in a test-and-learn environment. Data-driven marketing performs so well because the marketers who use it use testing to continually optimize audiences, campaigns, content, segments, and more. So, build a testing strategy and stick to it: What will you test, how many tests, what types of tests, what are you trying to optimize? Make sure your plan includes KPIs—the results you plan to track. Start with simple approaches such as A/B tests; build sophistaction over time. Machine Learning can be leveraged to scale testing in a way that computers help find the right path to your objectives, and in a controlled manner.  Use technology to capture what you’ve learned and guide your optimization efforts.

It all comes down to this: tapping into the power of analytics as a marketer is like Peter Parker embracing his abilities as Spider-Man. You may not save New York from the Chameleon, but you’ll be a superhero to your organization. Being data-driven allows you to be better at your job, and the insight it provides not only helps your team improve customer engagement and marketing performance, but also shows the value that your marketing team brings to the business. And in today’s daunting marketplace, that is heroic.

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Patrick Tripp
Patrick Tripp

Patrick is vice president of product strategy for the Customer Engagement Hub at RedPoint Global, where he leverages 18 years of experience in technology, consulting, and marketing. Patrick is an expert on cross-channel marketing and real-time interaction management, and is a frequent speaker at industry events. He is a certified product manager and holds an MBA from Boston University.