How A Marketing Database Converts PINs and Pings
Into Personalization

Arturo F Munoz Open QuoteIn the modern world, the most dangerous form of determinism is the technological phenomenon. It is not a question of getting rid of it, but, by an act of freedom, of transcending it.

-- Jacque Ellul

Personalization Goes Beyond Knowing My Birthdate

We've become an impersonal society. Think of it. In the eyes of large corporations, people today are invisible. You are a social security number, an email address, a customer ID, a PIN.

If you're a marketer, your task is to personalize your treatment of each individual you reach for your company, plain and simple. Forfeit this responsibility and you forfeit the customer experience. Your customers will be walking away from you, and it's too costly to regain them, more so than to get fresh ones. But it's not more costly to keep them. Is it all a numbers game, however?

What I Know Of Personalization I Learned From My Marketing Database

marketing database personalization eye fingerprint With a marketing database under your care it may seem like you're empowered to dismiss this concern about customer interaction. After all, now you can reach anybody you need to. Isn't that the basis for interaction? But a marketing database alone does not a customer acquisition strategy make.

A database is a barometer, but it doesn't change the weather. Besides, in the words of England's Prime Minister Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies. Lies. Damn lies. And statistics."

You're not playing a numbers game. You are dealing with people and relationships. A database marketing program focused on statistics for the sake of tracking numbers instead of improving customer personalization offers a very narrow view of reality. Focus on people and the numbers will become meaningful.

Numbers are symbols. But symbols can be interpreted in a multiplicity of ways if not defined clearly for the reader. We can read meaning into a number as easily as a child reads candy cache into a medicine cabinet. Combat this malady in marketing analytics.

When you query the marketing database to prepare a communication to your customers, know clearly what the numbers were meant to represent. Read the meaning out of the figures and not the reverse. That's step 1 in any database-driven customer acquisition strategy. When you mine for data, dig beneath the numbers down to their established meaning at the point where the data originated. This is particularly important when attempting to discern customer behavior.

It's only too simple to assume that an invoice transaction means a customer wanted your product. But the fact is that this transaction only represents your company's desire to get paid for a sale. To say that demand has increased by 30% because your accounting department has sent out 30% more new invoices this quarter than last is not necessarily an assertion of reality. It is an inference. In other words, it is an interpretation of a fact that you've combined with other facts and assumptions to arrive to a potentially erroneous conclusion.

You've assumed, in this example, that no one would be invoiced unless someone had purchased something from you. But then, upon reviewing the figures in detail, you're surprised to find your company's subsidiaries listed in your customer roster. But they're not customers, you say. Ah, yes! But they get invoiced no different than anyone else, if they "purchase" (cross-charge) products or services from you. Beware of what you read into the data you analyze!

Customer Acquisition Is A Personalization By-product

Through improved personalization a marketing database helps in your customer acquisition strategy by helping you discern the direction of your interactions with your contacts and enabling you to measure the impact of your response to their expressed interests. But the strategy and the database are distinct in that you can achieve success in the former without using the latter. It's just harder that way.

And personalization is hard work. So use a marketing database to impact the customer experience by personalizing your treatment of each contact. But work the names not the numbers. Make every connection a human touch far above any electronic ping.

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