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That timing is everything is true not just for companies who have everything to gain from turbo-charging their data-driven journey now, but also for customers who want well-timed offers. With the help of hard facts and a soft approach, Sales & Marketing will know when there's a window of opportunity in a customer's life.
First off, companies need to do some organisational housekeeping in order to get the most out of data. Information will not magically turn into insights if the data is stuck in silos. Nor should Sales & Marketing be seen as the last stage of the analytical process — their knowledge should inform colleagues at all relevant data steps.
"What that really means in practice is to keep all information collected and updated so that the wider organisation can in different ways be involved with Marketing, such as Product, Customer Intelligence, Client Services and Sales – and then act from an overall client view throughout the customer journey," says Eveliina Hultén, our Sales & Marketing product expert.
The word "tools" may bring to mind hard hammers on hard surfaces, but there are soft ones too, such as insights into the customer's values and preferences.
Who is your customer? Not just which car he drives, but where he takes his car on the weekends — the golf course or the marina? Another question that needs to be asked: What will your customer be doing in one year's time? Don't look just at the person's income, look at how he or she spends it.
Dun & Bradstreet's Personas help companies acquire a more well-rounded picture of the customers. "Personas are API add-ons," explains Hultén. "We also describe the customer profiles in such a way that it allows our customers to interpret them, which is a perfect example of a softer approach."
A woman who resides in a city, for example, with a high probability of living in a flat, doesn’t need a whole newsletter about spending summer in a garden that she doesn't have. She does not need a lawn mower, she needs an espresso machine — or whichever household appliance that will be the must-have item in the year 2030.
MAP THE FUTURE WITH CUSTOMER INSIGHTS
Getting the most out of an API depends entirely on what information is being collected and transmitted. The old adage "Rubbish in, rubbish out" — that's the polite version — rings truer than ever. Thus selecting the best enrichment variables can make analysis not just easier but more valuable for Sales & Marketing.
Hultén lists just a few foundational variables, which can then be built upon.
THE EXPIRATION DATE
None of the above are static factors. They should be seen as road markers: Some single people get married, some couples file for divorce. Children grow older and leave home, elderly parents move in. A second-hand car is upgraded to a Tesla, or replaced with an electric bike — depending on "softer" values. The status quo has a best-before date and companies need to predict the when, not just the what.
"If you use data correctly, if you have people in your company who truly know how to analyse all the information and combine sources in a smart way, then the customer's journey will become clearer," says Hultén. "Not just what stage of life they're in right now, but where they are going."
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
When data tells a company that the customer is about to make a lifestyle change, the trick is to get not just the offering right but the timing right.
If a family has decided to move to the suburbs, they will need new things, but they will also consider upgrading what they already have. "For example, people who are about to move have to make a decision about whether to change their electricity provider," says Hultén. "Customer loyalty has not disappeared but customers aren't as loyal as they used to be, so you need to make it easier for them."
To care for an existing customer in this situation, make sure they now that keeping you as their electricity provider is a good deal or offer them an even better deal. "Planning a move is stressful so it might be easier to just stick with your old provider," Hultén points out.
Of course, such a lifestyle change offers competitors the chance to move in. Perhaps the family think their electricity bill is too high at the moment? "Sending an offer to a potential customer who is in the middle of packing boxes isn't worthwhile," says Hultén. "You need to predict their move and get the offer to them ahead of time. And data can help you figure out whether that's three weeks or three months before the move."
An income increase could signal a move, but it could also, for example, lead to other new buying patterns — get hold of that information and you'll be one step ahead.
Apart from the customer insights mentioned previously, there are umpteen other founts of knowledge. For B2C companies, a customer's previous purchases — and whether they have evolved over time — could be worth even more when combined with other data. Depending on how much data the individual is willing to share — regulations and legislation of course play a significant role — everything from social media behaviour to GPS tracking can help.
The example of a man who takes his car out on the weekends, which was mentioned earlier, illustrates the value of using multi-source data. There's no point in sending boat-related offers to a man who spends his Sundays on the golf course, nor in sending golf-related offers to a man who's out on his boat all weekend — incorrect offerings risk being ignored or, even worse, annoying the would-be customer. Why buy something from a company that looks stupid?
"When it comes down to it, the companies who will be thriving in 2030 are the ones who learn to identify not just customer needs but also their desires," says Hultén.