Why your best marketer has started saying ‘data-driven’ — A lot!


A CEO client of mine recently gave one of those off-the-cuff remarks that stick in your head with the resonance of something profound — “Marketing can no longer afford to be the coloring-in department.” Of course, he’s right — marketing and advertising have too long been associated with the whimsy of creative flow and the colorful dramas of ad agencies. What he thought he needed, he said, was “more data in the marketing mix” but he wasn’t exactly sure why. Welcome to the world of data mining and predictive analytics.


What exactly is data-mining?  

In a sentence, data mining (sometimes referred to as data analytics) uses techniques including advanced statistics, data science, database theory and machine learning to uncover patterns in large data sets – patterns that when correctly aligned with business objectives can deliver marketers a data-driven competitive advantage.

Is your head spinning? Let’s simplify things with a couple of examples.

Consider a typical life policy holder and the list of things you know about them. Included in that list would almost certainly be their name, contact details, age, marital status, transaction history, policy history and preferred communications channel. Beyond that, a more complete list might also include their dependents, their profession, their income and their mortgage status. This is your customer ‘data’, and if you’re not already using it to drive your marketing decisions, you probably soon will be.

Why? Because even this very rudimentary information, in the hands of an experienced data miner, can deliver a veritable goldmine of customer insights you can use to drive your marketing strategy. For example, analysis might reveal a cluster of customers with a high-value policy living in a specific area code. One marketing conclusion to be drawn could be that the potential therefore exists to upgrade other customers living in the same neighborhood to a similar high-value policy.

Or your data might show a significant number of policy holders increasing their level of cover when a child turns five. Applying that information to your entire customer base could result in a product communication sent at just the right time to affect a buying decision. This is data-driven marketing — where simple data-sets like the ones mentioned above are an infinitely malleable resource, with the capacity to deliver customer insights that are limited only by your imagination.

Here’s a few to get you started. Applying data analytics, an organization’s existing customer or transactional data can be used to:

  • Estimate the potential size of a market
  • Model the impact of changes to a product strategy
  • Better understand customer and product profitability while working with actuaries
  • Optimize the effectiveness of marketing, sales, retail and contact centre channels
  • Drive operational efficiencies


So where to start?

As with most things, you’ll have to walk before you can run, but time and again experience has shown that a customer ‘Knowledge Discovery’ using existing data is one quick way to impact your bottom line — as the following case study shows;


Getting To Know You…

A large insurance company with a policy offering that included Life, Health, Auto and Home products wanted to better understand the cross-over relationship between its different customer bases.

The challenge
As with many firms in the sector, the relevant customer data was buried in a host of different silos and a single customer view wasn’t available. The data was also not particularly rich from a marketer’s perspective and was oriented towards internal business processes as opposed to use in marketing scenarios.  

The solution
After an initial assessment, we were able to integrate the disparate data silos and deliver a single customer view from which the company was able to run a number of different analytics projects. Key amongst those was a customer segmentation exercise – critical for improving the effectiveness of marketing budgets.

Even though the customer data that had been collected was regarded as rudimentary, the new reports identified clear customer segments, their current and potential value — and the likely effect of geographic and demographic variables on upcoming campaigns. With its profitable and potentially profitable customers identified, the company was able to roll out marketing strategies targeting the right offer, to the right people, at the right time — significantly improving the effectiveness of its above and below the line marketing.


The bottom line

As companies face questions about their customers and marketing strategies, the inclination to turn to gut instinct or industry experience for answers is waning as the true value inherent in existing customer data is better understood. The short truth is that marketers who embrace evidence-based decision making are virtually guaranteed a competitive advantage. I believe huge opportunities are waiting for those who are ready to jump into the data pool, and once they get started they’ll never want to stop.


About the author

Sally Carey is a director of Datamine and has over 20 years experience consulting on data analytics solutions across a range of industry sectors. Carey specializes in delivering clarity from the complexity of big data – advising organizations on a host of predictive analytics disciplines - including quantitative decision making, loyalty programmes, organisational change and marketing strategy.

Email: contactus@datamine.com