Data-Driven Marketing...It's As Old As Index Cards, And Then Some...
Feb 26, 2017
For all you born just before the age of big data, I have news, data driven marketing is as old as the hills. I first experienced it when I entered retail some 5 decades ago. It's then that I got my first introduction to data 101, data driven marketing and not from the IT department, but from my sales staff. They were using card indexed files where they stored information about their customers and prospects. The staff was practicing CRM before there was a martech industry, certainly before there was any such thing as CRM software or the companies that make it.
They maintained every bit of information they could on their clients: their purchase history; their wants and needs; all kinds of information on their families; what colors they liked; what kind of furniture they had; when the children got married had a baby, graduated; etc; etc. The list of data points that they maintained went on forever and was only limited by how effective they wanted to be as salespeople.
And what do you think they did with this information? As soon as they had a chance, they were on the phones to their customers and prospects updating them on arrivals, new items, etc...making sales. There could have been a blizzard blowing outside of the store, but instead of standing around with their hands in their pockets, they were on the phones doing business, making the cash register ring.
You say, not true, not possible...couldn't possibly have been happening because they didn't have the technological tools. The fact is, however, that they had all the tools that they needed, their brains, the ability to use them, a pencil and a place to write stuff down and a place to store all that paper that they wrote on. They even filed the cards in some order that they understood, so that they could sort and do queries...damn a database.
This, BTW, was not out of the ordinary. It was an expected sales management practice. Salespeople were trained to do this from the day they started working on the sales floor. And it wasn't unique to that retailer. It was the same in the very first retail job that I ever had in a record store (That's right, they actually sold records, vinyls, in stores). All of the salespeople did the same thing, maintained their own personal marketing databases.
So, data-driven marketing is not new, even though the IT industry takes credit for creating database or data drive marketing. Computers made it faster, easier and possible to pile data higher and deeper...big data.
In the 70s, Fingerhut practiced more sophisticated database, data-driven marketing than 90 percent of the data driven marketers out there do today, with all of today's martech. They were doing data overlays, practicing segmentation, predictive modeling, A/B testing, data driven personalization and messaging and a whole lot more long before digital commerce and marketing...all of this on by today's standards a clunky IBM 360.
Besides the obvious points that I'm making here...data driven marketing is not new and it has been around for a very long time, the key points that I want you to take away are that it's the disciplines, processes and practices that make the difference. If you don't have them, then no amount of technology is going to make you a data-driven marketer. Adding the technology will not necessarily add the processes and practices, and it certainly doesn't add the discipline that people need to use and follow them.
Bottom line, before you go out and spend all of that money on CRM, SFA, marketing automation, and martech, be sure you have the fundamentals in place or it will be a huge waste of time and money. Worse yet, you will miss use or not use the technology at all. We see it every day in businesses and organizations that we talk to. For example, more than one third of the colleges and universities that we talk to have CRM systems which they barely use. And, when they do use it, they use it like a mail client that has some automation features. They could just as have easily used Microsoft Outlook, and saved time and money.
We have several tools that can help you determine if your organization is ready for data-driven marketing and using the martech tools to support it. Click the links below to see how these tools can help you become a more effectively data-driven marketer.
- Data-Driven Marketing Assessment
- CRM Readiness Assessment
- CRM Application Assessment & Vendor Selection
Dudley Stevenson, founder and CEO of DWS Associates, has over thirty-five years’ experience in consumer marketing, business-to-business marketing, and direct marketing, including developing, planning, and implementing go-to-market strategies. He's also the author of "Marketing Direct: Breaking Through The Clutter." Working with organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, he and his team have helped clients such as IBM, Sony, Neiman Marcus, Arizona Highways, Marshall Field & Co., Mrs. Field’s, UNICEF, and Patagonia implement successful direct marketing programs. A longtime member of the Direct Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association, Stevenson is also a sought-after speaker. He’s given hundreds of presentations and workshops on marketing and direct marketing. His “Marketing Planning 101” workshop alone has reached more than 100,000 marketing and sales professionals.