Orlando, Fla.—Connected customers are changing decision cycles and opening up potential new touch points, but they are also rushing well ahead of marketers' ability to understand and adapt to their needs.
In the opening keynote today here at the Direct Marketing Association's NCDM conference and expo, Brian Solis, principal analyst at consultancy Altimeter Group, said that is prompting an imperative for an organizational commitment to Big Data.
DMA's National Center for Database Marketing conference this year is heavily focused on Big Data. But, Solis said: “There is a perception gap between what marketers know about their customers and reality.”
“Yes, connected customers want traditional things, like good service and products, but also human things like conversations, relationships and, most importantly, a sense of value and benefit in connecting with you,” he said.
Solis said knowing the impact of these on customers depends on an analysis of data.
“Content isn't king; it's context that's king,” he said. “Without that, marketers can't make campaigns more relevant.”
Solis said customers are already using a form of Big Data themselves when they research companies and products via social sites before reaching out to a company. He urged marketers to “get ahead of this cycle” by become change agents within their companies, perhaps by starting with a pilot project centered on data.
“With pilot programs, you always need an executive sponsor,” Solis said. “Then, when the pilot succeeds, your executive sponsor will bring it up with others and help create internal buzz. But when other similar pilots are created as a result, you have to stay engaged with them to become part of a cross-functional team for change.”
Solis' keynote was introduced by Linda Woolley, DMA's acting president-CEO. Woolley said that while Big Data has become a critical issue for marketing, its use is threatened by privacy activists and government initiatives.
“There are forces to derail data marketing and its ability to deliver personalization, relevancy, immediacy and impact,” Woolley said, citing numerous legislative initiatives under consideration by Congress.
Woolley urged NCDM attendees to become active in DMA's new Data-Driven Marketing Institute, a lobbying and education initiative introduced in October that focuses on advancing the advertising industry's efforts to limit government regulation of online data collection and behaviorally targeted advertising, and support its own efforts at self-regulation.
The NCDM conference and expo runs through Wednesday.