No better time to try data mining

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Almost every business already has valuable information about its customers at its disposal. With recent technological advances in printing making personalized direct mail campaigns affordable, there has never been a better time to apply the data mining techniques used by direct marketers to predict customer behavior.

B-to-b marketing is one of the more challenging areas. B-to-b marketers have been slower to adopt database marketing best practices. They tend not to have the in-house expertise to leverage the historical information from their customers that might help segment their customer base and make the most use of customer data.

Working with a combination of in-house transactional data as well as overlay business “firmographic” information, marketers can better target their current customers and also understand where to find new customers that resemble their best customers.

Many b-to-b organizations don’t even track the value their customers bring to the organization. That can be as simple as tracking total sales or as complex as completely analyzing their transactional history and corresponding profitability. Most organizations tend to think of a customer based on the current transaction; they tend to be more transaction- than customercentric. Tracking historical data would provide a much clearer picture of the value of that customer.

Here are three tips for effectively using customer data:

1) Set clear marketing objectives. Data mining techniques are useless if you don’t know what you want to achieve. You don’t want to do data mining for its own sake. You want to make sure that you produce knowledge that is actionable. You need to be focused in your data mining so that you are producing results that can be implemented into tactical initiatives that help you achieve your marketing objectives. It’s all in the planning. It’s about putting together a roadmap of analysis that is needed to help drive and meet marketing objectives.

2) Conduct a data audit. How current and reliable are your customer data? To find this, assess the information based on its origins. Did the information come from the customer directly, during the point of sale or from a third-party source? Look to your marketing objectives to determine what information is required.

Make sure you are able to track all transactional history back to the customer mapping. A common issue is the use of different versions of a company name in your database. One day the order might be placed using Transcontinental as the company name. The next time, I might use Transcontinental Database Marketing, or I might use an acronym. You need to make sure those purchases are being linked to that same customer to insure the accuracy of your analysis.

3) Clean up your data. Data hygiene involves looking for potential errors, undefined fields or duplication. The follow through from the data audit is to make sure you capture all the information you can on a customer and making sure you can match those transactions.

Applying these three tips will help b-to-b organizations gain a better understanding of their customers, which in turn allows for more effective targeting and even stronger marketing performance.

Rick Brough is director, consulting service for Transcontinental Database Marketing. He can be reached at

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