Do you receive emails from organizations you follow or from brands you’ve recently bought from that are not at all relevant to your interests? Do they promote products you would never buy or tickets to events that are nowhere near your city? I certainly do.

Understanding ones customers (or members, donors and stakeholders) takes time and effort, but it’s critical to building and nurturing long term relationships and driving greater levels of loyalty.

The key is to strategically leverage the large amount of information being provided on a real time basis, such as email subscriptions, surveys, purchase behaviours, channel preferences, location and age to name a few. Most organizations have a plethora of customer data but it is disparate, fragmented and found in several different systems (e.g. point of sale, email marketing software, mobile applications, survey tools, and so on).

Centralizing this data and getting a global view of it, either in a consumer management platform or a data warehouse, may seem daunting but it really doesn’t have to be if you’re working with the right partners who have your business goals in mind and who approach it pragmatically.

If your organization is struggling with developing a customer data strategy, here are six steps to consider:

  1. Plan. What information would you need in order to start engaging differently with your customers? What questions do you need answers to? How would this impact your business?
  2. Audit. How are you currently collecting data now? I.e. Which systems are used in the process? Is it done automatically through a transaction or deliberately? Identifying all of your data sources is a key part of this step. Many realize they have several sources of data but are missing opportunities to proactively learn more about their customers in the way they collect it.
  3. Analyze. Exactly what type of data is being collected and in what format? How is the data structured and how can it be extracted from each system?
  4. Centralize. With the help of trusted experts, determine the best approach for creating a central “home” for the data or a hub of sorts. This step will typically include things like data architecture, data cleansing and deduping.
  5. Discover. Now comes the fun part. Review, slice and dice and try to uncover the “stories” that your data is telling you. What are you learning about your customers’ behaviours, demographics, frequency of interactions, etc.? Bring a diverse group of cross-functional leaders to review the data, look for insights and identify opportunities.
  6. Engage. With the insights of step five, you can now begin to personalize your content and create specific engagement strategies by segment. I.e. can you communicate with “known” customers or subscribers differently than first time users/buyers? Can you personalize by location or behaviour? The strategies here are endless and will vary greatly by industry. The point is that each customer segment should have a well thought out approach to content, timing, frequency and offers. This is a test and learn approach. Once you get comfortable with this type of segmentation, you might add on technology that allows you to automate based on certain profile or rules.  

Customers expect relevancy and personalization. Generic one-size-fits-all campaigns signals that you are not listening to your customers and you don't understand their needs. If you don’t understand your customers, you can’t engage with them. If you can’t engage with them, you can’t influence their behaviour.

The brands that are focused on creating value based on relevant interactions are earning trust and cultivating fans while the others will continue to lose brand equity. Which one will you be?

About the author

Isabelle Perreault

Isabelle is the Founder and CEO of Differly. She has spent her career helping business leaders understand the major drivers of change and helping them survive and thrive in a digital economy. She brings deep expertise in business transformation, corporate and business model innovation and go-to-market planning.

For over 20 years, she has been helping leaders in a wide variety of sectors develop and deploy human-centric, tech-enabled growth strategies. Passionate about entrepreneurship she also serves as a business coach to Startups with several incubators. Prior to launching Differly, she led one of the first Digital Transformation Practices in Canada and was head of Digital Strategy and Marketing for the Ottawa Senators, NHL Hockey Club.Isabelle is Chair of the Ottawa Youth Services Bureau Foundation and a champion for women entrepreneurs.

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