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Avoid analysis paralysis: Use marketing data to build customer relationships

If you pay attention to marketing trends, you’ll hear lots of content marketers go on about personalization. For many companies, gathering customer data is paramount to connecting with those customers and understanding who they are. But being completely focused on marketing data can sometimes stop you from establishing genuine rapport with customers and prospects. Where’s the sweet spot?

The crucial role of relationship-based marketing

Relationships have always been paramount in business—but the rise of digital media has eroded people’s experiences when interacting with many different types of companies. Numerous studies have demonstrated that consumers prefer brands that can address their unique problems and needs. As so many customer interactions have become impersonal (and downright unpleasant), businesses that do get relationships right have a significant opportunity to shine.

Quick tips for relationship marketing

Don’t leave money on the table with current customers

Growing an existing account is less expensive than acquiring a new customer, yet many businesses are chasing new leads while failing to service the customers they already have. A few probing questions can often reveal ways you can service a customer that you didn’t know about—and perhaps they didn’t even know you provided that service.

It takes practice to get good at doing this in conversation, but it’s possible to develop a process that helps your employees uncover new ways to support great customers. If it turns out that you’re not leaving money on the table, ask for a testimonial and/or referral. Most people are happy to recommend businesses that have done a great job.

Don’t bend over backwards to serve customers who aren’t a good fit

Not everyone is your customer, and that’s OK. You need to understand who your ideal customer is, the problems you can solve for them, and the unique ways you do that compared to your competitors. Shift the focus from selling to solving problems and helping people.

How can companies focus on relationships AND data?

Don’t over-complicate it! Focus on doing what you need to do to provide outstanding service to every customer. Empower your employees to solve problems when they arise. Look to your internal systems for data that is already collected in the course of business, but not shared with marketing. Remember that marketing is not only about the metrics.

Above all, have a process.

Here are some tips to help you make the most of data-driven marketing:

Establish efficient collection processes for marketing data

Develop systems and processes to gather and organize data seamlessly during customer interactions. With a good system in place, it’s relatively straightforward to collect and organize the information you need in organic ways throughout interactions (whether in person or virtual) with customers. Sometimes you can collect marketing data in simple transactional conversations; there are also lots of digital tactics for collecting information shared voluntarily (i.e. through forms on your website) and click behavior (e.g. in emails and on the website).

We use ActiveCampaign to collect and manage data about leads and customers (among other things, including email and marketing automation). ActiveCampaign offers unlimited custom fields, as well as tags and lists to help you segment your contacts. Our strategy varies depending on a client’s need, but generally, we use these three tools as follows:

  • Custom fields: collecting information from website forms, particularly if the form field is free-text entry
  • Tags: multiple-choice attributes, as well as activity information (such as who has completed a certain form or purchased a service). We get really granular with tags.
  • Lists: more general; we try not to have more than two or three lists in any given ActiveCampaign account and instead use tags to segment a list. Again, this depends on the client’s needs and how many different email campaigns we’re running to different audiences.

Ideally, we set up a system when the client begins building their contact list. In practice, because we often work with well-established businesses that have been building that list for years, we need to collect information about contacts as we go or pull from other systems within the business (e.g. past customers, current customers, etc.).

Be intentional about not over-collecting data

As you consider data points to collect, ask how you’re going to use them. For example, you’ll want to be able to segment your email list based on what you know about customers so you can send tailored emails—but how granular are you going to get with those messages? A simple online form completed by the customer in the normal course of business can provide enough information to do pretty detailed segmentation. If you have a plan from the outset, you know what you need to collect and can avoid bogging down interactions with too many questions.

Use activity-based data

Gather insights by tracking customer activities to tailor follow-up content and enhance engagement. To use another example from email marketing, you can gain information about your recipients by looking at who clicked a particular link within a message. Follow up with those who clicked the link with related content, and you build the relationship by being relevant and helpful.

Ensure interconnected systems

Active customer data is a gold mine for future marketing! Many companies don’t realize they already have the data they need in-house—it’s getting everything linked up and usable that tends to be a challenge. That’s why you need to make sure the systems within your business can talk to each other. For example, if your fulfillment department has one platform that holds information about customer orders, your marketing software should be able to sync that information.

Pro tip: Look at your accounting software. It contains loads of valuable data that most businesses don’t leverage.

The future: Developing relationships or digging into data?

Assuming companies have to be either data-focused or customer-focused is a false dichotomy. You can do both, and you really should. It comes down to having a strategy for collecting and organizing the right data, ensuring it can be used in marketing efforts. Focus on helping your customers solve problems and delivering service that delights. Consider the customer experience in all points of interaction with your business. You can scale relationship marketing, but you have to be intentional about creating a positive customer experience.

If you need professional help developing and implementing a marketing strategy that uses data to build relationships with your target customers, we’d love to hear from you!

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