by Prakash Patel (@PrakashPatel_1) Let me start by asking what I believe is one of the most-critical questions in marketing and advertising today: If the customer is the single most-important asset to a company, who in your business knows who they are, their value and who is looking after them?

Data-driven marketing has been around since the early ’90s and been covered extensively by many data planners, myself and others for decades —when data-crunching by geeks wasn’t cool and agencies laughed at us. But it was a time when forward-thinking clients and data geeks relished the insights and understood the power of data above creativity. Yes, above creativity. Without insightful marketing, it was like sending a beautiful award-winning creative direct-mailer selling a lawnmower to someone living in a high story apartment without a garden (#TrueStory).

Brands have access to big data, from more contextual, behavioral, and profile data than ever before. Yet most brands still do not know who their customers are, let alone having a relationship with them.

But, for me, it was my introduction and foundation to marketing, and one of the most-important periods of my career. I learnt more about customers, personalisation, data manipulation, analysis, CRM, the power of hypothesis, predictive and behavior targeting and, basically. the raw simplicity of knowing who your consumer was, above being a number, an award, or now a follow, a like, or a retweet.

I believe data is vital to brands when it comes to developing personalised propositions, creating ongoing customer relationships and delivering extended customer LTV.

It was a scientific period, when analysts, mathematicians, data planners and statisticians used huge clunky systems and software like SPSS to crunch and mine data to unearth some real insights that would reveal a nugget for a more-targeted and personalised marketing campaign. A time when junk mail and spam were coined, and we did what we could to both respect our consumers we were targeting and to avoid wasting money. A time when I believe we respected our consumers and marketing more, unlike today, where we have so many options of media, platforms or media sites, yet data is still overseen, never part of the strategy or planning and tending to be an afterthought (just like digital was in the past).

I’ve created many strategic frameworks over the years but the essence, or elements, hasn’t really changed (only the technology and software). I believe brands need to be able to identify and trace their customers’ entire journey and their usage from what I call ‘cradle to grave’. See example framework below.

Prakash Patel - from cradle to grave
Click to enlarge

So, 20+years later, I’ve just read numerous articles about how important data is and so on. Seriously, there is nothing new about data. It just feels as if we’ve lost our way, as if we’ve been chasing awards above strategy and insights.

Data, the DNA and bloodline to a successful brand.

For me, the only difference, is the sheer amount of data we have access to (big or small), and the more user-friendly technology, software and tools we have to analyze data, visualise data, manage data and use data for marketing. Data was always important then, as much as it is today! But, today, no marketer has an excuse as to why they don’t have access to data, how to mine it or use it for greater personalised marketing — either online or offline.

In summary

Knowing your customer isn’t easy in any organisation, let alone in a complex organisation with multiple layers, entry points, customer contacts, data systems, social media and ongoing business and digital transformation, etc. But it is more than doable. It may not be the holy grail of marketing, but it is most definitely one of the most-valuable elements of meaningful marketing and business.

Here are my first five aspects of driving world-class data and customer management:

  1. Data integration: Having a single customer view across channels, products and functions; without a single view, the truth is lost
  2. Process integration: Ensuring that processes are set up to ensure each customer touch point, interaction and engagement is joined up, so each step leads seamlessly to the next in the eyes of the customer
  3. Communications integration: Having a single person or function responsible for coordinating all inbound and outbound communications with each customer
  4. Structure integration: Having an organisational structure that encourages all managers to look after the interests of each customer holistically
  5. Metrics integration: Having targets and systems that encourage all staff members to look after the interests of each customer and grow their value

So, in 2019 — as I have written before — invest in data-driven marketing, an old discipline that has simply been lost through either lack of knowhow or simply because we don’t care. If you do anything this year, make the data you gather count, unlock its potential and use it as the blueprint to your brand’s total customer experience.


Prakash PatelPrakash Patel (@PrakashPatel_1), a seasoned strategist and data-driven digital marketer, is managing director of Fogg Cape Town. Previously, he was CEO of Prezence and chief digital officer of FCB/Mesh. Prior to moving to SA, Prakash spent over 18 years at some of the world’s largest and independent data and digital agencies in the UK. Now he is trying to keep up with tomorrow today and helping brands add value in the #TraDigital era.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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One reply on “What’s the holy grail of marketing?”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. There is a lot of focus on tech, perhaps too much, and not enough focus on investing in the data to improve the quality of the customer relationship.

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