Marketing experts must evolve from 'mad men' to 'math men'

There seems to be confusion about the differences between content marketing and data-driven marketing. Bloovi spoke with Steven Hofmans (data-driven marketing expert at SAS) and Ivy Vanderheyden (Marketing Director at SAS) about the differences and synergy between these two areas.

Content marketing, data-driven marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing: these terms are often used indiscriminately. In particular, there seems to be confusion about the differences between content marketing and data-driven marketing. While these terms are certainly not synonyms, there is a certain synergy between these areas of activity. On condition that they are used properly, of course. Bloovi spoke with Steven Hofmans (data-driven marketing expert at SAS) and Ivy Vanderheyden (Marketing Director at SAS).

First content marketing, then data-driven marketing

Companies often start with content-driven marketing, i.e. creating content (blogs, white papers, commercials, radio campaigns) in order to then spread the message via above-the-line and through-the-line (Google AdWords, LinkedIn campaigns, Facebook ads, etc.) channels. Because of its ease of implementation this method is already being frequently used by companies.

So what, then, is the role of data-driven marketing?

According to Hofmans, the data-driven approach comes into play once the customer has made its initial footprint. "If you succeed, with the right content on your website, in attracting potential customers to your website, your shop or another contact point, then the data you have gathered will allow you to set up profiles (also known as a ‘buyer persona’ or ‘customer DNA’ – editor's note)", he continues. "These profiles will, in their turn, enable you to offer targeted and more relevant content. 

A customer may, for example, express interest online for a certain product, whereas from the offline data you can see that he or she has already purchased this product, and may be simply looking for more information about how to use it, or for the user's guide. In the content world, you would be offering the same product to the same customer, whereas in the data-driven world, you would take account of the customer's profile and know that he or she is merely looking for information, or may be having problems with the product. A simple email with more information about the product and/or its use would therefore have a positive impact on the customer experience ... and that is ultimately the aim of every marketer.

And so we come to a plausible definition of data-driven marketing: offering customized content based on all the information gathered about both the online and offline behaviour of the customer. This provides insights into what customers need, when they need it, and how they wish to receive the information."

And yet adding data-driven marketing to content-driven marketing is not always smooth sailing. "Often your customer data are spread across various departments. For example, customers who ring tech support may also leave behind valuable information that can be used in targeted marketing campaigns", explains Vanderheyden. Information from customer satisfaction surveys is also often neglected by the marketing department. Creating a data mart in which all data are collected is only a first step in the process. The key is to unlock the data that are relevant for the campaigns you wish to set up. And for that, you need analytics."

So how can you take the next step toward data-driven marketing? Hofmans explains that there are three axes on which your company can work.

1. The data axis: many companies already have a lot of data, which they are not using, e.g. transactional data and socio-demographic data. These contain valuable information. You wouldn’t believe how many companies have customer data at their fingertips, and still don’t use these insights properly. The reason is often that they overrate the complexity. . The key is to take on the challenge and draw up a road map.

2. The interaction axis: there are five steps to omnichannel marketing. 

3. The improvement axis: a marketing campaign cannot just be improvised. You need to set up a closed-loop process in which your marketing actions are measured, and you can then make adjustments to your campaigns based on what you have learned from the results.  Conclusion:

“Marketing experts must evolve from ‘mad men’ to ‘math men’”

Measuring is one thing, but then what? 

According to Hofmans, in today's business world you have no choice but to track all your marketing campaigns and efforts. Ivy Vanderheyden agrees: “The days when marketing departments had unlimited budgets are long behind us. All marketing activities must be measured and have a specific ROI. Nowadays, as heads of marketing must be able to prove that their actions effectively create added value, tracking has become more important than ever. Therefore I am convinced that experts in the field must evolve from ‘mad men’ to ‘math men’.”

Hofmans immediately adds that this does not mean that the average marketer must become a seasoned data expert or has to understand the ins-and-outs of statistics. “Marketers are often intuitive by nature, and so they must remain”, he adds. “Making analytics and data accessible, that's the key. Marketing professionals have to be presented with data from across the entire organisation and be able to make good use of the insights gained. 

It's certainly not a one-man-show. And so I believe in an optimal collaboration between the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Information Officer, as well as between marketers and data scientists. If they can develop a shared communication platform, then your organization will be able to take giant steps. In any case, the process of data-driven marketing is a task for the whole company, and not just for the marketing department." This is the only way to ensure that customers are not provided with irrelevant content, and that a single customer experience is guaranteed in all channels.

“Optimizing the customer experience is essential”, adds Vanderheyden. "In the past, you may have decided for example to launch a special offer with a 10% discount, and this would undoubtedly be picked up by a number of customers. But nowadays, as a marketer you can determine that certain customers are film fans, for instance, based on their Facebook profile, and so you would do better to offer them a free ticket to the cinema. Such a campaign will cost the company less overall and will be more efficient, while the customer will feel that they are being addressed personally, making for a much better 'customer experience'. That is just an example of how you can optimize your approach along the way in order to achieve higher returns.”

Would you also like to optimize your marketing approach for maximum results? Read the free e-book “Customer Intelligence in the Era of Data-Driven Marketing”.

This blog originally appeared on Bloovi.