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Turning Customer Intelligence Into Gold

By Joe Cordo
Nov 10, 2011 5:00 AM PT

Marketers are increasingly embracing the need for customer intelligence to provide them with actionable insight to optimize revenue. But how do you get started? Treating what you have today as actionable insight enables marketers to think about using their existing data as customer intelligence, learn from it, and then incrementally improve upon it over time.

Turning Customer Intelligence Into Gold

As they learn and achieve results, marketers will discover the benefits of database marketing, apply customer intelligence in more meaningful ways, and begin the execution of multichannel marketing campaigns, at the right time, and in the right places, to optimize revenue.

It's a Journey, Not a Destination

Thinking about customer intelligence as a journey, and not a destination, affords the marketer the ability to take informed action that drives better, incremental marketing performance and increased sales. The key is to begin the journey.

Most marketers think about analyzing campaign analytics to improve performance, rather than using the customer intelligence they have today. Don't toss away your dashboards, but take a deeper look at your campaigns. What kinds of customers responded? What are their functions, and what industries are they in? Do they fit the basic profile of your existing customers? What moved them to respond?

In this simple example, a marketer would form the beginning stages of segmenting, profiling, and interacting with customers the way they want to buy from you. Isn't that the purpose of multichannel marketing and understanding how to manage customer relationships?

A key decision at this early stage of using customer intelligence is to continue the journey and treat customer intelligence as a continuum within your multichannel marketing strategy. Most marketing organizations at this stage seek to map their content to the channel. But they do so in isolation without customer intelligence. Instead, keep asking questions about the attributes of your customers, factoring that knowledge into your content creation process and campaigns, testing what you're learned, and measuring the results.

A Marketing Database or a Marketing Data Mart?

At the risk of your eyes glazing over, this in actuality is a very critical question that needs to be answered to truly exploit customer intelligence. Most marketing organizations have some type of marketing database. After all, it is relatively easy within your marketing automation system to store and access basic firmographic and demographic information like contact name, email address, title, company, or even company size.

However, the limitation is self-evident and binds the outbound marketing channel to "batch and blast," while limiting the use of customer interaction and purchase history from the rest of your channels.

What's truly needed to leverage customer intelligence in ways that optimize revenue is a marketing data mart that can do the following:

  • Manage responses and other interaction data that are generated from a myriad of online and offline sources;
  • Provide more complex firmographic and demographic segmentation and profiling to increase leads, incent buying, or take advantage of significant up-sell and cross-sell opportunities;
  • Use more sophisticated segmentation and profiling to drive multitouch, trigger-based campaigns and offers to the right buyers, at the right time, and in the right places;
  • While sounding relatively complex and risky to implement, many marketing data marts now have the capability to create a fully closed-loop sales and marketing system in order to have a short-term impact on results. In fact, these data marts can now be used to deploy and execute on an initial campaign in less than 90 days. The use of cost effective Software as a Service (SaaS) technologies, standardized integrations between marketing automation systems and sales force automation, and advances in customer intelligence can produce a sophisticated closed-loop system at a fraction of the time and cost from what was available just a few years ago.

The Value of More Sophisticated Customer Intelligence

A closed-loop sales and marketing system is a critical step toward ever more sophisticated use of customer intelligence. As marketers evolve their use of customer intelligence and build extensive interaction history through their campaigns, they begin to see the value of the data they've accumulated and how they can use it in multichannel marketing.

According to a recent IDC report, data is exploding at an almost 1000 percent increase in the last five years. This tsunami of buyer behavior data is positioning customer intelligence at the forefront of new multichannel marketing initiatives.

As a result, marketers have the opportunity to move beyond simple demographics and firmographics and take a deeper, holistic view of customer intelligence, spanning segmentation, profiling, account penetration and behavior, answering the most important questions about your company and your customers:

  • What is the measure and level of product and service saturation generally within your customer base and by specific customers?
  • How do you identify those customers who have bought some of your products and services but look like those customers who have bought a lot of your products and services?
  • How can you tell from a contact's interaction and, if appropriate, purchase history that the person may be ready to buy your offering or something like it?

Greater use of customer intelligence enables learning more about your business and your customers in real time to pursue revenue now.


Joe Cordo is CMO of Extraprise, a provider of database marketing and demand generation services for B2B and B2C enterprises. Email him at joe.cordo@extraprise.com.


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