From Direct to Data-Driven: The New Face of Marketing


Direct marketing has always been data-driven. However, the term “direct marketing” has been used less in recent years, with marketers opting for “data-driven marketing.” Marketers use data and analysis in every part of the marketing process, from top-of-funnel prospecting to closed-loop campaign performance measurement.

In response to this language change, the DMA—formerly known as the Direct Marketing Association—is adopting a new name. At last week’s annual DMA &Then conference in Los Angeles, the industry association announced it would now be called the “Data & Marketing Association.”

The DMA’s increased emphasis on the centrality of data reflects the growing supply of, and demand for, customer information. There are over 2.5 quintillion bytes of consumer-related data produced every day—enough to fill 78 million 32 GB new iPhones. Every click and conversion generates a data point, be it transactional, demographic, or psychographic.

This data, as it relates to marketing, has fueled what

has now become a $15 billion industry, as companies continually collect information on customer purchases and other interactions. Data from myriad channels continues pouring into marketing databases, leaving marketers with the challenge of linking interactions from every stage of the customer lifecycle, across multiple channels and devices.

Consumers’ multichannel lifestyle requires companies to not only track this data, but bring it together to form an actionable 360-degree view of the customer. As presenters at one of the &Then sessions explained, we have come to a post-channel world: When customers interact with a company, they don’t see that company as being managed by different departments in different silos or functioning in different channels, each with its own rules of engagement. Rather, consumers expect one cohesive and seamless relationship. Consequently, this is how marketers need to approach their own customer data even as it is collected from different sources.

These diverse interactions and transactions don’t just reflect past purchases—they inform future ones. The key to success is being able to analyze the relative significance of all these data points. Which are predictive of intent to buy? Which are irrelevant? Or, as a presenter at &Then put it, how can marketers differentiate the signal from the noise?

The key to making data actionable (and therefore profitable) is analytics. The predictive models that emerge from sophisticated analytical processes enable marketers to focus on responsive audiences, eliminate wasted marketing spend, and cultivate long-term customer value.

But as the proliferation of consumer data continues, marketers will need to answer the following questions:

  • How detailed, accurate, and current is my data?
  • Is our company-owned data all that’s needed for marketing; or should second- or third-party data be incorporated to improve our understanding of our customers?
  • If using outside data, how reliable are the data partners we are using?
  • Can we perform data analysis and audience modeling in-house, or do we need and analytics partner to optimize customer insights?

Just as the DMA name change indicates, consumer data will be the foundation of successful marketing—direct and otherwise. Highly personalized, data-driven, one-to-one marketing, fueled by in-depth knowledge of every prospect or customer, will be the standard moving forward.

It doesn’t get any more direct than that.

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