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Multi-channel marketing, data … and fly fishing

As  keen fly fishers, we’ve travelled to a variety of rivers throughout Scotland, Wales, Ireland and, more exotically, Iceland and Russia for Atlantic salmon, Arctic char,  sea trout, brown trout, greyling and any other species that is prepared to jump on the end of our lines.

Despite my propensity to fall into rivers (tricky in chest waders which can fill up fast if you get it wrong), the experience has always been delightful.  Not just for the fishing, but also for everything that surrounds it – good company, the sight, smell and sounds of the river,  the scenery, the wildlife, and the good company that almost invariably accompanies a week of fishing.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Actually, pretty much everything.

Understanding your customers

Firstly, whether you’re fishing or marketing, you need to understand your prey and their circumstances.  Is the river in spate?  Or is it a dry ditch?  Are there likely to be problems reaching the fish?  Or indeed, landing them?  In fact, where are the fish?  What are they doing?  And how many are there?  Are they migratory?  If so, when will they run?  Are they a good size?  Are they fat and healthy, or diseased and thin?  Are they young or old, male or female, shy or aggressive?

Reaching your customers and prospects

Then you need to consider how to reach them.  Is it tricky to cast?  Is it too deep to get in and wade to get closer or a better angle?   What’s the wind direction?  Is the water too warm or too cold?  Is it a long, arduous climb to the hill lochs?  If so, is the end result worth the effort?  Having invested the time and energy in climbing the hill, is it a good idea to spend a little more time up there?  Perhaps even pitch a tent and spend a night or two to catch the dawn and evening rises and make the most of the opportunity?   How can you best stalk the fish in the clear waters of a chalk stream? How can you avoid the weed – either before or after hooking a fish!

What are the fishes’ motivations for taking a fly?  Is there a particular size or colour that will appeal?  How should it best be presented?  At what angle, depth and speed?  How frequently should you cast over a fish?  Especially if you can’t see it so can’t be absolutely certain that it’s even there.  And what do you do if a fish takes your fly, but not properly?   Vary the speed?  The depth?  Change the fly?  Go for something larger?  Or smaller?  Or a different pattern?

In addition to all of that, there’s a need to identify and understand the competition – Seals?  Otters?  Commercial fisheries?  Bears, or other predators?

Depending on the answers, you need to use appropriate and varied techniques to catch your fish.  For example, sea trout are shy creatures, best caught at night.  This means fishing in the dark, so you need to do your research during the day – spotting fish where you can, identifying likely fish-holding lies, working out the length of cast you’ll need, the speed and depth of the water.  That way you have the knowledge you need to have a fair chance of getting your fly out to the right place and fishing it well.

In a chalk stream where the water’s very clear, you need to stalk your brown trout, making sure you can’t be seen, then lay the fly gently upstream on the surface of the water so that it drifts right over their nose and becomes irresistible.

Salmon are different again.  Here you need to be able to read the water and understand where the fish will lie, then make sure you put the fly where they can see it and make them want it.  And it has to be the right fly, moving at the right speed and in the right way.  And when one takes, you don’t “strike” in the same way as for a trout.  Actually, Atlantic salmon don’t even eat when they’re in the river, so they need to be enticed to take your fly for other reasons.

Understanding your customers and prospects

Though it might be more accurate – and certainly more tactful – to refer to your potential customers as prospects rather than prey, all these issues equally impact marketers.  What’s the economic climate?  How much money is out there for consumers to spend on your products?  How much effort and budget is required to acquire a particular customer – and are they worth it to your business?  Where do they go to buy?  Online?  Over the telephone?  Bricks and mortar?  Do you need to segment your marketing to appeal to different lifestyles and demographics?  And is your product a must-have?  If not, how can you encourage consumers to buy – particularly in a poor economy, when your competition is as hungry as you so you need to fight harder to win – and keep – customers.

Stage one is understanding your prospect.  Who are they?  Male?  Female?  Young?  Old?  Parents?  Single? Homeowners?  Students? Living at home?  Renting?  Where are they in their lifecycle?

Where do they live?  What’s on their mind?   What, why, when and how often do they buy? Is there a seasonal bias? What’s their disposable income?    What do they read or watch on TV or online?  What technology do they use?  Tablets?  Smarphones?  Smart TVs?  Or paper?  Or all of those?  Do they interact with social media?  Consumer or business?  What are their hobbies?  Are they in debt?  And so on.   Whether you’re in retail, or publishing,  financial services or telcos, technology or utilities, charities or even politics, the above issues all need to be considered within a marketing campaign.Does your product appeal to a mass market or a specific segment of the market?

And that kind of knowledge requires data – both historic behaviour and research from your own customer database, also data from third parties, which is readily available and can provide you with a wealth of geo-demographic, lifestyle, behavioural, purchase history, financial, risk and fraud data.

Of course, data’s of absolutely no use at all unless it’s turned into meaningful insight that your business can use to allow intelligent, informed decision making.  Not only that, but the ever-growing volume, sources and complexity of consumer data can be overwhelming, so it’s essential  that effective, relevant and actionable data and insights are identified for strategic  and selected to provide the best data strategy for the business throughout the customer lifecycle.  The basic goal must be to use the right data to have the right customer conversations at the right time through the right channels.

Once you know enough about them, you can start to understand the size of your market, and where to go to find prospects who look like your own customers and consider how best to attract them.  Which will be the subjects of upcoming blogs.

One final thought.  The first time you visit a river, it’s helpful to take a ghillie, who will know where the fish lie, and how best to fish for them.  Listen to every word they say and all the advice they give, so that you can learn as much as you can for the next time you want to fish that – and other – rivers. Ghillies are a canny breed, so they’ll know what you’re doing, but will generally be helpful.  

The same is true of marketing.  At TVA we are happy to act as ghillies or guides – so if you’d like to discuss how you could use and benefit from advice on data or any direct marketing channels, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  As ever, if I can help, I’ll be happy to.  If not, I’ll make sure I point you towards people who will provide sensible, strategic advice.

Victoria Tuffill,  Partner, Tuffill Verner Associates – Multi-channel and direct marketing

Tel:         +44 (0)7967 148398  /  +44 (0)1787 277742

Email:     victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk      Multi-channel consultancy       Linked In      Twitter

 

Loyalty schemes – where bribery isn’t corruption …

Loyalty programmes

New customer acquisition is the expensive part of the marketing cycle, so from the moment a new customer starts to buy, a marketer’s thoughts need to focus on customer retention.  If you can encourage a customer to keep buying from you, the level of revenue, advocacy, good will, knowledge and data you can acquire from them will be invaluable – across metrics such as sales, profitability and retention.

So for me, looking after your customers, recognising their importance to you, and rewarding them appropriately are essential factors in business.  Particularly given the increasing ease and speed with which consumers can – and do – hop from brand to brand, provider to provider.

There is a strong argument that good overall product, pricing and service is the best way of generating long term customer relationships.  You just have to look at Apple to see the truth of that.   But there is no doubt that customer loyalty schemes can help strengthen customer relationships and retention by reducing churn and switchers, particularly given the sheer volume of loyalty schemes in the market. Tesco’s Cubcard loyalty programme is an excellent example.

Because so many businesses use loyalty schemes in one form or another, not doing so can put a business at a disadvantage. Obviously if competitors offer broadly the same product, price, service and quality, and one offers a loyalty scheme while the other does not, from the consumer’s viewpoint the choice becomes straightforward.  One of the suppliers is giving them additional value. For example, coffee.  Given my coffee consumption, a free cup of good coffee every 6 visits works for me! But quality is key – no loyalty card offering free cups of filthy coffee would make me buy filthy coffee more than once.

There are numerous types of loyalty programme, including money off, discounts, vouchers, retail loyalty and credit cards, gifts, prizes, points, cashback, competitions and so many more. The scheme can be developed for an individual business who wants, for example, to encourage their active customers to buy more and stay loyal, or reactivate their inactive customers; there are non-competitive businesses who can work in partnership to increase their customer base (such as Amazon and Virgin Wines);  or groups of businesses – for example, towns who want to encourage their inhabitants to shop locally rather than visit the supermarket.

What is important is that the loyalty programme should reward customers for behaviour that is profitable to the business.  There are any number of metrics – from spend to length of relationship, or even speed of payment.  My hairdresser has a loyalty card which gives me a 10% discount every 5th haircut.   It wouldn’t work if he didn’t do a good job, but he does, so that makes me feel good, and yes, I’ll spread the word.  It would be nice if he’d increase it year on year, but alas, he knows he doesn’t need to!

Loyalty programmes also afford an opportunity to reactivate those consumers who used to buy from you but have, for some reason, stopped doing so. These customers will be more responsive than cold prospects.  Assuming you have a marketing database, you will have their purchase history so will understand what, when and how they have bought.  You’ll know how much they’ve spent, so will be able to segment according to their value to you as a customer.

One of the key issues in any loyalty scheme is data and segmentation.  And this is where Tesco excel.  Their offers – from grocery to financial, to mobile phones and more – are highly targeted based on the incredible amount of data they hold on their customers and what they buy.

In the case of reactivation, it may be that, once you’ve looked at a lapsed customer’s data, you’ll discover that you don’t want to retain or reactivate them –  there’s absolutely no point in incentivising your bad customers to continue buying from you if they are losing you money.  And there is a myriad of reasons why they may be poor customers for you – perhaps you are having to chase debt, or pay out excessive claims (particularly in insurance or telco), or maybe the customer will only buy low margin or loss-leader products, or are expensive to maintain and (for example in financial services) you make no money out of them.

For customer acquisition and retention at the same time, one of the best loyalty schemes I’ve seen is from Naked Wines. A 25% discount off all future orders – which means that you always get 25% off your next wine order, and it shows up as real money available when you go online to buy your next case.

So you end up paying a painless (continuous payment) £20 per month.  When you go online to buy, that £20 has become £20 plus the 25% discount – it becomes tremendously easy to buy and increasingly difficult to move away!

Loyal customers who recommend you to their friends because of your product, offer, quality, engagement and loyalty schemes now have a multitude of opportunities to spread the word through social media as well as face to face.  So your “reach” or awareness among your market becomes significantly stronger.

But to generate that level of advocacy means that your loyalty scheme should be unique, compelling, targeted and benefit both the consumer and the business.  If you can enthuse your customers enough for them to want to spread the word among their friends, then they’ll be enthusiastic enough to enjoy it, take advantage of it, and remain a loyal customer.

We’ll welcome your thoughts or comments on this post – and if you’d like to discuss how you could use and benefit from loyalty programmes, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  If I can help, I’ll be happy to.  If not, I’ll at least point you to someone who will provide sensible strategic advice.

Victoria Tuffill
Partner, Tuffill Verner Associates – Multi-channel and direct marketing

Tel:         +44 (0)7967 148398  /  +44 (0)1787 277742
Email:     victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk
Web:       http://www.tuffillverner.co.uk

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, October 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The wilful murder of marketing

Punchy title isn’t it.  And, alas, it’s even true.  I, for one, am heartily sick of headlines telling me, and the rest of the world, that direct mail is dead … email is dead … telemarketing is dead … broadcast PR is dead … and so on with any other channel that someone wants wilfully to kill off in order to make a point (or, more worrying, has been written by someone who actually believes what they say).

The real point is that, despite protestations to the contrary, none of those individual elements are dead.  They are simply evolving.  They are part of the past, the present and the future, and need to be embraced in combination with the plethora of channels now available.

The best one I saw recently was “direct marketing is dead…” Well, direct marketing has never been more alive.  It’s evolving all the time.  And increasingly all marketers are evolving into direct marketers by the nature of the channels available.

What’s key to all this is that little has  fundamentally changed about human interaction.  We’ve always been social animals. It’s just that now we have technology that helps us keep in touch more easily, more widely, and – arguably – more superficially.  The internet, Skype, tablets, smart phones and smart TVs have been added to post, email and telephone.  And it’s fascinating to see just how quickly the ‘channel’ and ‘delivery’ and data opportunities are growing.

Also fascinating to see who’s keeping up and how they’re using the variety of tools – even those that are allegedly dead.  Last week, we received a text message from our local, The Writhing Hare, which showed the menu for that night’s Italian night. Guess what – we picked up the telephone, rang six of our friends, and booked a table for eight.  Very simple marketing.  Very inexpensive.  Highly effective.  Oh, and the pub was packed.

Horses for courses – it’s about using the right channels in effective combinations – and measuring results efficiently so that marketing attention and resource is focussed effectively. Which can be challenging in itself as the channel that reaches the consumer is increasingly less likely to be the channel through which the consumer ultimately buys …

But it’s worth remembering – humans have always interacted on a social level  – but now businesses are starting to understand that the consumer should be the centre of communications.  It is the consumer that makes their own choices about how they want to deal with retailers, brands, leisure centres etc.  They will choose whether they post a coupon, pick up a telephone, go online, send an email, or use social media to buy, ask a question or make a point.

The businesses who listen to their customers and respond accordingly will be the ones who succeed.

We’ll welcome your thoughts or comments on this post – and if you need any help with your marketing or communications strategy and/or activity – across channels or through specific channels – please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  If I can help, I’ll be happy to.  If not, I’ll at least point you to someone who will provide sensible strategic advice.

Victoria Tuffill
Partner, Tuffill Verner Associates

Tel:         +44 (0)7967 148398  /  +44 (0)1787 277742
Email:     victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk
Web:       http://www.tuffillverner.co.uk

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, September 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why do social media “experts” talk such guff?

Why do so many social media “experts” talk such guff?  A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference, where the focus was very much on data and how it could be used to help Telcos prevent their customers paying late (or not paying at all) and/or once in debt, collect the most overdue money, most quickly, at the lowest cost – all the time doing their best to treat their customers fairly.  Clearly a challenging combination.

An interesting inclusion in the programme was a chap who came from a social media consultancy.  He was asked to talk about how social media could help businesses understand their customers well enough to prevent them from falling behind with their payments, and, in the event that they fell into debt, whether social media data could be used to identify their ability and intent to pay.

I had hoped this presentation would be fascinating and full of insight.  To be fair to the guy, his social media generic overview was fine. But when it came down to the nitty-gritty of whether or not, and if so, how social media data could be used in a payment behaviour or collections environment, he frankly floundered, and failed to answer even one of the three questions he had been tasked with.

At the end of his presentation I walked downstairs with a fellow delegate.  I didn’t know him, but I asked him what he thought.  His answer was a single word:  “Irrelevant”.

And that’s the problem.  That one poorly targeted, ill-thought out presentation convinced a large group of Telco delegates that social media has no part to play in their business.  And my view is that this is simply not true.  Whether or not it’s possible, legal or even advisable to use social media data in a collections environment, and whether or not there is anything more than marginal benefit to be gained from doing so,  there are certainly opportunities to build  two-way, engaging relationships with your customers, and obtain useful data from them in the process.

If nothing else, that approach gives you an opportunity to encourage your customer to feel positive about you and your brand, making it more likely that your bill will be higher in their hierarchy of “must-pays”.  Especially in the case of mobile networks and phone providers, where it is highly likely much of their social media interaction will be conducted through mobiles.  And these things can be measured – simply compare the payment and spending behaviour of those of your customers who engage with you on, say, Facebook to those who do not.

Use the social media platform to gain information from them, obviously ensuring that your collection and use of such data is compliant.  Make it fun for them to tell you which networks or mobiles they’ve previously used, do some research on how they would rank them, how they use their phones, proportion of personal to business, gain further information on how the phone is used in business – the answers may not be entirely honest, but, with caution, you can use that data to identify likely switchers and even, in some circumstances, likely payment or contract defaulters.  It is worth noting, however, that the time to build the relationship is BEFORE the payments start to be missed – in other words from the moment the application is approved.

What is crucial, and, I think, not understood, is that social media data, communication and engagement are not ends in themselves. They are simply part of an ongoing communication programme with a brand’s customers and prospects.

It is for each individual company or brand to adopt a strategic approach which identifies its business goals, and develops – and measures – the combination of communication channels appropriate to achieve those goals – which could be telephone, social media platforms and forums, email, websites, mail, blogs, updates (digital and print) on news/technical developments/new product, downloads, apps, face to face and so on.

But I think a core difficulty for many businesses is in identifying so-called social media “experts” who look at the subject strategically.  I’ve met both types of animal.  The ones who do really are very good indeed – the bad ones do an alarming amount of damage and harm – both to the perception of social media and, in the worst cases, to the customer’s brand and image.  To identify the good ones, make sure you talk strategically to them, ask them pertinent questions – if they don’t understand your business, your issues, or can’t answer you, or sidestep, or generalise … find someone else!

We’ll welcome your thoughts or comments on this post – and if you need any help with your communications strategy and/or activity – across channels or through specific channels – please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  If I can help, I’ll be happy to.  If not, I can at least point you to someone who will provide sensible strategic advice.

Victoria Tuffill
Partner, Tuffill Verner Associates
 
Tel:         +44 (0)7967 148398  /  +44 (0)1787 277742  
Email:     victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk
Web:       http://www.tuffillverner.co.uk

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, September 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Social Media Case Study

Forex-Factors and TVA

Case Study, September 2012

“Having read this case-study, I endorse every word of it, and have the greatest appreciation of and admiration for the concentrated energy with which the objectives have been identified, pursued and accomplished by TVA.”

Owner, Forex-Factors 6th September 2012

Forex-Factors Background

Forex-Factors provides foreign exchange managed accounts. At the point of initial discussion between Forex-Factors and TVA, the business was in the early stages of development, had a good website, strong creative concepts, initial clients, and a forward-thinking owner with excellent writing skills.

Within a limited budget, TVA was asked to provide advice and guidance on SEO and social media strategy.

From initial conversations and review of current activity, it was clear that Edward had not only the inclination but also the ability to handle the strategic, creative and technical aspects of his social media and SEO activity. What he needed was knowledge, information and a sounding board for specific areas, and advice on how everything could link together for best results.

The key focus of the consultancy was on initial training and ongoing advice.

Key issues

We reviewed the current Forex-Factors status and activity and evaluated the opportunities that would give the business the highest impact most swiftly.

One of the key issues of forex managed accounts is one of trust. There is a number of forex outfits and individuals that, through various organisations and mechanisms, eventually become labelled as “scams” and / or cease trading (often while hanging onto investors’ money). Clearly the honesty and integrity of the Forex-Factors individuals and business needed to be highlighted to raise their credibility and profile above that of their competitors.

As one would expect from a relatively new business, brand awareness was very low, so we developed a strategy of raising brand and personal awareness, and approached the marketing accordingly.

Forex performance is also an issue, and Forex-Factors has a deliberate strategy of providing solid, steady performance rather than promising spectacular returns – which can too quickly result in equally spectacular losses. We used this philosophy as part of the trust-building exercise.

Strategic Objectives

We established clear objectives for the activity, in summary:

  • To increase website visits and, critically, engagement
  • To acquire new investors
  • To increase value of managed funds
  • To develop an ongoing programme to be implemented by the client

To achieve the objectives, we needed to adopt and integrate sensible tactics at a low cost to the client. These included:

  • Building trust, reputation and credibility
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Building personal profile
  • Measuring performance

Achieving the Goals

We discussed the range of social media platforms through which Forex-Factors could achieve their goals, and prioritised them, concentrating on the three key areas on which to focus for maximum gain. With Edward and his team doing the actual physical work, these were then integrated into a sustainable, ongoing social media strategy, which included:

  • Enhancing LinkedIn and other social media profiles
  • Writing credible blogs and articles to build trust and reputation
  • Ongoing SEO improvement techniques
  • Appropriate digital distribution of marketing collateral to increase awareness and drive traffic
  • Joining and contributing to selected social media networks and groups to establish both presence and personality
  • Establishing appropriate analytics tools to allow performance of the activity to be measured.

TVA’s role in the process

Working directly with the owner, TVA provided online, telephone and Skype discussions on strategy and prioritisation. Training was provided in one-hour blocks, as needed. We continue to provide ongoing consultation as required.

This enabled Edward to do the majority of the work himself, and his own enthusiastic and intelligent approach was therefore able to save him significant consultancy fees.

Results

Within three weeks of initial review, results have been phenomenal. All objectives have been met. The numbers of pageloads, first time visits, and return visits to forex-factors.com have all increased by more than 100%, value of funds under management has increased by more than 400%, and numbers of interested potential investors by 300%.

Visit Forex-Factors for information on their business and their services.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, July 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Big Data – a new world of consumer information

Some four years ago, I was chatting to the head of a large data company, who was complaining that he had, on average, over 80K pieces of transactional data per supermarket customer.  Taken at face value, that sounded terrific.  But his difficulty was in understanding what was significant and what was not, so that he and the client could identify and use the relevant data quickly and effectively.  As I started speaking to more businesses, I heard this theme again and again – even Debt Collection Agencies found they just had too much data and not enough time to be able to understand how to find and apply the useful key data to improve their results and ROI.

 The Three ‘V’s

Even in the few years since then, volumes of data have simply exploded – Analyst Doug Laney described it accurately as being three-dimensional – a combination of volume, velocity and variety. His terminology is now widely used.

Big Data began with consumers shopping over the internet.  Businesses started to save and analyse data from clicks, searches, registrations, purchases.  Of course, having collected the data, many companies were quite clueless about how to analyse and use it.  But those who looked further ahead, like Amazon, were able to harness its power to gain market share against their competitors.

And the situation has developed further. More recently, consumers have discovered other uses for the web and smartphones – they use social networks where they post personal and business information about themselves, they link and hold conversations with their friends, family and colleagues, they post updates and information and photographs and music and films and videos and reviews and … the sky (or should I say cloud) is the limit.  And the data they are so happy to provide is available for marketers and businesses if they’re ready to take advantage of it and can cope with its relatively unstructured nature.

Combined insight:  Big Data plus traditional data

Data has always been used extensively by consumer-facing businesses to segment and target customers.  But Big Data demands a more agile approach towards engaging customers, and providing a more personal or tailored shopping experience.  Combining Big Data with the traditional purchasing and customer data previously used by business offers a massive opportunity to gain three-dimensional insights into consumers – whether for marketing purposes, product development, or customer service and management.

Forward-looking businesses and retailers will track an individual’s behaviour, including product or offer preferences, and model – in real time – that consumer’s likely behaviour.  While the customer is shopping, the business will be able to offer appropriate upsell products, loyalty programmes and increase spend and loyalty much more effectively than any competition who fails to take advantage of the opportunity.  The retailer will know when it’s safe to offer credit and on what terms;  they’ll know what the consumer wants and will be able to choose how … or whether … to deliver those needs.

Big Data Benefits

And the benefits are not just limited to retailers.  Telcos, media companies, utilities, energy providers;  insurers and aggregator sites – Big Data allows genuine communication between provider and consumer – and the consumer is beginning to understand this, and take advantage of opportunities to “switch” providers or suppliers or retailers so that they interact with those who understand their needs and wants, and are prepared to engage with them on that basis fairly and openly.

Big Data Big Issues

As ever, Big Data has its difficulties as well as opportunities.  There are concerns about data security and data privacy.  And not least, concerns about the ability to analyse Big Data –reflected in the growing number of software firms who specialise in data management and analytics – growing at almost 10% per annum – which is roughly twice as fast as the software business as a whole.  According to McKinsey, by 2018 as many as 140,000 to 190,000 additional specialists with deep analytical skills in Big Data may be required.

And there’s a Big Data technology revolution too – Big Data will need new and different technologies to allow efficient data processing swiftly enough for the data to be deployed effectively in realtime, such as MPP (massively parallel processing) databases, the Internet, and cloud computing platforms.

So where will Big Data go from here … interesting times!  And    whether you’re a marketer, a data provider, a software business, or an insight and analytics business, those who adopt an agile, creative approach to the issue will be the overall winners.

Click here for more information on TVA’s Data services.

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996.  She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud.  Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, April 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So what’s new about multi-channel marketing?

multi-channel imageWell, I know I’ve been in marketing for a long time. But I can’t help raising a wry smile when I hear today’s up-and-coming extol the virtues of this or that media channel, and propose it be used as a marketing tool. Occasionally (too rarely) they even suggest testing and measuring results. And the listener is left with the impression that direct marketing is all their very own invention.

There is no doubt the media opportunities have evolved beyond recognition since the direct marketing of the ‘90s. As well as traditional channels like direct mail, loose inserts, press ads, telemarketing, package inserts – all of which are, when appropriately used, an effective part of the marketing mix – we can include email, websites, e-commerce, mobile commerce, apps, social networks, blogs, e-newsletters, microsites, links, PPC etc etc.

And it’s not only the number of channels that has expanded. So has the number of vessels which deliver our communications every day. Technology’s exploded into smartphones and iphones, tablets and ipads, readers, smart TVs, pcs, laptops, Macs. Print media is also evolving – with more advertising in return for free information, QR codes to integrate with new technology, and a greater degree of personalisation within customer communications.

To cope with the diversity and range of channels, marketing platforms are evolving to help businesses integrate their marketing and make it customer-friendly.

Of course the prolific nature and ongoing evolution of marketing channels drives a correspondingly diverse number of “experts” who offer a range of “optimisations” – search engine optimisation, conversion optimisation, click-through optimisation, social media optimisation and so on.

But what I find so interesting is that, despite the new and continuously evolving channel opportunities, the basic principles of direct marketing are unchanged. It’s still a science that involves data, analysis and insight, media choices, creative and design, pricing, branding, product, offer, research, communication, delivery and customer service.

And it’s still about identifying and understanding the customer. Testing data, channels or media, offers, products, new ideas, new creative / copy, response and delivery mechanisms is still an essential part of the process.

And, vitally, it’s still about identifying and measuring the business’s key metrics ongoing to provide insight and refinement of ongoing, healthy and integrated activity.

Certainly there are significant shifts in consumer behaviour – they are more sophisticated, with a shorter attention span. They are hit by multiple messages about multiple products and services from multiple businesses via multiple devices. The lines between above- and below- the-line advertising have blurred to the point of oblivion – which does make the measurement of individual media channels a little more challenging.

But ultimately, the aim of any successful business has to be to deliver appropriate and seamless services, products and communications to its customers, while allowing the customer to deliver communications back through the channels of their choice. And the company that can achieve that is the company that will succeed, both now and in the future.

by Victoria Tuffill 30th August 2012

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.