Lions, Kings and Dirty words

Posted on: Monday 17 April 2017 | Jed Mole

Jed Mole, European Marketing Director at Acxiom explains why prospecting is so important in digital marketing.

Ok, I’m just going to come right out with it. Ready? Prospecting. There, I’ve done it. Have you all shivered and repeated the word in fearful tones like the hyenas repeating Mufasa in The Lion King?

If you go to any marketing conference, you’ll find it’s something we, as an industry don’t really do anymore. You’ll encounter plenty of presentations explaining just how, once customers log in, we do a brilliant job of customising the web page and building a single customer view etc. You may even hear us be relatively brave and talk about how smart we marketers are at using cookies to make sure our touchpoints are smarter than they’d otherwise be. But prospecting? No, we don’t do that, do we?

Well, of course we do, we just don’t like referring to it in those terms. Oh, while I’m at it, ‘profiling’: there’s another dirty word. Spies and Big Brother profile us don’t they? They do it for their own gain, not ours. We don’t want to be profiled, we don’t want to be watched or pigeonholed, we want freedom. Marketers, they profile us! What are they up to? Why do they need to know about us? I can see an ad on TV or the side of a bus, I’m informed, and I don’t need the digital world. Now for a quick check of my emails, a catch up on social and a swift Google for that campervan I want to hire.

Let’s get one thing straight, profiling is profiling in terms of what it is, but the comparisons end there in terms of what data is used for the likes of profiling in Law and Order versus marketing; the latter using non-sensitive data to result in an ad that’s far more likely to be relevant than a random one.

Now back to that first P-word, prospecting. I’ve been thinking that the only organisation I’ve always been a customer of (and never a prospect) is the National Health Service; in fact, I’ve been a customer of the NHS since I was about minus six months old! You could argue this extends to all government departments or public services and I’ll give you that. For all others, I’ve been a prospect of sorts. Here’s the issue. If GDPR, or other legislation, restricts the data available to marketers to the incumbent product or service provider, then this inhibits competition; it’s anti-trust.

For years now, the government has tried to level the playing field and promote competition. Think of utilities in particular, and the lengths the government have gone to, and indeed are doing again, to ensure BT do not get an information advantage through their management of Openreach. Data is power. And wouldn’t this be the same for all brands, if data was inherently restricted to the company you first chose for your car, your insurance, your energy, shopping, holidays and so on?

Why should a brand be unable to woo you over by using data to create relevant offers? I want them; so long as they’re relevant. Imagine you fly, but just not regularly enough to get the tier points necessary to get regular lounge access. What if a competitor airline assembled enough data, within the letter and spirit of the law, to lead them to believe you’d be a good bet as a long-term customer? And to entice you to their colours, offer you a year of lounge access? Why wouldn’t you want such an offer? You may drive Audi, but why wouldn’t you be at least interested in seeing a great offer from BMW or Mercedes?

Prospecting needs to continue and it needs data. Even the biggest and best brands need new customers. You could say it’s the circle of marketing life. And no, we data-driven marketers are not evil hyenas nor are we the villainous Scar, we’re just marketers trying to do the best we can. It just so happens that ‘the best we can’ is dependent on being able to use data to better recognise, understand and communicate with our customers and indeed prospects.

Be proud of prospect marketing, be good at it, it’s ok to do it, honestly. And as consumers ourselves, while no one wants to be ‘spammed within an inch of our lives’, we’re largely happy to get relevant offers, right?

All that said, please, please and pretty please again, recognise we’re all different. Hence the need for data-driven marketing to treat us as individuals. So, please watch for those who simply value their right to not want data used in any way, shape or form. We can only be good at data-driven marketing, at data-driven prospecting (see, I’m not scared to use it) if we respect these individuals and their preferences. Let’s do the right thing and let’s do our utmost to opt them out. We’re in changing times but I’m convinced that over time with evolving maturity, experience and some common sense, we’ll see far, far fewer opt ‘outs’ when ‘in’ really does mean a better journey in our digital world.

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Jed Mole

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