As much of the world strives to pull itself out of this damnable recession—the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development did report recently at least the beginning of a global economic recovery—marketers have been forced to grapple with how much stock to put in the predictive abilities of their customer databases. Has the poor health of the U.S. economy altered the consumer—and business, for that matter—landscape so greatly that all the customer data you collected up until a year ago couldn’t forecast its way out of a wet paper bag?
That’s a concern being bandied about in the marketing community right now, so I decided to check in with a few data-driven firms to hear their thoughts. As I—and I hope you, too—suspected, the answer overwhelmingly came back to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. “I don’t see how ‘historical customer data’ would EVER be rendered useless,” muses Boardroom Executive Vice President Brian Kurtz. “Yes, response rates will go down when environmental factors take hold—but knowing what customers bought, how they bought, when they bought and how much they bought is still the most powerful data we have.”
And Theresa Kushner, director of marketing, customer intelligence at Cisco, advises marketers not to get overly caught up in the hype surrounding a single event. “There will always be ‘massive disruptions’ of some kind in the life of a company,” she points out. “We, at Cisco, saw a similar upheaval in 2001 when the IT world was shook. We used that time to realign our data and our view of our customers. In today’s world, we’re taking the same tack. We view this as an opportunity to get closer to our customers, to concentrate on the data that we have about them and to use it to the fullest to help us serve them better. We use our historical data to forecast product bookings, and the economy has played some havoc with that. We have, however, seen that by being diligent and refining our models, we’re coming out better than ever. In every disaster, there is opportunity. We’re taking advantage of it.”
Both Kurtz and Kushner, along with some industry analysts and database analytics specialists, emphasize that having good data definitely is an asset, but you also have to know how to make sense of the information to develop a sound marketing strategy.
So don’t panic and discount the value of your historical customer data. As Janet Driscoll Miller notes in her article on B-to-B paid search campaigns in this month’s issue, improvement comes from knowing where you’re winning—as well as losing.