Unify Brand, Agency, and Technology Efforts with Your Customer Data

We had a great time sponsoring the most recent Digiday Digital Brand Summit (#DigidayDBS) in Park City, Utah. Between hitting the slopes and accidentally blowing our per diem on a single meal (I’m looking at you Zoom), we attended a number of sessions and talked with some amazing marketers focused on how the most successful brands are reconnecting with their customers. Agencies and technology companies have done a great service over the past 15 years in helping brands make the transition to digital, but it’s clear that it is now time for brands to own and control their own consumer data. Leveraging customer data to unify brand, agency and technology efforts is an opportunity not to be missed by brand marketers in 2015.

As a brand, before you approach your agencies and technology vendors about planning the next campaign, I recommend doing some strategy work to see how you could be collecting and connecting customer data to improve marketing ROI. Stop to consider what your needs and potential opportunities are with respect to customer data. If your agency runs all of your campaigns, you could be missing out on some valuable data collection opportunities. Are there any initiatives that you’re taking in-house, like a large push for Valentines Day? Maybe that is where you can start. Has your agency (or agencies) been in charge of similar initiatives before? Your goal here is to create an itemized list to identify where data could make the biggest impact and improve your decision making while avoiding the political slowdown that sometimes encumbers a new initiative. Without such a list, the data deluge can become all too real, and you’ll find yourself going back to the traditional agency plan — even though you know deep down that you could be using data to increase conversions and build stronger 1:1 consumer relationships.

Let’s break this down

One way to get started is to look at your marketing and events calendar for 2015. Now create three columns. First, a column for work you will do completely in-house without agency support. Next, a column to mark whether you intend to rely on an agency for that work. Finally, a column for joint projects with your agencies and technology vendors. Draw a check mark or an X for each marketing event. You’ve just created a list of projects where you need data. You also know who to reach out to so that you can coordinate the collection of data — your agency or technology partner.

Next, find a technology partner (yes, another one) that gives you control of your customer data that will inform decisions and unify efforts across agencies, technology partners and in-house efforts. You’ll want a solution that can unify, visualize, and segment the data coming from disparate sources such as online behavior, purchasing behavior, social profiles, mobile, and more.

Using Data for More Than Serving Ads

This data should not be centralized for the sole purpose of powering an online ad server and targeting users across devices. While this is an important use case, it’s more valuable to invest in tools that get you closer to customers in more ways than just an ad server. A requirement for your customer data platform should be the ability to make your data directly available to decision makers, marketers, business intelligence analysts, and anybody else in the organization who can benefit from added data.

Your technology partner should also have a strong professional services team behind it — one that can train, support, and inform the people in your organization who will use the technology. The goal here is to make sure you’re getting the best value out of your technology investment.

Once you’ve itemized your list of priorities and invested in technology that can ingest data from the numerous organizational and technical silos you might have (think agency, one-off consulting engagement, trade desk, DMP, market research firm), it’s time to approach your agency and technology partners and make a plan to gain control of the customer data you need and take action.

From your checklist, identify any work that you have the ability to bring in-house. Then, ask your agency for specifics around that campaign or project. Ask for things like: what data they used to drive the campaign, what research was collected, where the data came from, how the data impacted decision making like creative or media markets.

Focusing questions around a specific project will prevent agency pushback and makes the data transfer process more manageable. Ultimately, you want to access and connect your raw customer data to drive your decisions on all fronts. Your agency’s client services team can help you format, clean, and import the data from your agency and deliver it to you in a format that you can use.

Let’s Recap

While it may be a new concept for brands, owning and controlling your customer data does not need to be as daunting as it sounds. It’s as straightforward as listing your priorities, looking at what you’re bringing in-house from the agency, finding a technology partner that breaks down barriers instead of erecting them, and asking for data in its raw format so that you can use it, grow it and benefit from it.