An article by Robert Schumacher, a pioneer in data-driven marketing and Director at gateB.

Owning the customer relationship and securing it for the long-term are two of our most important tasks as marketers. Unlike in the past, it now takes just a few clicks and a very short time to obtain services from a new provider. This is particularly true when the new provider makes the right offer to the consumer at the right moment. Clearly, today, relevance and personalization are key drivers of a good and lasting customer relationship.

To be at the forefront of relevance and personalization, data-based customer relationship management is required. This may seem logical and simple — but from my own experience, implementing it in everyday life is not quite so trivial. I have been dealing with the topic of "data-based marketing" for a long time and was allowed to accompany some companies on their way there. So where are we today in data-based marketing? What developments are emerging? And what skills should marketers have? 

Customer-centric marketing is a matter of mindset

Many marketers today still think “inside-out” all too often. They ask themselves which campaigns they can use to make their products and services attractive to their target group. But even the best answer to this question neglects one thing: the customers and their needs at the moment the campaign knocks at their doorstep.

The future does not belong to the 'campaign thinkers,' but to the 'customer thinkers.' Customer communication measures must be placed in the context of the entire customer journey or orchestrated around the moments of truth. After all, "Contextually relevant content is the face of customer engagement" (source: 2020 Forrester Research).

This truth is increasingly ensured by those responsible for customer experience and customer journey management, who complement the marketing team. And that's a good thing. The trend towards interdisciplinary teams and the linking of marketing and customer experience promotes the mindset change from “inside-out” to “outside-in,” from campaign thinking to customer engagement.

In my experience, the concept of trigger-based marketing (or moment-based marketing) can also be very helpful in implementing this mindset change. This approach promotes thinking from the customer's perspective and can be implemented simply and step-by-step using customer journeys. With the data-based identification of signals, events, triggers, or moments, relevant and personalized content can be played out at the right time.

At the same time, adding CX experts to the marketing team also promotes the breaking down of silos. Such teams think broadly and, above all, independent of the channel. The demand is growing to collect detailed customer knowledge about all interaction points, evaluate it with the help of AI, and then use it in real-time by automatically displaying relevant content using marketing automation solutions.

If we lose the relevance of the interaction, the customer relationship is at risk — and with it, our own business foundation. This is why thinking from the customer's perspective is so important.

Doing so requires the ability to understand customers in detail and, consequently, in a data-driven way. If this insight is missing, relevance is missing and the engagement no longer succeeds. As marketers, we want to close the gap between insights gained and engagement. For this, we need:

1) the right mindset
2) data literacy
3) intelligent use of supporting technologies

The amalgamation of data literacy and technology

I currently see a revival of CRM and a growing development of customer data platforms (CDPs) as the basis for an integrated and cross-channel customer experience. These two developments are overdue from my point of view, but they do show the current need for customer-centered solutions. There is a demand for technologies and applications that use data analysis to provide detailed insights into customer behavior. Not isolated across a touchpoint, but across all. "Deep, actionable customer insights are now the only defensible source of competitive advantage " (source: https://londonresearch.com).

People, data, and technology silos must gradually dissolve in order to enable a cross-channel view of customer interaction. This can either be done via an additional analysis layer, which is placed over all touchpoints, or via the real integration of the silos.

But that's not all. The 'actions' must follow the 'actionable insights.' As marketers, we have to be able to orchestrate interactions along customer journeys and across the various touchpoints. Most companies are only just starting out here, if at all: “Only 9% of responding companies say they have engineered seamless experiences across online and offline channels” (source: https://londonresearch.com). To this end, the various disciplines — marketing, customer experience, business, and IT — must grow together and work together on the future of data-driven marketing.

Learn step-by-step and with the help of a system

You want to understand customers better and close the gap between insights and engagement — and these skills can be built up gradually. There is no such thing as a starting point. Every company has grown differently and has a different starting position, different challenges, a different culture. What seems important to me is an awareness of what thinking, what competencies, and what technological capabilities are needed. Below is an overview of the skills required:

TRACK & ANALYZE: Analytics and targeting skills to gain a deep understanding of customers. Only with this detailed understanding can companies be relevant for their customers and only in this way can they keep the door open to future sales.

PLAN & ORCHESTRATE: Control and orchestration mechanisms that offer the best journey across touchpoints and at individual customer level — both for customers and for the company.

CREATE & ENGAGE: Relevant content creation skills with (digital) asset management as well as the design of touchpoints with the support of creative development capabilities in order to integrate and play out the personalized customer experience across all touchpoints.

MEASURE & IMPROVE: Performance management skills to be able to measure results against KPIs and to create the basis for a "Test - Learn - Optimize" approach.

ORGANIZE & SUPPORT: Across all capabilities, systems that enable collaboration between interdisciplinary teams, but also with external agencies — including budgeting, task management, and approval processes.

Sooner or later, all marketers and companies need these skills to successfully carry out data-driven marketing. My recommendation: do not tackle everything at once, but start specifically in one place and then grow and optimize step-by-step from there. Data-driven marketing requires a mindset change and, accordingly, sufficient time. The earlier companies start, the faster they learn — iteratively and interdisciplinarily — marketing, CX, business, and IT together.