Doesn’t need any further explanation, big data is hot. Whether it is about sales, marketing, customer success or user experience almost everything your read is about big data. All the data that we store and the valuable information we need to get out of it in order to deliver a better product, service and experience to our customers. Companies like Informatica that fell asleep are in the middle of their revival and vendors like SAS are heavily investing in their development efforts to move everything into the cloud. One-to-one marketing, we are talking about it for ages but now it looks like the time has come to really bring this into practice. I remember in the late ’90s at the rise of the internet and new comers like Amazon who were entering the market. This would change everything because now smart systems could come up with suggestions that might be of our interest. That happened, for sure, but maybe 15 years later than we all expected. Companies like Informatica that fell asleep are in the middle of their revivalAnd still I don’t think we are there yet. In fact I think there is still a long road to go. As long as leading etailers are bombarding me with retargetting campaigns with products that I already bought than these smart suggestions feel still far far away.
And yes also within Exact we are discussing the topic big data quite intense. The topic is being discussed coming from many angles. It is no secret that especially for the type of company we are, a true provider of business software-as-a-service in the cloud provider, there is a huge potential. Today more than 200.000 companies are with Exact using ExactOnline business software in the cloud. The amount of data related to these activities is enormous and theoretically can be used to provide our customers a better experience. The amount of data related to these activities is enormous and theoretically can be used to provide our customers a better experienceOff course also in my marketing team we are discussing the topic big data quite often and already on our side we are gathering lots of data about how prospects become customers and how customers become ambassadors. A variety of media channels and marketing assets are developed and used to reach out to the audiences that matter to us. In our ambition for being utmost relevant to these audiences we are monitoring profiles, media channels, assets, lead types and tons of other data in order to continously improve our performance.
Only to publish in real time the number of existing ExactOnline customers in a rich media display banner is quite a challenge!
Having had many discussion I wanted to take some action, lets grasp the nettle and define some dream scenario’s in which data plays an important role. Just to do a sort of reality check also to understand and realize for ourselves where we exactly are. Every quarter I am organizing a team meeting with all country field marketing managers and the central marketing managers. During this 3 day event we share best practices, we think about what can be improved and we invite externals for being injected by some out of the box ideas. Last week we selected the Brussels office since we were also meeting one of our accountancy customers, EY Belgium, during the event. This for me was the excellent opportunity to work with all marketing leaders on the big data topic. I prepared a sound agenda, held some brain storm even with some other functions in advance and we were ready to go. I defined several areas that came out during the brainstorm sessions where big data could be a key driver for running our marketing efforts in a smart way. Other functions like customer success, product marketing and horizontal UX were invited to join and help us during the workshops.
Simple use case?
Many use cases were discussed and finally we selected about 6 to work out in full detail. Asking ourselves constantly which data is required to build our reach, how can we re-use this data in order to be utmost relevant for our audience and gain engagement by offering help in line with their needs. To make it even more concrete:
The target audience are small business owners, wholesalers who are looking for getting better realtime insights into their stock levels and warehouses. We could have used look-a-like CRM data in the Google DoubleClick system in order to reach out to the audiences which are most likely to engage with us. For now I decided to use a rich media display banner on top of it with the ability for the audience to select their industry within the banner right away. After the reader selected its industry I wanted to have the number of existing ExactOnline customers within this industry to be piublished within this rich media display banner with a call-to-action next to it: read more. Every week we are adding more than 1.000 companies to our platform so I wanted this to be a real time number. Once redirected to a specific landing page I wanted to have specific industry content published in several placeholder areas e.g. the number of existing customers we serve in the visitors industry and names of 3 accountants who are specialized within their industry and can help them grow their business. Call-to-actions could be dowloading more value content or contacting one of these accountants. Depending on profile, buying journey stage and behavior specific nurture activities are automatically started.
It is not so much about whether this is the right content or are the right call-to-actions, it is more about the use of the data and systems which are required to make this happen. Well, after 3 days of workshops I can tell you it is a hell of a job! I even would like to challenge others to show me the use case as described in real life. Only to publish in real time the number of existing ExactOnline customers in a rich media display banner is quite a challenge! What sounded as a reasonable use case in which we do our utmost best to reach out to the right audience, being relevant in order to get some level of engagement became a dot on the horizon which has never felt so far away. Lucky for us we were able to ‘recover’ as a team by dividing our desires into smaller bits and pieces. With multiple disciplines on the table we were able to define specific tasks to marketing automation, content creation and program management but also set a list of requirements to our technology and IT teams.
We wanted to go even further by seperating different layers from each other e.g. media channels, engagement logic and asset inventory. A system that is determining by itself who can be reached in the most efficient way in which media channels are being used in a smart way and delivering the right content in the right context. Within our preference center prospects and customers can select their preferred way of communication. What sounded as a reasonable use case in which we do our utmost best to reach out to the right audience, being relevant in order to get some level of engagement became a dot on the horizon which has never felt so far away.Furthermore regardless this setting sometimes you reach people via email first, or the website or our in-product messaging system. Here you also want to use different kind of data across multiple systems, multiple layers and different lifecycle stages in order to remain relevant and serve prospects and customers at its best.
Even though I am into the topic big data for quite some time, last weeks exercises gave me an even better understanding. Every year we raise the bar for ourselves and now for a moment we were thinking we might go a bridge too far. But as said we recovered since we are firm believers that in a couple of years from now the things we discuss should be part of our customer experience. In other words we believe that marketing will become part of the product which delivers that experience that make from our customers ambassadors. This we can only achieve by improving that simple game that we play each and every day: reach out to the right people and help them making a next step by being utmost relevant. Whether this is a prospect that we provide with additional insights about how to grow his business or an existing customer that we can help by connecting him with peers who have been in similar situations and challenges. We have got an exciting journey in front of us.