In today’s fast-paced marketing world, the data you have on customers’ preferences, habits and history is gold. But, how much data should you keep and how much is feasible to leverage in your campaigns? Think about the old proverb about the nail. “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe, the horse was lost” – and on, and on. This proverb points out that even the smallest item, in this case a nail, can have huge impacts: the loss of a horse, of a man, of a battle, and eventually the entire kingdom. As a marketer, the smallest bits of data from way back in a customer’s history may prove tremendously important to your understanding of that individual, and how you should create value for them, and loyalty to your brand.
So, how do you know what data might be an important nail? Not long ago, it was expensive to store and leverage data. Marketers had to make tradeoffs and optimize for efficiency versus efficacy. But, today, there are many fewer limitations. Storage is phenomenally cheap and tools to analyze and utilize data abound. The time has come for marketers to take advantage of this shift, to think entrepreneurially about their data, and to understand and experiment with the use cases that the data empowers. The first step to doing that is making sure you have the right data on your customers to help you realize the full potential of each customer engagement.
In marketing, as in all business, we naturally impose our own lens on the world. We tend to look at a customer primarily in terms of how frequently they purchase from our brand, the average value of that order and other key transactional criteria that help us determine their importance to our long-term business strategy. However, in focusing our customer data retention strictly on transactional versus conversational information, marketers are holding on to a very limited and linear view of each person. The conversational data, both historic and granular, is of critical importance to marketers building a profile of what it takes to truly engage that same customer beyond the purchase – and ultimately to building a longer and deeper relationship.
It’s arguably impossible to ever know what information you must keep versus what is not worth storing. As conditions change and new opportunities emerge, the data that seemed trivial and unimportant may turn out to be the key “nail” to unlock new customer insight or understanding. The value of the data is most likely to lie in the breadth and depth of information you have on a customer rather than a strictly limited view of only recent behaviors or purchases. Certain historical data, such as seasonal or annual buying habits, may be key to understanding customer needs, and storing that type of information for long periods, may have a tremendous benefit.
Take for example a jeweler that sells a young man an engagement ring. Knowing when and what that gentleman purchased will be highly relevant, not just around the date of the wedding, but for years and decades beyond. Knowing the bride has a platinum, princess-cut diamond ring is not only valuable in offering up immediate recommendations for a matching wedding band, it will inform anniversary gifts for 5, 10 and possibly 50 years in the future.
With fewer limitations on data storage and analysis, marketers need to change how they think about customer data. They need to have both transactional and conversational data readily available to help define their most valuable customers, and to provide insight into how to engage them. The end goal is the same – to create customers loyal to your brand – but means have changed. It is time for marketers to consider just how insightful their data is and to stop throwing away valuable nails of information.