Big Data and a plethora of marketing technology solutions mean that marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to close the loop on their marketing activities: to understand the behaviour of all customers individually across the customer journey and to measure the impact and efficacy of each marketing activity.
So why is it the exception rather than the norm?
The fabled 'single customer view' (SCV) is a critical enabler but often fraught with challenges and a high failure rate. Here's why and how you can avoid some of the common pitfalls.
What is Closed-Loop Marketing and a Single Customer View?
"Data" should be a massive enabler for understanding customers better, improving their experience and delivering personal, tailored and meaningful messages. At the heart of this is the need to close the loop on marketing actvities and to be able to link acquisition to retention, attribute conversion to particular channels and to measure and optimise customer lifetime value.
With the complexity of so many systems and channels it's easy to become operationally focussed and not to think about an holistic understanding of customers. The typical result is that companies have multiple versions of the truth - seemingly similar data that has different absolute and relative values.
This is where the jargon SCV has come from - the vision that all date can reside in one place giving a common, 360 degree view of each customer.
It’s not a marketing initiativeThe development of a SCV shouldn't be seen as a marketing initiative for 2 reasons:
- It will require data from systems that are beyond marketing's remit.
- It should be a resource for the whole business to use.
Let's take the example of a call centre. To have a single customer view you will certainly want to have data from call centre systems (who called, whether it was inbound or outbound, what their experience was etc) and your colleagues in the call centre should have access to information from the single customer view (so that, for example, which marketing campaign the customer is responding to when they call).
If a SCV project is left firmly in the domain of marketing it's likely that a customer view will be delivered but that it won't be single; it will provide a marketing only view and may well add further complexity when trying to reconcile reporting across the business.
It’s not an IT initiative
In the same vein, it's important that responsibility for delivering a SCV and enabling closed-loop marketing isn't devolved to IT.
Business requirements need to be precise and both the data sources integrated and functionality needs to be prioritised.
Don't start with Technology
Of course your project will ultimately be enabled by marketing technology but don't start by shopping for an off-the-shelf solution. The marketing technology landscape is vast and you risk being seduced by features that may not be particularly important to your marketing objectives.
Instead, think about the processes (activities) that you want to undertake, who will be doing the work and the data solutions that they will need.
The aim of all closed-loop marketing and a SCV project should be to deliver the right data, at the right time to the right people so that they can transform a process.
And the process should be squarely focussed on the customer.
Put the customer into single customer view
By definition, a SCV is complicated and involves a lot of internal planning. Sometimes this makes it easy to forget what you are trying to achieve in the first place: delivering better and even remarkable customer experiences.
If you a struggling to focus on what data you need and why, then re-focus on customer experience and your current customer understanding. How can you differentiate the experience that you offer your customers and what will have the biggest impact?
With customer experience as your compass you should be able to navigate those awkward internal debates and negotiations.
A primary customer view
A SCV may be an illusion and something that you shouldn't actually get hung up on.
Every business area needs a view of the customer that its specific to what they are trying to achieve and it may be that they business case for implementing a SCV just doesn't stack up.
You will most certainly though need a primary customer view: standard definitions, business rules and trusted sources for particular KPIs and activities so that, though you don't have a SCV, you do have a single version of the truth.
Build the business case
Whatever the size of your business, ensure that you build the business case for closed-loop marketing and building a SCV or primary customer view.
It's critical that it's not seen as an ad hoc project but as something that has longevity and is a critical enabler of better customer experience.
You can access our free business case template here.