5 Trends From Companies Using Data to Build Customer Base

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

If Juliet were asking that question today, she might delay her answer. She would need to see the customer data on names and their impact on our thinking. She might survey customers with a choice of names other than Romeo. And she might even want to get some data on roses. They do have thorns, and another flower may engender better feelings.

Direct Marketing Association’s name change last week to Data & Marketing Association should quell any last doubts about data’s ascension. “[Our rebranding] includes a new mission: to be the community that champions deeper consumer engagement and business value through the innovative and responsible use of data-driven marketing,” said CEO Tom Benton. “…our industry is not about a channel, it’s about data that inspires meaningful connections with consumers across all channels and devices.”

(It’s interesting that, like AARP, DMA has kept their initials. Instead of any trace of “Retired People” on the AARP site, you now only see “Real Possibilities.”)

Speaking of data and learning more about the customer, on Wednesday—at 11 am Eastern time—SIIA will host a webinar on Incorporating the Customer Voice into New Product Development with Elizabeth Petersen, executive vice president of BLR, and Victoria Meillor, CEO and co-founder, Novatum Group (and before that, Melcrum). Sign up here. Unlimited access to webinars is included with your SIIA membership, so register now at no charge.

I’ve spoken with four of our five 2016 Models of Excellence (MOEs)—companies resetting the data standards. (They will be featured at our upcoming Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Fort Lauderdale where there will also be an entire track on data. See who's coming.) Here are five trends from those conversations for publishers to take note of:

1. Data needs to be clean. Katie Bullard, chief marketing officer for DiscoverOrg, told me that, “One of the reasons that the data is so accurate is that we have a team of 150 in-house researchers that verifies every single piece of data in our platform…” That’s extreme, of course, but it shows where their emphasis is.

2. Jobs are changing. HomeLight uses data scientists who compile “transaction data for our algorithms to make our matches better and make sure we’re reaching the right customers,” said Devu Gandhi, VP of business development. Added Bullard: “We’ll get people who don’t have market research experience but have high aptitude, are very analytical, good with numbers, and great on the phone…and we give them the opportunity to grow and develop.”

3. Disruption yes, upheaval no. "We try to live on places where doctors go," said Paul Kudlow, founder of TrendMD, a kind of Outbrain or Taboola for the medical world. "And provide value there. Doctors and researchers are stubborn [so] we don't want to change their habits.” Said Gandhi: “We are not trying to change the basic business model. Agents still only get paid after they close. We’re just trying to improve the process.”

4. Content may not be king in data world, but it matters. “I’m glad you noticed that,” Mark Godley, chief revenue officer of HG Data, said when I asked about their blog. “Most data companies…[are] not well thought of in the sales and marketing space. [That] blog lets the world know we are experts in our field, and we have a voice. We’re a real company with real people who know what we’re doing. We’re not web scraping from a college dorm.” Gandhi is also proud of HomeLight’s blog.

5. A trend back to less virtual workers. Bullard, who recently joined DiscoverOrg, was excited to move to their Vancouver, Wash., office, where most of the employees reside. “Of course, you can do a lot virtually these days," she said, "but there’s still something to be said for everyone working together in the same office—the ability to play off of each other.” I got a similar feel from the others, that with silos opening up, it was good to have most of the people in the same office.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…