An analytics checklist for customer intelligence

Seven must-do's to improve your marketing efforts

By Jeff Alford, SAS Insights editor

If you haven’t read the bestselling book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, author and surgeon Atul Gawande borrowed from the US Air Force the idea that checklists can save lives. Whether it’s fighter pilots or surgical patients, having a simple but powerful list of actions can reduce deaths, often by significant percentages.

Can you apply the same principle to marketing? Of course you can. In fact, David Stodder has just written a TDWI report: Best Practices for Delivering Actionable Customer Intelligence.

Download the paper

Stodder has created a seven-item best practices list that can help marketing organizations use the full power of their analytics to get the most value from their hard-won and important customer data.

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Data management: Improvements equal strategic advantages

Collecting data from every source you can imagine is a worthwhile endeavor, but unless you have a way to integrate, cleanse and store the data (or for handling raw data for event stream processing) it lacks real purpose.

While there is no one way to approach data management, there are some guiding principles. The best tactic is to first determine the approaches that best align with your business objective. Then map your course based on integrating those approaches.

And, it’s never a task you can permanently check off your list because changing business realities and technology advancements will mean you periodically revisit your decisions and make additional improvements.

Data governance: Protect their privacy

Your customer’s data is the responsibility of your entire organization, not just your IT department. In fact, data governance is more effective when everyone is involved in setting governance policies. Once the policies are in place, solutions such as customer master data management can help streamline data integration so that every department is using the data in a protected, but expansive, way.

Visual analytics: Put your data in action

The ability to explore your data is something nearly everyone in your marketing organization should be able to do without having to be a data scientist. A new generation of data visualization tools are available to offer self-service data investigation. With visual analytics, you can display the data in contexts and formats that are most meaningful for you or your intended audience. For example, you might overlay customer purchasing behaviors on a country map to help identify regional buying trends.

And to add to the good-news message, new and innovative ways of visualizing data are being introduced every day.

Analytics: Being predictive to make you more proactive

Predictive marketing means you can reach your customers when they’re the most receptive to your pitches. Predictive analytics is the wizardry that happens behind the curtain to make predictive marketing possible.

Expanding the scope of a sales opportunities with the right cross-sell or upsell offers can be a big boost to revenue growth. Better still, much of these activities can be automated. Data sources for this effort can be from several sources such as unstructured text from social media, call center transcripts and web chats.

Personalization: Complexity increases as your company grows

As you (hopefully) acquire more customers, your data also grows and added complexities emerge. But if you have been diligent with the first four items of the checklist, then this next checklist item, cluing in to your customers’ preferences, should be easier. That’s because everything you’ve accomplished so far leads you to a more complete view of the customer.

Customer-facing operations: Become more agile

When companies want to improve the performance of their customer-facing assets, they turn to analytics. Think of analytics as the thing that enables you to find the reasons behind the results. Once you know why events occur based on your operational data, your ability to predict how your business moves forward improves.

You can create dashboards to monitor progress toward performance goals internal and external. Also if you’ve centralized your data to eliminate silos, the number of dashboards needed to monitor your entire business is reduced.

Improved customer experiences: Where rubber and road meet

The payoff for getting your business processes aligned via data and analytics is better experiences for your customers. Improved loyalty and increased sales are natural byproducts. For industries where customer churn is a huge challenge, analytics can be used to identify customer satisfaction downturns more quickly so that you can respond appropriately.


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