What goes around comes around

Over years I’ve discovered that timing and environment are significant factors affecting the emergence and success of innovations or ideas. Funding and promotion can shortcut or be a catalyst to achieving success even in difficult times. Pushing an open door, providing a solution when needed is easier than converting non-believers at the wrong time. Sometimes, the problem is terminology and understanding. I suspect nobody would now question ‘digital marketing’ or struggle with ‘customer engagement’, ‘customer journeys’ or ‘single customer view’ but 15 years ago Stephen Sumner and I knocked on more doors than we now can remember.

Coalition Marketing (CM) is a concept to which I think its time is returning. Businesses will leverage their customer databases or ‘communities’ to provide a wider range of products and services both to improve customer engagement and incremental profits. When Nectar launched, it was a client which absolutely got it. We managed the partner coalition programme for 7 years to ‘cross fertilise’ partner databases, growing the wider Nectar membership. It germinated into a bigger and wider concept and solution that I planned to launch in 2014/15. With GDPR on the horizon, even though fundamentally CM embraced the concept of compliant consent, GDPR was an unsurmountable hurdle or distraction for many. CM was ‘moth-balled’ until the use of data had once again settled down. The opportunity now exists to bring this ‘self-funded’ customer acquisition strategy back onto the agenda of DM businesses, given greater general understanding and acceptance of data compliance. Following the publication of the ICO’s draft direct marketing code in January, it has become apparent that CM is both compliant and viable. In 2013/14 there were over 70 businesses that had expressed interest in participating and just yesterday I saw the latest developments incorporated in a ‘Customer Experience’ platform to enable CM. I’ll be revealing more soon but will happily respond to any enquiries right now.

At this unusual time, there are a couple more immediate ways that you can benefit from the growth in online demand and that also represent opportunities to acquire new customers.

  1. Acquisition of databases

We work with the insolvency profession and data-regulator to compliantly sell data assets of failed businesses. There are several businesses that fell into that category for various reasons. Huge sums have been invested in building customer bases and transactional records that usually realise a fraction of their cost or worth. Provision exists in GDPR and DM code to enable data sales, although usually, compliance does need addressing. The ICO says that a business can acquire a 3rd party database provided that the future use is the same use that the data was originally collected for. Retail databases are rarely that specific as to only be able to be used for single product which means that provided the sector coverage is similar it is fine. What the ICO is trying to circumvent is a retail database being used for a completely different purpose, such as the sale of financial services. Another issue and often difficult to confirm, ‘was data subject given the opportunity to opt-out when the data was collected?’. If yes, by definition the ‘soft opt-in’ can apply for future use. This can be covered using a ‘non-marketing’ compliance notification evidencing that opt-out was an option. Having worked for Ips providing interim marketing services and helping to realise IPR assets before sale, as well as for asset buyers, overcoming issues can be achieved. However when uploading newly acquired data to your email platform beware of being judged as a spammer and having your ISP blocked. Instead, consider using a 3rd party service so that only validated and compliant data is imported. I’m often asked to find buyers so if you want a strategic investment to capitalise on high levels of demand make contact if I can help, I will.

  1. Social Media Advertising

There is recognition within the January DM code that businesses can build social media audiences to advertise to, both existing customers and ones that are look-alikes statistically. We’ve been doing this for clients for a number of years with great success, delivering the best ROI from marketing in recent times. In marketing terms, in our experience, it is a data-driven and targeting tool where data analyst skills are key to identify and target niche groups. It is not a tool of mass media or significant step change, it is one that provides analytic or scientific empirical evidence for incremental gain building to a more significant impact. The flexibility to create multiple A/B split campaigns and alternative executions are ideal for the detailed mind as in the old days of mail order where budgets depended on response analysis. The difference now is that the response results are virtually real time and the costs are fractional. For larger and older mail order and online businesses which have redundant data which has been dropped from regular marketing contact, it is possible to achieve profitable re-engagement via a different medium. And in this time, when previously dormant  customers cannot always easily access the products they want to buy, they could well prove to be responsive to a new approach now. It is well worth considering whether this might now be a profitable avenue to take.

Best wishes for a safe, healthy and prosperous summer.

by Rob Bielby, Consultant

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