Nearly every statistic and marketing industry expert reaffirms the same thing: data is becoming the primary competitive differentiator in today’s business climate. Simply put, business is moving into an enlightened age where being customer-centric and service-oriented no longer means merely observing your customers, but actually engaging with them. It’s no longer enough to rely on qualitative insights you might have gained through interviews, focus groups, or surveys. Now the name of the game for data-driven businesses is to engage with consumers, know their preferences, and garner their loyalty through personalization.

Here are 5 questions every marketer or business leader has to ask themselves if they want to retain a competitive advantage by leveraging the capabilities of data warehousing, software, analytical platforms, and campaign management software.

1) Do I know my consumers? Do you know your customers as well as you know your best friends? Your own family? If not, you can, and should. For nearly every company spanning every industry, it’s strategically beneficial to know your customers in this way. You actually have the ability to know what your customers want and predict their future behavior. New trends show consumers expect to interact with brands they frequent. They expect relevant, useful and timely interaction. A data-driven marketing strategy can transform the way you know your customers.

2) What is the vision of my company? When customers interact with your company, they come to expect a particular experience. The job of marketers across your industry is to consistently raise that bar. It is to create a seamless, integrated, and today, interactive, engagement. The vision of successful data-driven marketers involves more than a one-way push to customers. It involves give and take and real-time, meaningful discussion. Start defining the steps to get there.

3) What do you want? Not as in a week-long, tropical cruise sipping piña coladas. Although I’d surmise that a cruise line’s frequent customers may have their calendars marked for a similar indulgence. In such a case, marketers with the cruise line need to know those customers intimately. What makes them tick? Why, how and when do they purchase? What do they prefer: a casual jazz-jamming night, or a late-night dance club escape? How do they prefer coupons, promotions and deals across every digital channel? Just talking about the subject makes me want to go buy a couple cruise tickets to my favorite foreign excursion. But my favorite cruise liner likely already knew that, thanks to marketing analytics and a data-driven marketing approach. Unlocking consumer insights then generating the right message at the right time via data is the key to meaningful consumer interaction.

4) Are my competitors using data-driven marketing technologies? Go to Google. Type in a competitor. Try another. Do you see the ad or couple of ads that pop up atop your query? Your competition is using the data they gather as measured by clicks to help market their brand. Do you ever receive texts or emails seeming to cater to your closest interests? Maybe a weirdly-synchronous Facebook ad right after you purchased an item on Amazon? This is data-driven marketing. According to a one survey, within the next three years, we will see a 60 percent increase in spending on marketing analytics. CMOs will outspend IT by 2017.

5) Does my business need to become more data-driven? It’s unlikely that your business would come to a screeching halt without a data-driven solution. But is the cost-to-benefit ratio worth it to acquire the most cutting-edge marketing technology available today? Absolutely. Not only is data-driven marketing the key to unlocking previously untapped customer insight, it can transform the way you undertake internal campaign management. Most importantly, it can help your business across the enterprise—HR, Finance, Legal, IT, etc.—to become smarter, more efficient, and ultimately, to cross the threshold from success in your field to being an authority in it. Learn how to begin by downloading: Campaign Manager Success Toolkit Best Practices ebooks.

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