The pressure to keep sales up and marketing spend down is more intense than ever. But rather than constantly trying to “out-wow” the competition, why not focus your efforts this year on improving your customer relationships? If you do, you’ll reinforce brand loyalty and nurture legions of word-of-mouth advocates – two factors proven to increase sales and decrease the cost of getting buyers in the door.

Treat your customers like you would any other relationship you value:

  1. Listen to what they’re telling you with their actions.
  2. Give them the chance to be heard.
  3. Then, make decisions about how to move forward based on what’s most likely to strengthen the connections.

You can’t send a dozen roses to your customer base, though, so how exactly can you start improving those relationships?

It all begins with data-driven marketing.

Data-driven marketing is the combination of collecting and connecting large amounts of data, rapidly analyzing it and gaining insights, then bringing those insights to market via marketing interactions tailored to what’s relevant for each customer. And it’s that last piece that is so critical: what’s relevant to each customer. That’s the personal touch your customers crave (and the targeting that helps you manage your budget like the CFO craves).

On paper, it all makes perfect sense. But why aren’t more marketers using data-driven marketing to help them focus on their customers? As I see it, here are the main obstacles standing in the way:

  • Process. The process of collecting information and turning numbers into a story isn’t an easy one, and it can be difficult to implement something new when “the way it’s always been done” moves faster in the short-term.
  • Outdated technology. Does your car warm up faster than your computer? Outdated technology that can’t easily or effectively access the tools you need to gather and evaluate the numbers is leaving many marketers sitting on the sidelines.
  • Lack of team skills or talent. Even marketers who are ready to make the leap to data-driven marketing may not have the skills needed to do the work. But then again, they may not have the time nor the money needed to educate team members, either.

Despite these challenges, our research shows that more and more companies have decided to make data-driven marketing a priority in 2014. Among these, retail and e-commerce lead the pack. Retailers know that data-driven marketing can help them make online connections with consumers more personal and can bring online and offline touch points together seamlessly to create a consistent brand experience. In addition, telecom and utilities, as well as financial services and insurance, are also looking to dive deeper into the data. They’re all realizing that they no longer have to guess at how to best serve their customers; instead, they’re going to start using data-driven marketing to determine how to get the most impact.

These companies know that data-driven marketing can improve:

  1. Proof of ROI. Ah, those elusive letters: ROI. Data-driven marketing can help you connect the dots between your customer engagement points and sales. Plus, you’ll be able to match online and offline activity and conversations with your customers.
  2. Planning of marketing activities. Data-driven marketing allows you to streamline your campaign calendar and focus on the channels and messages that the data shows are the most effective. As a result, you’ll be able to save time, increase your marketing team’s productivity and drive revenue.
  3. Allocation of budget. Data-driven marketing can help you find the priority areas that need the most budget resources so you’re able to move quickly and not waste money. It’s going to be a lot easier to convince the CFO to free up more funds for your budget when you have the data to prove your past successes . . . and accurately forecast your future ones.

Data-driven marketing informs not just processes like marketing operations and campaign management; it also creates ongoing dialogue, conversations and consistent and predictable engagement with customers at all touch points. Teradata helps companies compete better and drive top-line growth by increasing the value of their data and customer relationships.

For more, please see our latest infographic for more information about how data-driven marketing can help improve your customer relationships in the year ahead.