Four Fundamentals of Successful Data-Driven Marketing Campaigns

Here's what financial marketers need to do to ensure they realize the value of customer data and maximize the ROI of their marketing campaigns.

Earlier this year, a bank marketer and I were discussing their latest direct marketing campaign. Unfortunately the results weren’t as good as had been projected. When I asked what went wrong, the answer was disturbing: “We don’t know.”

The campaign in question was a special mailing to a specific segment of checking account customers that was cross-selling a variable rate savings product. The predictive index of demographics and other targeting criteria suggested this group would be predisposed to this type of savings product. So they were looking forward to a very successful campaign. However, there were no responses after six weeks — now what? What will they do differently next time to ensure success?

Successful direct marketing campaigns use data to support decision making at every step along way; from initial concept to interpreting the results. Here is a list of four critical success activities/skills that should always be part of your campaign development process. These tried and true activities ensure that you will not end up with poor campaign results and no explanations.

1. Conceptual Resonance and Campaign Relevance

You have to use campaign concepts that will resonate with your customers and prospects. Where do you get your ideas for marketing campaigns? Many small banks and credit unions take the safe route and/or follow the lead of their CEO, but this isn’t always be the best approach. It is important to build campaigns that focus on enhancing the customer’s journey with your institution. This means offering appropriate products or services with messaging that is consistent with their relationship with your institution.

Another option for gathering relevant campaign ideas is to go directly to your target audience in the context of focus groups, in-branch intercepts and online surveys. These methods are more qualitative in nature, and can yield a lot of new concepts you can review and evaluate. Keep in mind, this approach may reflect specific customer biases and shed light on shortcomings with either your products or services (or both). Your objective may be to discover the strengths and key themes you should stress in your campaign, but if you also uncover some weaknesses — that’s a good thing, too.

Then there are your customer-facing personnel. Not only are they a reliable source of customer insight, but they can also follow-up on research initiated by marketing teams to further examine specific questions. Customer-facing personnel include branch staff, business bankers, mortgage originators, and service reps. Collecting possible campaign ideas can be done in several ways — surveys, a suggestion box (think: online or email), focus groups.

A marketing leader can be designated to act as a clearing house for all these inbound concepts. Then an internal group can be formed from of a cross-section of managers from various customer-facing departments. The purpose of the group is to identify sales and marketing ideas that merit further evaluation and development. Campaign ideas that survive this process are then input to the marketing department for scheduling and development.

Of course a lot of CRM ideas can come directly from the analytics on your customer data. The use of predictive analytics can provide the starting point for new cross-sell ideas. With details and expenses worked out projecting response rates and determining the total opportunity are within the capabilities of your analytics.

2. Test, Learn and Evaluate Multiple Outcomes

For all campaigns, make sure to establish not only new business goals but “learning” goals as well. As you go through the process in step one — assessing your various campaign ideas — there will no doubt be debate on the best way to implement the campaign concept. Many times these debates can be decided by including a test to determine which of the campaign are the most effective.

By incorporating these tests into your campaign, you can begin to determine what specific campaign elements are more effective at increasing responses. Testing can include not only how you present your offer but where you present it to your target audience. Learning goals can also help to identify the optimal use of individual and combinations of media. To be able to interpret the results of these tests, it’s critical to make sure that with every campaign you maintain a complete promotional history of everyone receiving the campaign. This history must be specific enough to identify each component of the campaign.

Building a campaign with just one creative approach, one offer and one message is risky. You’re putting all your eggs in one basket. This type of campaign structure creates an all or nothing scenario — the campaign either works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t work, you are back to square one.

Establishing learning goals in the conext provides your team the opportunity to learn more about what elements of your campaign work and which ones don’t work.

There is a science to structuring your media, creative and pricing to maximize learning. It doesn’t matter if you’re using digital, traditional broadcast, snail/email or outbound telemarketing, it is important to isolate just those variables you want to test.

It’s important to isolate the individual campaign elements so that only the elements of the campaign that you are testing are variable – all other factors must remain constant. That’s basically the methodology to create learning goals. You can accomplish this type of evaluation with almost any component of your campaign including; messaging, pricing, creative, call to action and individual brand elements.

3. Seize the Data

You must capture as much data from your campaign as possible. There are many places you can harvest useful data with any direct marketing campaign. Every time someone interacts with your institution, you are creating an event that impacts the customer somehow. Being able to capture customer reactions to these events is critical to growing your customer database and enhancing your customer journey.

Each time you include a prospect in a direct marketing promotion, it should be recorded in your marketing database. This series of contacts is something I refer to as the “promotional history of the customer.” Each campaign contact is sourced so that you can tell what component of the campaign the customer received. This source code will define the media, offer, creative, product pricing and any other relevant campaign components.

The value of maintaining this promotional history is that it facilitates the analytics that correlate the link between your marketing and the customer’s responses. This promotional history will also help quantify the unintended sales that happen when your customers respond to the campaign directly or come into the branch to open up the new account and cross-sold an additional product.

In this scenario, tracking customers helps you judge the effectiveness of individual branch sales associates to cross-sell additional products. When evaluating the campaign there is always a difference of opinion as to who gets credit for the unintended product sale. Is it the campaign that drove the customer into the branch or the branch sales associate who made the cross-sell? No matter how you answer that question someone will not be happy.

Additional data that you can capture from your campaign includes; calls into inbound sales or customer service in response to the promotion, requests for more information, usage of interactive elements in the campaign and outbound calls to campaign recipients as follow-up (and the disposition of those calls).

4. Post-Op Analysis

The fourth and final fundamental step is undertake a formal campaign wrap-up. Once the campaign is completed and you are reasonably sure the response curve has reached its conclusion, it’s time to do a campaign evaluation or wrap-up. This evaluation looks at all aspects of the campaign from the results, learning, operational, compliance and any other factors that impact the results of your campaign.

In order to make learning progressive, it’s important to standardize the campaign wrap-ups, and to have the Sales Working Group be responsible for completing them. This brings the project full circle; having originally evaluated the idea it provides a critical evaluation of the original campaign review process.

The insights generated from the wrap-up will help your team incorporate everything you have learned into the next campaign. And they provide fact based rationale for strategy adjustments into customer based offers, media, targeted customer segments and special operational considerations.

The campaign evaluations should answer the following:

  • Were your projections for new business accurate?
  • If not how will you adjust this forecasting in the future?
  • Did you learn anything new regarding customer perceptions of your offers/brand?
  • Did this campaign trigger additional product sales?
  • Were there operational or compliance issues you did not expect?

Most importantly, if your next campaign does not meet the projected results, you will have some marketing intelligence to explain the unexpected outcome. This should include a recommendation for how will you redesign the campaign before the next launch in order to improve results. Others might not be happy about the lack of results but you will have a strategy to address the negative factors from your last campaign and make your next effort a spectacular success.

Frank Koechlein is the President at Empower Your Analytics and coauthor of the marketing resource book “The New Marketing Analytics.” Frank has over 40 years of marketing experience in the financial services industry. He has held several senior marketing positions including; SVP, Marketing with the Dreyfus Corp., Director of Marketing with Prudential Direct, Prudential’s in-house, direct response agency, as well as, community bank and credit union marketing positions.

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