Where’s your customer data right now?
Working out the customer data you have and where it’s stored is going to save you time and money and improve your marketing efforts, says Richard Taylor.
It’s not just you. Everybody has this problem.
Many years ago, I was helping a TV company in Sydney. We were working on a project to take data from across the business and produce a single customer view. I had a few meetings with their IT team and we soon realised that not only were they unaware of the data they had on customers, they didn’t know where that data was stored.
Three or four months down the track, we’d found more than a hundred databases scattered across two different states, spanning multiple departments and teams, all with conflicting information about the same customers.
In the days before the cloud, an educational institution in Sydney had an active server on campus that stored information on its students, what courses they were enrolled in and where they were up to in those courses.
Over many years, the IT team had been diligently updating this server, making sure it had the latest software, patches, and so on. As is the nature of servers, no one had gone and physically looked at it because everything is done remotely.
The server was getting on and it was due to be replaced so finally, they went looking for it. But no one knew where it was. About a month down the track, following some cables and pinging the machine to try and figure out its whereabouts in the network, they found it – in a boarded-up cupboard, in a building that was due to be demolished.
Nobody knew it was there.
Customer data is important. It’s important that you know what you have and it’s important you know where it’s stored. Most people don’t figure this out until the time comes when they want to eliminate data silos and that can make it a costly and difficult process.
We all know that getting rid of customer data silos is going to make your job easier – it’s what every marketer and business person wants to do – but we’re always too busy and budgets are always tight.
So how do you justify the time and expense that it’s going to take to not only find this data, where it lives and what you’ve got, but how to make it all fit together?
Here’s the good news: by breaking down your data silos, you will end up saving money. You’ll have a better understanding of your customers; how to talk to them, when to talk to them, and where to talk to them, making your marketing more effective and saving you even more money.
You’ll end up streamlining processes, removing duplication across departments, and across job functions.
It is a long process and it’s not easy, but don’t be drawn in by the low-hanging fruit when you’re looking at a project like this. It’s not always the sweetest. Instead, analyse your business needs to identify high-value opportunities.
- Make sure the project is going to prove a tangible benefit to you. Make some investment in a use case first because if you get a good, high profile case, it’s easier to get more money to do more.
- Remember this is a banner project that’s going to help make the case for those subsequent investments.
- Make sure you tie the integration of this data to an outcome so you have visible steps along the way that you can get to. Always move with a goal of integration in mind and remember it’s progressive as you build towards your end goal.
- Work across the whole company. It is enterprise data: it isn’t the marketing team’s data or the sales team’s data. You don’t want to end up recreating a whole new set of silos on a different platform.
- For this to work, you’ll need support from the highest levels. You need the CEO involved. You need C-suite/executive team and leaders from across the business, from every department.
- Don’t forget IT, they will help you (seriously!). If you don’t get everyone involved at the beginning, you will only end up frustrated. It’s a strategic goal for the entire company. This project is going to be very, very visible, and one that you can champion.
- Remember the 80% rule. 80% of the work is going to be devoted to integrating your customer data and making it available so that the other 20% is mining it and getting some useful information out of it.
It’s not going to be easy, but if it was, it wouldn’t be important.
Richard Taylor is the senior digital strategist at Melbourne full-service agency Spinach.
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