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How becoming trigger-happy can stop marketers firing blanks

Technology & Data

How becoming trigger-happy can stop marketers firing blanks


A lot of companies are sacrificing sales for data, says Rob Morrison. Data on the trigger moments that put consumers back in the market is what marketers need.

There’s an urban myth kicking around in marketing circles. It’s been there for the last ten years and, tragically, it’s showing no sight of slowing down. It goes like this.

Big data equals big sales.

With the advent of mobile-this, social-that and voice-activated- the-other, we now know more about our market than ever. We know who’s passing which billboard – and which mode of transport they’re on. We know who’s watching which TV series – regardless of whether a TV is actually involved. We know who’s doing which search – no matter if a single keystroke is registered.

But is it helping?

The importance of ‘big data’ is a bit like the Emperor’s new clothes – no-one is prepared to call out the naked truth. Well, let me help.

A lot of data is expensive junk.

In fact, some companies are sacrificing sales for data. How many times do you see an offer sprouting ‘First uber/pizza/bike is free. Just give us your data.’ I’d love to know how many of those first-time visitors become regular paying customers. I suspect an overwhelming majority are tyre-kickers and time-wasters. ‘Thanks for the offer, you’ll never see me again.’

Don’t get me wrong. I love data. But it has to be the right data. Timely data. Useful data. Never data for data’s sake. To me, that usefulness has a very strict definition. I call it a ‘moment of trigger (like a ‘moment of truth’ but less dramatic). Something has happened. Something has changed. And, for the customer, that something has put them back in the market.

To me there are four distinct types.

Renewal triggers

Clearly there are products where consumers are simply not in the market for most of the year. Mobile phone contracts. Car insurance. Cable TV subscriptions. Mostly, those are set and forget. We don’t think about them until about a month out from expiry. Importantly, that ‘moment of trigger’ is on a different date for each of us. Clearly that puts the incumbent supplier at a serious advantage – they know when the moment is approaching.

If you don’t currently have that customer’s business then the only piece of data you need is the renewal date. Not their shoe size or inside leg measurement. Incentivise your audience sharing that and you’ve got gold.

Shared triggers

Clearly there are universal events we all share. Moments which put us all in or out of
the market. Retailers have been experts at using these triggers forever. Christmas. Easter. Mother’s Day. Those are the obvious ones. You can add the more niche events like EOFY and back to school. Think a little harder and there’s many others like Australia Day, the first day of the ski season. There’s a flurry of activity around each of them.

Again, a single piece of data lets you know if that niche ‘moment of trigger’ is true for a customer or not. School-age kids? Or not? A skier? Or not?

Topical triggers

Things happen. They can be big things. Kids start high school so suddenly there’s less disposable income. Six years later they leave home so downsizing your home becomes appealing. Your car breaks down so you start thinking about upgrading. Or they can be small things. You open the fridge and you’re out of milk. The petrol light on your dashboard lights up. A lightbulb fizzes and blows.

All these triggers are identifiable right now (or soon will be with IoT). But, crucially, you need to be smart with what you ask for and do not simply ask for everything.

Venting triggers

How often do you see a social media post where someone complains about their (pick one) bank, phone company, energy provider, health insurer, garage, shopping centre, parking station?

From a data perspective these moments are getting easier to identify. Machine-learning that incorporates natural language, like IBM Watson, will help a
lot. Voice recognition systems that can analyse tone will help a lot. But again, we don’t need to know everything. Just the trigger. So we can be there when our audience wants to hear from us.

The good news is, there is a time rapidly approaching when you won’t have to search for look-a- like customer profiles. And you won’t have to sort through reams of demographics, psychographics and geo-graphics.

Where data is not bigger, but trigger.



Image copyright: sunnychinchilla © 123RF

Rob Morrison

Rob Morrison is acting ECD at Ogilvy Brisbane.

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