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The ins and outs of data in and data out

Technology & Data

The ins and outs of data in and data out


Ben Fettes has some considerations for next time your digital marketer says ‘it’s as easy as data in and data out.’

Ben FettesYou’ve probably heard the one-two punch from the digital marketer: ‘It’s as easy as data in and data out.’ Well, that might be the process, but to be effective, there’s a little more to it than that.

Data in

Marketing automation, cross-channel marketing and programmatic marketing all start with a single point of data. Usually a form submit of some sort or a manual data entry somewhere – bringing to light five key areas of focus for the much spoken term ‘data in.’

Source. The source of data is key, it might be in a CRM, it might be in a traditional on-premise data storage solution, it could be in a marketing orchestration engine. The focus is on understanding where the data is. Need customer contact details – where is it stored? Need purchase history – what table is it stored in?

Responsibility. For every treasured piece of data there is a person in front, guarding it. Some guard things a little more strongly than others, due to their seriousness – PI data or financial data, for example. Find out who is responsible for the source that the data is in and then educate them on why you need it.

Transfer. Next, discuss how the data is coming across. There is work and sometimes a lot of work when you start to look at the transfer of data. Is it sent over via API or is it batched? If it is batched – then how often? What if the job fails, who will be notified? All of these questions require you to have process documentation to clearly identify the data flow.

Integrity. You want the cleanest data. There is no use being a retailer and sending men information on women’s clothing via email. The integrity of the data is key, especially if you are starting to look at segmentation.

Structure. Never ask for all of the data. Check if you really need everything. First align people, process and technology. Then focus on the five key focal points for data in: source, responsibility, transfer, integrity and structure.

Data out

Identify why you want data. Usually it is to make a decision. If it is for a customer purchase, a confirmation as well as the order for fulfilment will be required. When a customer signs up to a database, you want to welcome them to the company so they don’t feel like they are actually on a database. Or you want to send an enriched segment onto your website so that you can run a multivariate test on them. The data out process is all about planning, structure and purpose.

Why? If you want to do something there’s always a ‘why’ behind it. An email campaign for example is usually used to inform or sell. An SMS should be sent as a programmatic trigger or as a time sensitive and important message. The ‘why’ is one of the most critical points, it starts to articulate your purpose into a tactic. There is always a ‘why’ behind data out and if you figure that out, the rest will come easily.

What? This is about what you want the recipient to do – customer or prospect? We are in the digital world, whether it’s tap, click, or even just read, all the decision points need to be centralised around the customer and what they want and what you need to do to get them there.

Channel. How are you communicating to your customer? With marketing automation comes great power. At a touch of a button you can send an SMS, email, push and display ads. The point is you need to be mindful that some channels work better than others. Finally, you need to understand that some channels work better at different points of the journey. Enriched display, is great for prospecting. Display retargeting is great for closing the funnel.

Feedback. Businesses large and small care about feedback and how that feedback is processed. There are different levels, approaches and reasons for feedback processes. Reports are one of them. Reports allow you to manage the feedback process and make sense of what has happened. Email opens, display conversions, in app purchases, etc. this is all feedback. Here’s the interesting part; you can take that feedback and ingest it into a platform to make decisions and act on it at a later date.

Data in. Data out. And data back in!


Ben Fettes is strategic consultant at Oracle Marketing Cloud.


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