How Accurate is Targeted Marketing if You Can’t See Your Target? The CMO Mission: Data Driven Segmentation

Pamela Bartz and Michael Pernice
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Key Takeaways
​Accurately defining and profiling your audience so as to leverage digital marketing’s targeting capabilities to the greatest advantage is a great way to make digital marketing strategic.​​

For CMOs in today’s competitive, dynamic business landscape, what is the most prominent marketing medium where everyone is vying for customer attention? Three words – the digital marketplace. Why? Because digital marketing is the most inexpensive and measurable means for expanding a customer base and increasing sales. It’s also at the forefront of improving customer experience because it offers a touch point that is highly customizable and targeted. And, in a climate where one missed step can send demanding consumers straight into the arms of the competition, its strategic use is becoming more critical. 

So how do you make digital marketing strategic? The answer is accurately defining and profiling your audience so as to leverage digital marketing’s targeting capabilities to the greatest advantage. To do this, you need effective, data-driven segmentation that leverages all available customer and prospect information, including the “traditionally hard-to-access” customer data housed in the long-trusted mainframe. Because it has been the “keeper” of data for so long, the mainframe is likely to offer the best snapshot into target audiences to create the greatest potential engagement. 

Why is Data-Driven Segmentation Important?

Amassing Meaningful Data

Long gone are the days when targeting your marketing efforts by household income, zip code, age and sex can be considered sufficient, or successful. To compete in today’s digitally-driven world, CMOs in businesses across all industries must achieve a 360 degree view of the customer in order to successfully market to their specific needs and, in turn, drive revenue growth. This comprehensive vantage point is made possible only by integrating data across all platforms and from all available sources to realize true data-driven segmentation. 

This means more than simply leveraging data analytics to formulate a digital marketing plan. Why? Because data-driven segmentation relies on your ability to create, and identify, actionable data – data that demonstrates what a customer/prospect is worth to a company, how often they interact with the brand, their buying habits and preferences, what they currently own and, most importantly, what they are yet to own. Knowing this information can effectively drive the message and frequency of communications and have an exponential effect on marketing efforts 

Achieving a Seamless User Experience

According to the Rightnow Customer Experience Impact Report, 89% of customers say they’ve stopped doing business with a company after one poor experience. For organizations, this means that once they have the right data, it’s about using that data to exceed customer expectations when interacting with the brand. This is where omni-channel marketing plays an integral role. Customers demand a seamless marketing experience regardless of the tool they use to access product information – be it a smartphone, tablet, notebook or desktop. And to take that a step further, they expect consistency from online to offline communications, including social media channels, websites, text-based communications, direct mail and even a brand’s call center. 

Consider this: in a recent CMO Club and Visual IQ report, 85% of CMOs say their efforts at implementing an omni-channel marketing strategy are challenged by a lack of access to data and inadequate tools/technology. By embracing data-driven segmentation to uncover actionable customer data, companies can use that information to create a marketing experience tailored to each customer, whether in the B2B or B2C arena, where only the most relevant messages are shared on only the most appropriate channels for a holistic, personalized brand interaction. In addition, companies can more effectively measure marketing success and determine ROI. This is crucial, considering that in the same report, 82% of CMOs believe it’s the inability to measure cross-channel performance that’s standing in the way of implementing effective omni-channel marketing in the first place.

Improving Conversion Rates

Conversion rates are a crucial measurement in determining cross-channel performance, and segmentation greatly impacts conversion success. According to Jupiter Research, customer segmentation conversion rates (whether via direct mail or email) improve 355%, leading to increased revenues of up to 781%, if you segment based on customer data such as: customer spend, brand interaction, and customer life cycle management. Yet the majority of marketers do no customer segmentation at all, relying on single, “one size fits all” mass email, which most savvy consumers are likely to delete before reading. The implication being that lack of targeted segmentation not only creates lost sales, it may actually be damaging to the brand.

The Role of Data Unification in Segmentation Success

Although, as we’ve established, it is “all about the data,” many organizations, due to a belief that access is challenging, still avoid a large majority of their data, that which resides on the mainframe. This leaves a valuable pool of what is often the most robust information unexplored. For many enterprises today, the reality is that the Customer Information System (CIS) which contains transaction information and spend history can reside on platforms like the IBM System z mainframe. In addition, for many companies their Product Information System (PIM), which houses valuable pricing data and product descriptions, can also reside on the mainframe or on another distributed system platform, like Oracle or SAP.

Successful CMOs have long recognized the importance of leveraging this collective customer data in their digital marketing efforts, yet for years they have been told that the difficulty connecting mainframe data to the data in other systems makes a unified approach unattainable. Not so! With the right tool, it’s not only possible – it’s easy and seamless. 

Data Unification: Not as Difficult as Once Thought

Data unification is an orchestration tool that makes possible the consolidation of data from multiple source systems. It allows organizations to neutralize format, validate relationships between records and data elements, and create a single information source.

By leveraging data unification solutions for more effective omni-channel marketing, companies can:


  • More accurately segment, target and track customer purchases and interactions using measureable business performance indicators and improved ROI measures
  • Orchestrate data from disparate corporate systems on the distributed network and combine it into one web-based service for a live, real-time connection to automated marketing systems
  • Quickly and economically connect mainframe data to an automated marketing system, producing results and new capabilities for configuration and training

Six Steps to Data Unification and Revolutionizing Segmentation.  

  1. Assess your business objectives. Conduct a complete inventory of the programs and data elements. 
  2. Plan to implement a unified interface and lightweight installation. Pick technologies that can be easily configured, implemented and managed. To reduce cost and complexity, pick a solution that can be installed quickly and with minimal IT staff involvement.
  3. Conduct comprehensive data mapping. Use tools that are simple to use but powerful enough to get the job done. Mapping the data accurately is essential to keeping the project on track with the end goals in mind. The data-mapping function is typically performed by someone with extensive knowledge of the data, such as a DBA or an application developer.  
  4. Complete data integration and seamless transfer. Provide for the ability to access the necessary data, and be ready to transfer large amounts of data from one place to another.
  5. Ensure strong project management and troubleshooting. Offer options for systems administrators and data administrators to manage and fix errors.
  6. Future-proof and leverage technology. Reuse, repurpose and grow data unification across the enterprise as business needs and objectives change.

Digital Marketing and Data Unification: A Natural Evolution

In a world where personalized marketing based on customer spend, habits and brand experience will become the driving force behind digital marketing activities, CMOs must look to next-generation solutions to ensure that customer communications are targeted, accurate, and provide an exceptional customer experience – regardless of channel. Customer loyalty and business revenue depend on it.

Investing in data unification solutions and leveraging tools to achieve data-driven segmentation and a refined customer experience, regardless of the device used to access information, is the next logical step toward building a better marketing engine and achieving the ROI for which every CMO ultimately aims.

The Value of Customer Information Crosses Disciplines

So we’ve established the value that customer/prospect information can have on marketing efforts, but how much does it cost the entire organization to not have it available when needed? Apparently it cost enough that CEOs from companies of all sizes are starting to rank access to data as a high priority. Reported in a 2014 survey, 59% of CFOs indicated that business intelligence was their #1 priority. Yet, just as the marketing department is challenged with data collection, the reality of comprehensive business intelligence also remains challenging because the data, is often dispersed across multiple sources, formats, and technologies, including the notoriously hard-to-access mainframe.​

Author Bio:

Pamela Bartz and Michael Pernice
Pamela Bartz is vice president and Michael Pernice is regional sales manager, marketing for GT Software. For more than 30 years, GT Software has helped enterprise organizations align their IT infrastructure with business strategy by unifying business information across mainframe and emerging server platforms, data formats or programming languages.
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