Building Personal Relationships Through Data

Last week, in Cory Treffiletti’s OnlineSpin column, he suggested it was time for the industry to move beyond the easy task of personalizing messages through data and create true relationships. This could be done, Treffiletti explained, by learning something from each interaction and creating value along the way.

There were some who chided him for being too simplistic. The truth is the capability exists, and it exists today. To date, the personalization of messages through the application of big data has met mixed results. Not all attempts have seen positive ROIs.

Dave Bulger, a one-to-one marketing pioneer and leading applied behavior change marketing practitioner, thinks there are several key reasons why message targeting doesn’t yield the ROI the industry was expecting:

Relationships require patience. Digital advertising is inherently “sell” focused: click here, buy now….



The creative process gets log-jammed by variations. Targeting promises to find needles in haystacks, but hasn’t effectively delivered, largely because hyper-targeting of recipients only works as well as the advertiser’s ability to hyper-target messaging. That requires 1,000,000 variations, not 100 variations.

Targeting data isn’t the right kind of precise. Cascading inferences on look-alike data are more focused on demographics. Outcome “behaviors” and predictive modeling might get you close to the people who should like your message, but don’t really help you craft an individually meaningful and coherent message.

Consumers are either blocking online ads or ignoring them in droves. Re-targeting and programmatic aren’t making things better, just noisier and creepier.

Increased dependence on data analytics for results reporting puts an undue burden on physical actions by the ad recipient. Online ads are more billboard than DRTV, but we have the ability measure physical interactions with them, those become our metrics; hence, our ads are letting us down

The promise of big data has focused on being better able to find people who might like our messages. That’s great for filtering, but not as valuable for creating meaningful interactions, like that of Treffiletti’s dad and the butcher.

When it comes to brand relationships, it’s not about the product, but the value the brand brings to each encounter. Simon Sinek proved that with his concept of The Golden Circle in "Start with Why": “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Bulger believes brand strategists are better served by taking a more conversational approach. The brand tells a coherent story that takes advantage of consumer participation and merely leverages marketing tactics as conduits for conversation—regardless of the consumer’s sequence through all possible touch points.

Another reason Treffiletti can’t get the fidelity he desires is that current big data and personalization strategies are pointed at the wrong data. We need to move beyond a focus on the path-to-purchase in the physical world and better understand what goes on between the consumer’s ears, the mental journey.

Most demographic/psychographic data is OK for filtering, but not as useful for carrying on conversations.

Think of current data as awkward small talk. We need data that creates connections. Most of that has nothing to do with the product and everything to do with the need or desire the product meets and the environment in which it will be used.

Bulger’s latest startup, tuzag, inc., has created a software framework that allows brands to develop true computer-mediated conversation that works within their existing advertising, marketing, sales and CRM infrastructure. “We think small data is greater than Big Data. We’ve created a methodology and technology that helps brands leverage the collective knowledge of their best marketing, sales and customer service people through traditional marcom touch points.

"We help brands get back to the basics of relationship building, using the computer to talk, listen and adapt to individual prospects and customers at scale. Big Data can certainly help avoid irrelevant conversations, but that’s only a small piece of a much larger, vastly more interesting individual customer journey.”

It has been said that whoever talks the most in a conversation thinks it went best. A great experiment, in life and in marketing, is to try talking less and listening more. Then tailor the next thing you say based on what you heard.

Talking and waiting to talk is different than talking, listening, adjusting, conversing. Do that and then Treffiletti can have his bologna and eat it, too.

1 comment about "Building Personal Relationships Through Data ".
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  1. Jan Weinstein from Carat, April 28, 2016 at 2:36 p.m.

    Great POV Beth.  The more we forget we are talking about and to people, the less relevant advertising will be.

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