The most powerful advantage of digital marketing is its ability to serve up the targeted and valuable audience data that a brand needs to produce those truly brilliant and effective campaigns, but few brands are fully tapping into the potential of audience-based marketing.

Why? Because many continue to allow obstacles such as siloed marketing channels and company departments to influence how they communicate with people.  At best, this hampers the brand’s marketing performance; at worst, it actually damages the relationship with its audience.

To really succeed, brands must put their audiences first.  And to do this successfully, they need to understand who their audience is and what really makes them tick. This is where the digital marketing data and insights come into play.

Siloed Data: Missing the moment

Today, brands are able to track an abundance of consumer data, including social media activity, online purchasing patterns, search history and much more. All this data provides marketers with a wealth of information about their customers and prospects. The problem comes when brands try to turn this data into actionable insights.

Due to the way marketing departments or even whole businesses are structured, few brands are getting the complete picture. Their social teams are getting the social data, the sales teams are seeing purchasing information, the search teams are analysing search activity, etc. and this does not even take into account the data gathered from offline channels such as bricks-and-mortar purchases or customer service call centres.

It is only when all this information is analysed together that a brand can understand the full audience profile, and draw out those nuggets of insight that are the lifeblood of a truly effective and creative campaign. 

Indeed, shared audience data can identify those new, little moments when they can surprise and delight their consumers.  It could be either catching them unaware with a great piece of creative, or sharing an inspiring piece of content about a topic that is close to their hearts.

Ultimately, all brands should aim to speak to their audience at the right time, in the right place and with the right story, and getting to really know your audience through data analysis is what makes this possible.

Looking beyond the channel

The internal silos many of us face fail to take into account that consumers do not differentiate between channels. They move happily between Twitter, Facebook, Google and websites without a moment’s thought as to what ‘channel’ or device they are on. Meanwhile, most campaigns, marketing departments and yes, even agencies, have clear demarcations between these, with revenue streams and budgets allocated to each. 

It is simply no longer acceptable to say, “I need a social media campaign to target my customers”.  Instead of the channel, brands need to start with their audience, and behave like them. Use data to understand what they want and find that golden insight that they can use to build a targeted campaign. Connect what you do, do not expect your customers to do it for you.

The ultimate channel may well be social media, but it could also be that a multi-channel content strategy would be far more effective. Marketers must let their audience guide their strategy.

There clearly needs to be a shake up in the way that we, as an industry, do things.  We need to be breaking down corporate barriers, and sharing data and insights across channels. It is not easy to do, but whether you are an agency or a brand, creating an environment that encourages communication – which could be as simple as having departments sit together in one space – will prove a great place to start, leading to a more creative and efficient way of working.

Communicating effectively, using the insights wisely and truly putting your customer at the heart of what you do will build those all-important lasting relationships with your audience.