84% of companies recently surveyed by the Direct Marketing Association said they plan to invest a larger portion of their budgets in technologies aimed at improving data-driven marketing outcomes. And why wouldn’t they? Today, the technology and systems exist to help marketers more fully take advantage of the long-promised potential of digital marketing – one that allows for maximum message relevance and a true 1:1 dialogue with consumers. 

Marketing is increasingly about more than just understanding an audience or segment. To keep pace with competitors and meet or exceed customer expectations, marketers need an in-depth understanding of each customer and prospect. Such understanding comes from data – data that can fuel the delivery of personalised and truly relevant content for meaningful engagement with every individual. Marketers realise the power of such personalisation, but gathering and managing the data to make it happen, has not been easy.

When discussing the importance of data, I’ve often asked marketers what data is most important to them, in what format and frequency they look at it and how it is activated. Generally speaking, there have not been clear-cut answers to such questions and often, wishful lines of conversation ensue. In 2015, this is all starting to change at an accelerated pace.

The year of data & the rise of the DMP

The most valuable data is the very data a marketer already owns (and, in theory, is free for them to use). This data lives in many different places, including CRM systems, billing, loyalty programs, website analytics and ad-servers. The challenge today is integrating these various sources because there are huge advantages to combining the data to then create comprehensive user profiles that make segmentation and personalisation possible. But, aggregating the information alone is not enough. The ability to turn such information into intelligence upon which marketers can act is the difference-maker. To meet this challenge, more marketers are considering the benefits of a data management platform (DMP). 

So, what exactly is a DMP? A DMP gathers data from many different sources that would ordinarily not connect, speak the same language or sit on the same server. This data is then combined into a single, useful repository of information. This repository houses all of the disparate data sources and thus allows a brand to build a full and robust “identity” for each and every consumer on which they have any data. 

How do you activate your data?

With such data aggregated and dynamic, multilayered customer profiles built, marketers need to find the right partners and technologies that will deliver relevant content that appeals to every individual. Then, by tying customer, prospect and market data together in one place, brands ensure that whenever a critical action in the consumer lifecycle occurs, every individual will get marketing communication most relevant to them, in that moment and on which they are most likely to act. 

The more information your partners can ingest (or at least access via integration with your DMP), the more likely it is for your brand to create the most relevant messaging, build the deepest customer engagement and generate substantial ROI. 

So, what are the next steps for marketers in this arena?

  • Get help fast in connecting your data.
  • Understand which partners can truly help you utilise your data to its fullest potential. 
  • Demand that any partner that wants part of your marketing budget delivers value based on your definition and measurement of it.
  • Demand that those partners not only can ingest your data, but also share data from their programs back into your DMP.
  • Everything you do in digital marketing can be measured and you do not have to accept success in a silo from anyone.

Maximum data leads to maximising your customer relationships which leads to maximising your business performance and value. That’s what digital marketing in 2015 is all about.