What Makes a Smart Marketer Anyway?


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I recently moderated a panel discussion with three stellar marketing practioners – Nauzar Vimadalal, Marketing Operations Manager at Staples, Shannon Balliet, Director of Database Marketing and Customer Data Integration at Carnival Cruise Lines, and Lynn Locke, Director of Database Marketing at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. What a great learning experience! Thought you might be interested in some nuggets from the panel. While there’s too many for this blog, here’s three of my favorites:

1) Don’t assume your segments will work forever. Two of the three companies have revamped their segmentation strategy in the last 12 months because of the changes in the economy. (And, the other revamped theirs in the last couple years.) “The only constant is change….”

If you want to ensure relevant and targeted communications, make sure to revisit your persistent segments on an ongoing basis – especially when there are large macro changes like the economy, major competitive shifts, etc.

2) “You can never test enough”. Test, test, test. I wish everyone would test. How can we learn on the effectiveness of new ideas if we don’t test them? Test everything – even lists you’re looking to buy!

3) Even predictive analytics can be sexy! Well, maybe not as sexy as a runway model, but they can definitely get you more lift than that edgy creative copy you wanted to try out this month.

You’d get the runway model joke if you watched the full webcast… 🙂 http://www.sas.com/events/cm/668268/


  1. Hi Michele

    Very sensible points. But are they made forcefully enough?

    Most data-rich companies have segmentation in place, mostly driven by a mixture of transaction and demographic data. For example, one large mobile telco I worked with recently divides its customers into eight crude segments based on their value, their usage of products and demographics. But this segmentation is a throwback to the era of mass marketing and is practically useless in a world of rapidly changing economics, behaviours and competitive offerings.

    The recession has significantly changed customer behaviour across all industries. Segments based upon yesterday’s data no longer apply to today’s changed customer behaviour. If that wasn’t bad enough, competition in many industries has become hyper-competitive. Just look at the 2-3 handsets Nokia releases per month into the Chinese market to meet changing customer needs.

    The only segmentation that is useful in these circumstances is dynamic micro-segmentation of the kind pioneered by credit card legend Capital One and now used by companies like Tesco, Volkswagen and other data-driven marketers. That means hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of microsegments that are applied to perhaps a few thousand customers, with very specific requirements, during a window of opportunity of a few weeks.

    This is the future of segmentation. Get used to it.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-Centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer-Centric Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  2. Hi, Graham. Thanks for the comments. I don’t think there’s a blanket answer for any one company. It depends on the industry one is in, the products or services they sell, etc. I agree that companies can’t look at segmentation as a mass level, static process. But, I have to disagree with you on your point that classic segmentation is “practically useless.” Very successful companies use not just more classic segmentation schemes using historical transactional, behavior, attitudinal and value based data to understand the groupings and clusters of their customers, but they also apply more granular segmentation and individual level analytics beyond that to create more relevant targeting and personalized messaging.

    And, the hope is that companies will get to not just micro-segments, but ultimately at an individual level – especially when looking at the more interactive/inbound marketing activities.

    Segmentation isn’t dead, but it’s one step in a customer centric marketing evolution.

    Michele Eggers, SAS

  3. Hi Michele

    I think we are singing off the same songsheet. The micro-segmentation I talk about is likely indistinguishable from the ‘more granular segmentation and individual level analytics’ you talk about, in practice.

    My point about high-level segmentation being practically useless is that this level of segmentation hides an enormous range of behaviours that only micro-segmentation can isolate for responsive managerial action. I have seen many examples of high-level segmentation, but I have never seen one that I couldn’t ‘rip apart’ and show to be practically useless in terms of understanding customer behaviour and in responding quickly to changes in it.

    Too much high-level segmentation is about reactive customer classification using whatever customer data is available, rather than about proactive customer management using useful data. It is practically useless in driving value-creating management action.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  4. Michele, What Makes a Smart Marketer Anyway?

    Two things:

    One, which you wrote, I would sum up as being adept at adapting.

    Two, smart marketers see what they do as “merchandising” (the marriage of the professions of buying and selling) what they are wanting to sell – both what selling their ideas and skills and what the client’s want to sell. Buying might be the product or service, or buying customers or buying the marketing methods and all the other steps between to where the product or service in put within reach of potential customers/clients i.e. buyers who then have to merchandise their decision.

    The second is only as good as the first is put into practice.

    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador Of Selling, Attitudes for Selling
    [email protected]
    Winner of the Murray Award for Marketing Excellence
    Member, PNW Sales & Marketing Group
    Member, Institute of Management Consultants
    Member, International Speakers Network
    Member, Linkedin.com

    You are invited to suggest to your associates, acquaintances, family, friends, customers/clients to learn why everyone has something to sell by visiting http://www.sellingselling.com


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