Minimise your data with maximum permissions

March 2021

Deliver successful marketing campaigns without hoarding data

This might seem like a contradiction in terms. How can you minimise the volumes of data you keep whilst also maintaining good levels of marketing permissions?

The answer, of course, is to only keep the data you need. Less is more. I’ll say that again – less is more. However, the challenge for many marketers is to understand which data to discard and which data to keep.

Figuring out which data is needed takes time and effort and draws on some old-fashioned skills we learnt in the pre-internet era to maintain data accuracy and assess what variables/values actually drives a sale.

Before the ubiquitous email, which appears to cost nothing, we used to make some very difficult decisions about who to contact because each contact cost a fortune. Now is the time to re-discover some of those skills and cut down on those emails and digital ads, whilst rebuilding trust with prospects and customers.

1. Data accuracy

Arguably the most boring job for any marketer is to keep their customer and prospect data up to date and accurate.

Questions to consider:

  • How many records hold inaccurate data?
  • Are they worth keeping?
  • How recently did that prospect engage with you?
  • Will they ever engage again?
  • Are the marketing permissions up to date and valid?

Like de-cluttering your house, it’s difficult to throw away data but keeping data for too long can attract large fines and a bad reputation.

2. Effective retention policies

If you understand the patterns of purchase and sale you’ll have a good idea of when people who are customers are no longer engaged and either need to be refreshed or removed.

Asking if people want to be removed from a database after a long period of inactivity is a good idea. Why keep people on a list who don’t want to hear from you?

Questions to ask:

  • Have you reviewed your retention policy and refreshed permissions?
  • Do you have a regular routine in place to identify and update permissions once they reach their retention policy limit?
  • Do you regularly review the responses you generate from the older data sets?
  • Based on your findings, should you adjust the retention policy periods?

3. Reduce the collection of data points

If I provide a phone number when I place an order, what happens to that data?

Unless it’s for a carrier I’ll always provide an inaccurate number. It makes more sense to explain exactly why you need every single data point and provide a “what’s in it for me” reason why this data should be collected. The completion rate will be greater with more accurate information.

Questions to ask:

  • Do have a clear plan for how every single data point is used?
  • Have you communicated that intention clearly?
  • Have you explained clearly the “what’s in it for me”?
  • Which data can be discarded?

4. Special category data

Special category data can be explicitly collected or inferred from the combination of other data sets. This is a particular challenge in Adtech where the quantity of data collected through third party cookies is, frankly, mind blowing.

If you’re able to establish  sexuality from which websites someone uses this, potentially, becomes special category data. Keeping any special category data presents an additional risk and should be carefully considered, whilst consent for marketing needs to be sought under any circumstance. If in doubt get rid of it.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you really need to know anything sensitive about your prospects and customers?
  • What difference will knowing the information make to your ability to sell your products and services?

5. Preference centres

The notion you should give your customers and prospects the choice to manage their preferences in an open and transparent way is at the heart of data protection legislation.

There are technology solutions from a wide variety of providers to create preference centres for cookies, as well as managing marketing preferences for emails, direct mail and so on.

Presenting this information in an easy-to-understand format can feel like a formidable challenge and there’s sometimes the temptation to hide it or just not bother to explain clearly enough.

Not explaining or hiding information is never a great idea, as there is a direct link between openness and transparency and trust.

“Doing the right thing” and building trust is a No 1 priority for many brands and they see it reaps dividends in greater loyalty and repeat purchase.

Not only that but the afore-mentioned technology solutions have relatively inexpensive options for smaller or medium sized businesses. Cost should not be an impediment.

Questions to consider:

  • Are all your marketing and cookie preferences managed centrally?
  • Do you know what all the cookies on your website do?
  • Do you know what happens to the data that is captured by third party Adtech providers?
  • Have you completed a DPIA for Ad Tech activity?
  • Do you have a compliant cookie notice and preference centre with the permissions options applied correctly?

6. Understanding the ROI of your campaigns

Being able to analyse the customer/prospect journey from first point of data capture through to a final sale is the holy grail. An apparently cost-efficient lead at the front end may not translate into high margin sales in the end.

Equally, being able to understand what influences a purchasing decision and what environment is most successful will allow you to filter your marketing effort against fewer key variables.

As the ICO clearly stated in their review of RTB, the sheer volume of data in use by Adtech providers feels disproportionate to the outcome.

Questions to ask:

  • Can you calculate an end-to-end ROI on customer transactions?
  • Do you know which variables will influence purchase more than anything else?
  • Have you done some modelling of your own customer data to create anonymised look alike segments to be used with contextual advertising?

7. How do you move on from third-party cookies?

As we know, Google will stop supporting third party cookies in 2022. This places an immediate pressure on advertisers to focus on their own first party data.

Immediate questions to ask:

  • Do we have any first party data?
  • How else do we add to what we already know?
  • Can we ask our customers to share more data? What interests them, what content do they consume, how do they shop?

If we’re able to create segments from our own data, the opportunity to use that information to create anonymised look-alikes will improve targeting efficiency. We are seeing a proliferation of providers who are using different variables to target customers which does not even involve large quantities of cookie data and this trend is set to grow.

If you understand your data well and create meaningful segments for targeting from first party data, which has been volunteered by customers, marketing teams will be in a strong position to deliver more with less.


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