Let's face it — marketing without data would require companies to rely solely on instincts and anecdotal evidence to promote their brands. This approach would likely lead to a disconnect with their audience and produce ineffective marketing campaigns. Therefore, data analytics is essential in modern marketing. It enables marketers to make more informed decisions about their strategies by providing valuable insights into customer demographics, interests, and behaviors. In addition, marketers can better understand what resonates most with their target audience by analyzing data from various sources, such as direct mail campaigns, website traffic, email campaigns, and social media interactions.

    As marketers intensify their efforts in 2023, they must remain mindful of today’s staggering volumes of data. Although the integration of marketing and data has proved to be a winning combination for many businesses, it’s important to understand that data overload is real. This article explores the challenges that direct marketers face with data management and how they are working to address them.

    Digital Means More Data

    Data is crucial for decision-making in today's business world. Fortunately for marketers, the rise of digital technologies means that there is now an abundance of information about the consumers and markets they want to serve. It's well known that digital marketing channels like social media, email, and websites make it possible to track and analyze customer interactions in real time. When used properly, this type of feedback means that companies can make quick adjustments to become more competitive. This is great for brands that only use digital marketing channels, but collective research has consistently shown that most businesses also use direct mail. In fact, Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent Direct Marketing Communications survey reveals that the split of marketing spend between digital and direct mail is almost equivalent (see Figure 1).

    Figure 1: Direct Mail vs. Digital Marketing Spend

    As marketers continue to compete for mindshare, they must find a way to put that print to work so they can get the most from their investment. After all, it’s quite difficult to measure engagement with static mail. As a result, it’s no surprise that according to the same study mentioned above, nearly 70% of marketers are integrating a digital call to action with their printed direct mail. The primary drivers are a need to measure campaign effectiveness and a desire to improve the overall customer experience.

    Will the Real King Please Stand Up?

    Some would argue that "content is king," but it's difficult for marketers to know what type of content works and when it should be used without data. The phrase "data is king" reflects the growing recognition that data-driven insights and analytics play a vital role in determining business outcomes.

    Even so, data (howsoever necessary) can be problematic on just about every level — simply getting names and addresses right is a business in itself. Add to that customer preferences about where they want to receive their messages along with tracking results across multiple channels, and the challenges can be monumental. Tasked with everything from segmenting data to ensuring security and privacy, today’s marketers really have their hands full.

    If asked where they retrieve their data, a good number of marketers will admit that they work from multiple databases. Even with the ability to integrate and cross-reference one list to another, pulling from numerous sources can put data integrity at risk. As such, marketers recognize the value of having access to the best tools and technologies.

    Figure 2 provides a closer look at some common investments. When respondents were asked which investments had the most impact, marketers assigned the highest importance to data collection tools and dashboards for reports and analytics.

    Figure 2: Importance of Technological Investments

    Every Challenge Brings an Opportunity

    Without question, we know that marketers rely on data to make informed decisions about where to allocate their budgets, gain insight into customer preferences, and determine where they need to adjust their strategies to optimize their efforts. As mail volumes return to pre-pandemic levels and the blend of marketing channels continues to grow, data analytics will only become more complex. This means that businesses of all sizes will need access to specialized skills and solutions to remain competitive.

    As the print and mail industry incorporates a digital-first mindset, service providers must seek opportunities to fill the gaps in their clients' operations. Offering a listening ear is a good place to start. Conversations might incorporate a few of the challenges mentioned in this article, then tested to determine how they compare with your customers' environments. If the gap is wide enough, develop a strategy to become the resource of choice when it comes to data and marketing. With careful investments in talent and technology, revenues in the future might come from different sources.

    The Bottom Line

    As we move into the future, marketing will continue its evolution to include more automation, hyper-personalization, and channel integration. Data will remain a constant, as it is required for brands to make important decisions about optimizing their marketing spend and driving real business results. Collecting the right data and then using it correctly remains a challenge for firms of all sizes.There has never been a more important time for marketers to consider investing in time and technology to improve data management.

    Karen Kimerer of Keypoint Intelligence has experienced the many challenges of expanding current market opportunities and securing new business. She has developed a systematic approach to these opportunities, addressing the unique requirements of becoming a leader in our changing industry. She is well-versed in 1:1 marketing, web-to-print, direct mail, book publishing, supply chain management, data segmentation, channel integration, and photo products.

    This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2023 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.