If your business is like most, it probably has a complicated long-term relationship with customer data. You’ve likely been generating data of some kind since the earliest days of your first-generation website and customer relationship management (CRM) implementation. But during these early days, organizing and harmonizing data about how people engage with your business likely took a back seat to the practical realities of driving early adoption and building initial sales momentum.
But every successful company reaches a point when it is necessary to drive growth in more systematic and predictable ways. Startups need to put new venture capital investments to work creating a scalable growth engine. Mature businesses face constant pressure to innovate, so they can attract new customers and keep the ones they have engaged.
This usually ends up being harder than it should be. The technologies, best practices, and regulatory landscape are constantly evolving. And often, the baggage of the past can prevent you from taking your business where it needs to go.
Very few businesses use customer data perfectly. But the most successful ones understand that data maturity is a journey. Like any journey, it can be tempting to look for shortcuts. But the only way to navigate to your desired destination is by:
Through our work guiding businesses on these journeys, we’ve identified four distinct waypoints on the journey to data maturity.
Arriving at an honest assessment of where your organization is on its journey to data maturity will help you identify ways to unlock near-term value and move towards more strategic applications of customer data over time.
One common misstep that many organizations take with customer data is focusing too much on visualization before they have a firm footing in clean and well-structured source data. Even organizations with data engineers on staff often struggle with the fact that the quality of insights is often determined by the configuration and utilization of the underlying source technology. For example, focusing data engineers and analysts on creating a sophisticated data warehouse and business intelligence (BI) implementation without clean data flowing from foundational CRM and marketing automation systems will bring confusion and finger-pointing instead of insights.
Instead, start by assessing what you already have in place and making some initial optimizations to generate clean, actionable data. This may include:
But your time at Basecamp doesn’t need to be solely focused on cleanup. You can tap into the benefits of clean and well-structured data by initially focusing on less process-intensive tools like web analytics and tag management.
Advanced basecamp is where your efforts at Basecamp really start to pay off. Once you have clean foundational data flowing, you can build a more sophisticated demand waterfall. This includes creating an end-to-end event flow across your web infrastructure, CRM, and marketing automation infrastructure, including any necessary data synchronization and scoring models.
These additional steps build on your work at basecamp to make it much more efficient to create accurate reports that you can use to drive decisions. You will also see a complete picture of customer engagement that extends from page visits to closed CRM opportunities.
Another essential step to take at Advanced Basecamp is to put the necessary systems in place to ensure that data remains clean over time. A big part of this is putting playbooks in place to ensure that new campaigns added in the future conform to the correct naming convention and have consistent tagging approaches in place.
In addition to taking a step further on your journey to data maturity, you will see immediate benefits in the sophistication of your reporting. This includes a greater ability to measure the performance of paid media investments in a consolidated manner.
Once you have confidence in the current – and future – cleanliness and organization of your foundational data, you’re ready to proceed to high camp. High Camp is where you take a significant step forward by implementing a first-party data strategy.
Your first step at high camp will be to implement a centralized data warehouse that your team has complete control over. Snowflake or Amazon Redshift are two common technology platforms that many organizations use for this purpose.
Once you’ve implemented your platform of choice, you can implement the necessary data ingestion and transformation techniques to bring source data in from your CRM and marketing automation tools. Clean data in a flexible and scalable data warehouse opens up many more opportunities to use customer data in strategic ways.
For example, you can enrich your data to include demographic information and intent signals. It’s also possible to implement more powerful visualizations and reporting using a dedicated BI tool once you have clean, enriched data that is centrally accessible.
Organizations that approach the journey to data maturity systematically will eventually reach the summit. The summit is a closed-loop customer data approach that can support machine learning and more advanced customer engagement approaches.
Once customer data is enriched, it is often helpful to feed it back into the systems that your teams use to manage your business. In its most basic form, this may include sending more granular user data, such as trial or logged in data, back into your CRM.
But clean, first-party data also opens the door to more strategic use of customer data. Examples include more precise targeting of customers with relevant messaging and advertising and dynamically personalizing web application experiences to increase engagement.
Customers at the summit can also take their first steps into machine learning models and predictive analytics to unlock even more business value from their customer data.
Segment was deployed across the website and app, generating events based on user activity. These events were then used to build a comprehensive reporting system to track user behavior, the number of insurance policies sold, and total revenue generated. This allowed us to gain visibility into ROAs and help them allocate funds for paid and other marketing efforts more effectively.View customer story →
Using customer data to its full potential is a continuous work-in-progress for most organizations. It can be daunting, especially when past decisions during your company’s early or high-growth stages now feel constraining. But many organizations fight through to harness customer data in innovative ways.
It starts with five things: