Communication Trumps All in Database Marketing
The contention that multichannel customers are the best customers frustrates me more than anything. Technically, they are, as database marketers query databases every day and observe that they are the best customers. But the problem I have with this lies in how this fact is communicated to business leaders.
If you query your database, you're likely to find these similar facts:
* customers who return a lot of merchandise are the best customers;
* customers who abandon shopping carts are the best customers; and
* customers who order on Tuesdays are the best customers.
Database marketers have the keys to the city. Most marketers have no interest in querying a database or don't have the desire to acquire the technical skills necessary to query a database. So they trust a small number of individuals to do it for them.
This sets up a unique dynamic. Business leaders usually try to validate hypotheses. Analysts are usually trying to please business leaders while making a name for themselves.
All kinds of unusual things can happen when analysts arrive at findings that are contrary to the hypotheses offered by business leaders. Business leaders might accept the alternative hypothesis. They might disagree with the analysts. They might ask the analysts to rework queries by framing their questions differently. The analysts may have run their queries incorrectly. The business leaders and analysts might argue. The business leaders might want to fire the analysts. The analysts might say something that they shouldn't say. The possibilities are virtually endless.
Communication may be the most important aspect of a successful database marketing endeavor. Analysts must develop an intuition for the questions that business leaders want answered. Not only must analysts answer the questions posed by business leaders, but they also must do so by putting their answers in the appropriate context.
Yes, multichannel customers are the best customers. But those best customers are also responsible for an awful lot of undesirable behavior, so this fact might be completely irrelevant.
Business leaders must be willing to ask questions that invite open-ended responses. If you ask an analyst to query a database and calculate the mean number of orders placed by customers buying from one channel vs. customers buying from multiple channels, for example, you'll get exactly one answer — and it'll be without context. If you ask an analyst to profile the behavior of multichannel customers, explaining the behaviors that lead to high levels of profitability, you'll get an entirely different level of analytical support from the analyst.
Outstanding communication between business leaders and analysts leads to improved business intelligence and, ultimately, better decisions. Therefore, I believe that communication is more important than using highly advanced database marketing techniques.