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How to Build a Humanistic Marketing Ecosystem

In my last post, Rise of the (Marketing) Machines: How to Tame Them, I discussed the challenge marketing leaders face in bridging the gap between the journey experience their audience expects and the technology requirements to deliver on those expectations. While the first step in bridging that gap is to find the right members of the team that can straddle both marketing strategy and technology discussions, it’s also important that we look at how we evaluate the technology ecosystem we are building to support our customer experiences.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of software providers seeking to capture the growing CMO budget. Scott Brinker of notes that, in 2016, we saw an approximate growth of 87% over 2015 to an already crowded marketing technology landscape. Making the situation more confusing is that this market is still maturing and is rife with mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, and new entrants —making it tough for even the most seasoned professional to keep track of market leaders. Adding to the difficulty is that the marketing departments for these vendors are constantly coming up with new terms under which to market their wares.

In my mind, it appears as most of these software vendors are effectively in a race to the middle, meaning that they are all adding the same capabilities to their offerings until it becomes difficult for us to differentiate one platform’s capabilities from the next. It’s often not until we are well into the evaluation process that we realize that we already have the capability (or capabilities) within our existing tools and platforms. So how do we take control of the conversation back from vendors that are trying to dazzle us with the latest industry buzzwords and get to the heart of what matters?

At Harte Hanks, when we talk about bringing the human back to marketing, we talk a lot about what a humanistic marketing ecosystem looks like. Rather than try to sort through the alphabet soup that has dominated the IT industry for years, and is now starting to be foisted upon marketers, we prefer to think of the ecosystem as requiring 5 capability groups.

Building Towards a Humanistic Marketing Ecosystem

The 5 layers of our ideal ecosystem break down as follows:

  • Content Production & Management — The ability to create compelling, resonant content by leveraging experts from within and outside the brand, while managing that content so that it remains relevant to the audience. This is the foundation of today’s modern marketing.
  • Channel Orchestration — Consumers jump from one channel to another along their journey without giving it a second thought and expect brands to deliver a consistent and seamless experience as the relationship progresses.
  • Contextual Intelligence — Today’s audience is well-aware that their every move is able to be tracked. In return, they expect brands to leverage this data intelligently to assist them in their individual buyer journey.
  • Message Delivery & Personalization — The ability to deliver messages and content on the channels of choice is no longer good enough. Sophisticated consumers expect brands to be able to leverage the shared data to personalize the channel experience to their place in the journey.
  • Business Insights — Today’s marketer is faced with an overwhelming amount of data in an age of real-time engagement. The ability to turn that data into the knowledge necessary to understand the small data that distinguishes an anomaly from a trend is a critical component in a rapidly changing marketplace.


diagram of martech for human marketing


Putting It All Together

We have an overwhelming number of tools and technologies available to help us efficiently interact with customers on every channel. However, technology can take us only so far. By considering the stack in these 5 key areas, we can evaluate the tools in a customer-centric manner — thereby creating a truly holistic ecosystem of technology and data that serves the customer while, at the same time, serving the marketer.

Look for my next article where we will explore in greater detail the first layer in the ecosystem: Content Production & Management.

Signals: Identify and Get to Know Your Customers Better

identify anonymous visitors with signals


A lot of our conversations lately have been focused on providing the right content to the right person at the right spot in the buyer’s journey—marketing in the moment. This is not a simple task, given the explosive growth of customer data we have at our fingertips, driven by the various touch points across digital, social, mobile and traditional channels.

One of the challenges to marketing in the moment is bringing this data together across online and offline channels and across devices to identify individuals and the context in which they’re interacting with us. In other words, we need to take all of this big data we have available to us and turn it into small data—specific information that helps us to be more responsive to each individual.

It sounds complicated (and there are complicated algorithms and model training involved), but the concept is actually quite simple.

The Evolution of Matching

We are essentially talking about the evolution of matching. Anyone that works with marketing data is very familiar with this process. We’ve been associating individuals to households and contacts to businesses for decades, fixing truncations and abbreviations, filling data gaps in the customer profile, etc. The difference now is that, thanks to our partnership with Opera Solutions, makers of Signal Hub, this matching can be done across online and offline interactions, all in one platform, in the time requirements the business demands. This broadens what we know about our customers, allows us to identify them more quickly and in new ways, and improves our confidence in the match.

Your goal is to make sure you understand who your customers are, where they are in their buyer’s journey, and what needs they have so you can talk to them relevantly. For example, if you provide a content marketing platform, and you see a prospect Googling about how to manage content development, hitting your website, interacting with your social platforms, reading a Forbes article on managing a content team, etc., you can identify this prospect in your CRM and add the data to the record. Or, if the person is not in your CRM, you can save the information for later to make the connection when you are able.

Now, you know who this web visitor is and have a more accurate picture of the context in which she is interacting with your company. It’s probabilistic—you won’t know the identity of this person with 100% certainty until she self-identifies in some way—but you can have enough confidence in the match to speak to her contextually.

In this case, the data may tell you this person matches to Jane Smith at Acme Company A in your CRM. Since she last interacted with your brand, she has moved on to Widget Company B and moved up in title, acquiring a small content team. You’ll probably want to provide her with some content geared toward helping her learn about best practices in managing a content team, how to improve efficiencies in her development processes, etc. She’s not ready for, say, pricing information or case studies geared more toward helping her to evaluate specific solutions. Without the probabilistic match between your anonymous web visitor and Jane in your CRM, you would have none of this information with which to provide relevant messaging. Or, with a slow turnaround time on the data matching, you could miss the opportunity to speak to Jane when she’s actively looking for information.

Respect the Data

You might be thrilled to match an anonymous prospect with an email address (and you should be), but don’t jump the gun and email this person too soon. An email address is a valuable piece of data that will help you to match further valuable data points to the record—use it to this end. Your smart data matching does not mean it is a good idea to actually email this prospect. Remember: the goal is to be able to interact with individuals in a more human, relevant way. Emailing a prospect when he has not explicitly given you his email address is equivalent to cold calling him (ugh!), and he likely won’t appreciate it.

The same goes for other pieces of information you have gleaned about your customer. A good way to turn him off is to appear to be stalking his web browsing behavior, for example, and sending him a bunch of articles relevant to that activity. Respect the data, and use it in a way that helps your customer to achieve what he’s looking to achieve without being intrusive.

But…Hold Your Horses

This all sounds great, and you may want to jump right in. But the reality of it is, a lot of marketing organizations are not ready to implement this technology and these processes. Why? They’re not collecting the right data in the first place. This is referred to as the “sparse data” problem. There is a lot of data out there coming from many sources that, when combined, can provide us with great insights—but we’re not collecting or combining it today. Many marketers collect the obvious data points—name, email, etc.—but not all the available data points that would be useful in achieving their goals, such as geo location, browser ID, device ID, etc.

Not surprisingly, this problem can be remedied by increasing your data collection according to your specific goals—but don’t underestimate this endeavor. It’s a complex process that requires clearly-defined metrics and a strategic plan. Prioritize your data strategy, starting first with data housed or produced from internal platforms and applications, before moving on to partner and third-party data.

Simple, right?

The whole idea of recognizing customers across devices and identifying “unknown” to “knowns” has been somewhat overcomplicated. It’s a natural struggle to understand everything that technology can do considering all the choices and what that means for marketing. At the end of the day, signals and the Signal Hub platform make it easier for us to understand more about customers, including who they are, which helps to interact with them more contextually, in the moment.

If you want to learn out more about our approach to bringing human interaction back to marketing, including building an effective data and martech ecosystem, check out the 5 Pillars of Best-in-Class Marketing.

How to be More Human in Your Marketing with Signals


marketing signals

Jay Baer, Marketer, Author, Speaker and President of Convince and Convert, is known for saying: “Make your marketing so useful people would pay for it.”

In other words, every interaction our brands have with a customer should deliver value to that customer. One-to-one marketing is no longer good enough—even though we’re just getting there. To provide value with each and every interaction, we must understand who individuals are and speak to them contextually, one-to-one, in the moment in which they are situated.

There are many moving pieces that must come together for us to achieve this one-to-one in the moment marketing, and one of them is technology. An ecosystem of martech capabilities that shares data in real time allows us to begin to behave in the digital world just as we would in the physical one—in a more relevant, valuable, human manner. That real-time data sharing and the resulting insights are key, and signals in a Signal Hub make them exponentially easier to achieve.

Signals have been well-known in the IT world for some time—but not so much in the marketing world. Considering their value to enabling more human, one-to-one in the moment interactions, it’s time that changed.

What are signals?

Opera Solutions, the maker of Signal Hub, defines signals as follows:

Mathematical transformations of data that take the form of modular units of intelligence. Advanced analytics techniques, including machine learning, generate Signals. Signals can be consumed, blended with other Signals, shared, and stored. Signals reveal patterns that have applicability to business situations and that can facilitate accurate predictions of future activity.

The bold above is mine. It’s the real value of signals to marketers.

Why are signals important for marketers?

Let’s put this into marketing terms. As marketers, we’re trying to get at the small data that tells us who our customer is, why she is doing what she’s doing at any given moment and what she’s going to do next. What are those digital breadcrumbs she’s leaving behind that help us to figure this out and provide her with a message that fits her needs? In the physical world, we would just ask “How may I help you?” But in the digital world, we must discern the answer from these digital clues.

The raw data does not offer us any value. We must transform it, get it to tell us what to do, what will help us to improve our marketing performance, find a customer that will convert, etc. We need to take what we know about an individual and turn it into something that predicts what she’s going to do in the future.

Signals make this much easier for us than it has been in the past.

How do signals work?

Signals come from all of the data you’re generating with the various pieces of your martech stack. A Signal Hub takes raw data and helps you to transform it into descriptive signals about the buyer, then to predictive signals about what the buyer is likely to do, and then ultimately into prescriptive signals that recommend your next move.

This becomes the insight engine or the brain that brings all data together and helps us, as marketers, figure out what our next actions should be.

And the brain is constantly getting smarter. Machine learning within the Signal Hub constantly performs test and learn scenarios. Closed loop feedback on your data “signals,” like a car blinker, that message X might be good for customer Y because of action Z. For example, if I buy vitamins at Walgreens, I might be susceptible to an offer for protein powder. The system tests it out, sees if it works and optimizes the message the next time it sees someone like me buy vitamins.

Contrast that to current analytics approaches…

In today’s world, the treatment of data is typically done on a one-off basis. In a typical hypothesis-driven approach to optimizing your marketing, you have to rewrite code for every regression or cluster analysis. The way the code is written in this Signal Hub platform allows us to reuse common algorithms. It provides a library of existing signals.

For example, as a retailer, you may often want to analyze factors like store visits, geographic proximity to store, coupon use, etc. These are built into the Signal Hub. They’re like macros in excel—common formulas are pre-coded into the system and let us get things done more quickly. This saves our analysts a LOT of time; the system handles about 90% of what you’d want to do as a data scientist. Ultimately, this allows us to move more quickly and agilely as marketers.

Marketing signals process

The best part of using a Signal Hub?

Everything is integrated into one system and one interface. This article in CIO explains that most enterprise marketers have upwards of 20+ technology solutions, and getting the most out of them requires combining all of their data points. The typical fix is less than ideal:

“This is why many of today’s marketers rely on impractical solutions such as cramming as much data into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets as possible. You can only imagine the pain and suffering of manually gathering data points into complex Excel documents.”

With Signal Hub, we can more easily use ALL of our data to inform predictive and prescriptive analytics in one interface. This improves ease of use while also improving the traceability of our data across systems for a single view of the customer.

The future of marketing

This is the future of marketing…using technology to analyze massive amounts of data to find patterns that humans would never be able to find. It’s a machine-driven approach that uses self-learning systems to explore large amounts of data more quickly than we can imagine.

And at the end of the day, it helps us to be more human by better responding to each customer with the right message in the moment that she needs it.

You may also enjoy CMOs: This is the Year to Focus on Artificial Intelligence.

The Convergence of Digital and Physical Shopping Experiences

Historically, brick-and-mortar retailers have approached development of their online storefronts fatalistically. Companies thought that increasing online business couldn’t happen without poaching from brick-and-mortar storefronts—and if anyone was going to poach brick-and-motor business, it might as well be that same company’s online business. Online and bricks-and-mortar retail were treated as two separate animals. To grow online business, many companies thought they had no choice but to sacrifice bricks-and-mortar sales. All advances in online functionality for customers meant directing those customers away from brick-and-mortar locations.

Then, last year, True Religion changed the retail game by tying its latest tech innovation directly to its brick-and-mortar storefronts.

True Religion Brings Digital In-Store

The future of retail is the convergence of the physical and digital shopping experience. Retailers can use technology to enhance the in-store experience, essentially creating a new experience every time a shopper walks into a store.

Picture this: a customer walks into a True Religion store in London. The ground floor features men’s apparel, with women’s and children’s one level below. There is a “denim bar” designed to showcase product and spark conversation. Five digital screens on the ground floor run True Religion advertising campaigns—a sort of “Digital Runway.”

True religion digital runways show convergence of digital and physical shopping
Digital runway screens are visible from outside a True Religion store. Image credit:

With Band for True Religion, a customer using the True Religion app transmits data to associates’ Apple Watches the instant she steps in the door. Sales associates can use the technology to offer informed purchase recommendations. The Apple Watch app will even sync to the company’s inventory system so that sales associates can stay on top of what is in stock and access products from other stores around the globe.

true religion apple watch app aids in Convergence of digital and physical shopping
True Religion “Band” App for Apple Watch. Image Credit:

One challenge retailers face is providing consumers with a shopping experience that is relevant—a place that means something and provides an enjoyable experience every time they walk into the store. Band by True Religion not only streamlines shopping, it also allows the sales associate to impress the customer, using technology to heighten the retail experience.

To compete with online retailers, brick-and-mortar retail locations should implement a series of digital advancements with the intent of providing each shopper with a more personalized experience.

Focus on In-the-Moment Experiences

The goal for retailers should not be to just acquire purchase behavior after the fact, but to predict the emotions that drive consumers to buy—or not buy. Retailers can use digital queues to analyze the behavior of non-purchasers, for example, identifying emotions that drive product choices while providing a more immersive and intimate shopping experience. A new Store Non-Purchaser product from ForeSee does just that, identifying digital shoppers and surveying them to determine why they chose not to make a purchase. A retailer can use that information to make changes to not only its online storefront, but also its brick-and-mortar storefront.

Combining physical and digital is an opportunity to add a layer of unexpected experiences and services to the traditional shopping experience. FaceCake Marketing Technologies recently debuted a new platform that allows customers to virtually try on a look. Obviously, this technology can heighten the at-home online shopping experience, giving the consumer access to a wide range of options—but it could revolutionize the brick-and-mortar experience too.

Imagine those True Religion Digital Runways—but instead of a model showing off the latest True Religion jeans, a sales associate can show a hesitant customer an image of herself wearing a pair of jeans she discarded on her way to the fitting room. Alternately, in-store video screens could use customer purchase history data to surprise a retail buyer by showing her new products that would look great with something she recently purchased. Combine the entertainment factor of virtual-try-on with the instant gratification of the jeans in questions being a few feet away in a brick-and-mortar store, and you have a retail win.

The times of trying to accommodate the general consumer are over. Retailers can now use data to make informed communications with specific individuals, rather than general solicitations that will be ignored. Starbucks’ mobile app not only allows consumers the opportunity to skip the line, its hyper-personalized loyalty program allows the coffee giant to personalize a customer’s experience no matter what brick-and-mortar store he walks into.

The objective should not only be to improve the buyer’s journey, but also to reinforce brand values. Retailers must promote a unique point of view in order to generate loyalty. REI’s now-famous Black Friday boycott, coupled with the retailer’s #OptOutside social media campaign, cemented the brand as one that respects its employees and values the outdoors.

Online + In-Store: Better Together

The role of stores is changing. Rather than treating online business like an alternative to a physical storefront, retailers need to integrate the two experiences. Customers are looking for brands that converge their digital and physical touchpoints into a singular, seamless shopping experience. By taking a cue from businesses like True Religion, retailers can use digital experiences to enhance the shopping experience at brick-and-mortar locations. The convergence of digital and physical shopping means retailers can provide consumers an enhanced journey to buy what they want when they want, and how they want it.

Brick and mortar retailers can still compete with online retailers by meeting unmet shopper needs. They can implement digital experiences within the added bonus of instant gratification. The in-store shopping experience provides a unique experience that cannot be replicated by online competitors.

Check out more ways in which physical stores have advantages over online establishments in Retailers: What You Need to Know to Win Against All-Powerful Amazon.

CMOs: This is the Year to Focus on Artificial Intelligence

execs focus on artificial intelligene

We all know by now that consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to marketing and the customer experience in 2017. To meet their ever-increasing expectations, we’ll need to get to know them at a deeper level than ever before and speak to them more contextually than we’ve dreamed possible.

I’ve put forth that in 2017, we will be challenged to completely rethink some of our long-held beliefs and restructure ingrained processes to cater to each individual, in the moment. We’ve established the need to think beyond one-to-one marketing, focus on the small data and provide return on attention (ROA).

The final key element that I believe needs our attention in 2017 is artificial intelligence.

Make the Move from Manual to Automatic with AI

Artificial intelligence is going to be hugely important in this process of getting to know our customers and speaking to them contextually. It will bring a whole new level of insight that we don’t have right now.

When we think about driving context with our customers, there is an infinite number of variables to consider. Currently, we have to test our own theories as to what is working and what is not. This is limited because we have to come up with and ask the questions in the first place. AI will help us to continually refine our data and our messaging by making our understanding of what’s working and why it’s working easier to uncover.

An AI engine can identify positive or negative trends or anomalies that we should pay attention to, give us the potential variables to test, and test them for us. Given behavioral patterns, an AI engine will start doing A-Z testing on its own. If you come up with some rule sets and let the engine apply and learn from them, you can get to a magical place. With an AI engine watching every set of conversations, watching everything that works and doesn’t work in those conversations, and applying the most appropriate content given the context, we can get as close as possible to personalized dialog with each individual in each moment.

This is crawl, walk, run. 2017 is the time to begin learning about artificial intelligence and planning for how your organization can integrate it beyond the simple efficiency efforts and process improvements it is currently used for.

What the Future Looks Like

Let’s bring this back to my shoe story.

If the retailer I had visited online had implemented the practices in this series of articles (think beyond one-to-one, look at the small data, provide ROA, use AI), my experience would have looked completely different.

When I visited the website and browsed for shoes, I may have received a single follow-up email reminding me about them (and possibly some similar shoes or complimentary items). If I didn’t interact with the email or visit again, the retailer would have read my digital cues that indicated I was only browsing and stopped contacting me. This would be the equivalent of picking up the shoes once in the store, declining to try them on, then leaving. Clearly, I’m not ready to buy.

On the other hand, if I visited the site multiple times and opened and clicked on the emails they sent me, I would expect a different response. This would be the equivalent of visiting the physical store and repeatedly picking up the same shoes over the course of half an hour. Or perhaps I return to the store on several occasions to look at the same shoes. In either instance, I would expect a salesperson to approach me again and ask if I am ready to try the shoes on. Similarly, I would expect to receive multiple, relevant communications from the retailer if I was actively engaged online.

Perhaps the salesperson in this story would also notice that I am dressed in business attire during my visit and tailor his recommendations to additional professional attire. Or he may notice that my young daughter is with me and that Easter is coming up and offer to show us some dress shoes for her Easter outfit. He may even notice the Runner’s World magazine peeking out of my bag and offer to show me the latest barefoot running shoes they just got in. All of these human cues are possible to distinguish and act on online, too—with the right in-the-moment data and the correct content and technology.

To be really good at this is not something and of us do overnight. It’s something we will build and then build on. And I’m more than excited to dive in head first in 2017.

Email Marketers: What You Need to Know About iOS 10

In a continuing effort to improve their customers’ experience, Apple recently began releasing iOS 10 and will continue throughout the fall. The release includes features and issues that will have a direct impact on email marketers. Most importantly:

  • Simple unsubscribe option
  • Less real estate in the pre-header section
  • Spotty support for image scaling
  • Ability to delete the default iOS inbox on phone

Here is what you need to know.

Simple Unsubscribe Option

Remember, the inbox is about the end user and not the people marketing to them. In order to make it easier to unsubscribe from lists, Apple is following in Gmail’s footsteps to add list unsubscribe to their emails. List unsubscribe automatically adds the option to unsubscribe to the header of the email.

iOS 10 simple unsubscribe


You will probably see an increase the number of unsubscribes from your email lists. However, if you are delivering timely and relevant emails, the impact should be negligible. The one positive aspect of this is that we have noticed, over time, that the SPAM button was becoming a “proxy” for unsubscribe and therefore impacting deliverability rates. Hopefully with this move, more consumers will choose to unsubscribe rather than “report as spam,” improving deliverability.

To Do

  1. Keep an eye on unsubscribe rates after the IOS 10 release.
  2. Consider auditing your emails for relevancy or come up with more tirgger strategies to ensure your emails are engaging.

Less Real Estate in the Pre-header Section

To make way for the unsubscribe option, content will be pushed further down the page.


Viewing on smaller mobile screens will make real estate a premium. Marketers will need to make sure they are making the most of this limited space with pre-header, headlines, creative and calls to action.

To Do

  1. Compare your creative pre-release vs. post-release and consider changes as necessary.
  2. Test your emails to optimize performance with the new header.

Spotty Support for Image Scaling

iOS 10 in BETA has been offering spotty support of automatically scaling large images. While later versions of the iOS 10 BETA seem to be correcting the issue, some are still not fully scaling.

iOS 10 image scaling iOS 10 image scaling


Marketers using large images without responsive email design may see some scaling or rendering issues.

To Do

  • Make sure production teams bake in extra QA time to ensure optimal viewing on iOS devices.
  • Consider creating and using mobile responsive email templates.

Ability to Delete the Default iOS Inbox on Phone

For the first time, iOS 10 users will have the option to delete the default iOS inbox that was pre-installed on their phones.


This may or may not be significant. It will be interesting to see if there is a shift in market share from the iOS inbox to additional apps (Gmail, etc.). Do users use iOS because they love it or because it’s there and cannot be deleted? If we do see a shift, marketers will want to monitor their email list to see who is opening on which devices. Support varies from inbox to inbox so email design approaches may need to be modified.

To Do

  • Determine which email environments your customers are currently using to open your emails.
  • Consider how a shift may impact your design approach as design support varies in different inboxes.

IoT and Micro-Moments: Optimizing Big and Small Data to drive Omnichannel Marketing

HarteHanks_MarektingTechnology_ROIIn our last article we discussed how the advent of IoT is bringing marketers an overwhelming amount of data, behemoth data, that can be synthesized into usable knowledge that can drive more effective customer journeys. With companies having access to all of this data, we’d like to talk more about how this data can be optimized and utilized to have the largest impact on your organization.

Beware the overzealous that want to board the big data train too quickly, although they have the very best of intentions. The same “bad data in – bad data out” (incorrect insights or conclusions) rule holds just as true, if not more so, in the world of big data analytics compared to traditional statistical analytics. Big data is compiled from an ever growing number of sources, much of which is unstructured. And simple rules of probability apply here – the larger the pool of data, the higher the likelihood that analysts will miss “dirty” data that can ultimately lead to identifying false positives or false negatives.

Unlike traditional first party data that historically has lived in relational databases, big data often consists of a tremendous amount of unstructured data. Correctly integrating and/or blending this data with more structured first party data is critical so as not to lead to analytic outcomes that are way off in left field. This problem is only exacerbated by the velocity at which data is created, which can largely be attributed to the growing mobile trends discussed earlier where data is transmitted on almost a continuous bases. Also, keep on the lookout for the increasing trend of automobiles being online, yet another massive pool of data generating “devices”. To help ensure that the “signal” can be correctly extracted from the “noise”, it is critical that the appropriate amount of rigor is put behind understanding the quality of the data source, how that data is collected, and how it is integrated and blended with other sources of data.

Despite the value of big data synthesized to be used effectively, there is also extreme value in small data – data that’s about people and emotion (in addition to small datasets gathered from a singular historical event). Small data can be ingested into big data sets, merged with behavioral or trending information derived from machine learning algorithms, and provide clearer insights than we’ve ever had before.

Here’s an example of both: The use of smart labels on medicine bottles is small data which can be used to determine where the medicine is located, its remaining shelf life, if the seal of the bottle has been broken, and the current temperature conditions in an effort to prevent spoilage. Big data can be used to look at this information over time to examine root cause analysis of why drugs are expiring or spoiling. Is it due to a certain shipping company or a certain retailer? Are there reoccurring patterns that can point to problems in the supply chain that can help determine how to minimize these events? 1

The issue here is that we cannot become so obsessed with Big Data we forget about creativity. You have to remember that Big Data is all about analyzing the past, but it has nothing to do with the future. Small Data, can also be defined as seemingly insignificant observations you identify in consumers’ homes. Things like how you place your shoes to how you hang your paintings. These small data observations are likened to emotional DNA that we leave behind. Big Data is about finding correlations, but Small Data is about finding the causation, the reason why. 2

Optimizing Big and Small data into business processes can not only save companies millions of dollars, but creates a buyer and customer journey that are seamless, continuous and maintains context regardless of the touchpoint. This omnichannel marketing approach should be the ultimate goal of marketers – creating a conversation with their buyers and customers based on trust and value exchange – which leads to strong relationships in an increasingly connected on- and off-line world.

Laura Watson is Strategy Director at Harte Hanks, and Korey Thurber is Chief Analytics & Insights Officer at Harte Hanks. Harte Hanks can help your brand create an omnichannel marketing strategy, contact us for a free assessment.


1 Forbes Tech
2 Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends

IoT and Micro-Moments Marketing: Leveraging Big Data to Improve the Customer Journey

4-biggest-challenges_illustrations_2-1_v02-01Being connected via wearables without your mobile device is already a reality with untethered Tech, like Android Wear and the Samsung Gear S2, which both support e-SIMs tapping into your pre-existing cell network at no extra cost. It’s a good bet that every smartwatch brand will have an LTE version by the end of 2016, which means that while there’s a vast number of facts and untold nuggets of information that could surprise even big data’s most ardent followers. Big Data is about to become behemoth data.

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (that’s 2.5 followed by a staggering 18 zeros!)1 – so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, the Curiosity Rover on Mars, your Facebook video from your latest vacation, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. Google alone processes 3.5 billion requests per day and stores 10 exabytes of data (10 billion gigabytes!)2

Whether it’s tracking driving habits for the purpose of offering insurance discounts, using biometric data to confirm an ATM user’s identity, or using sensors to detect that it’s time for garbage pick-up, the era of the iOT in which “smart” things can seamlessly collect, share and analyze real-time data, is here.

Imagine a world where your watch recognizes that you withdraw cash every Saturday so that you’re ready for the neighborhood lemonade stand and your evening outing, and you haven’t made your usual transaction yet. A helpful alert pops up on your device, and another reminder displays when you’re within a ½ mile of your Bank ATM where a retina scan allows you to withdraw funds. Your Smart Refrigerator identifies that you’re running low on eggs and yogurt, while your wearable identifies an open parking space within 50-feet of your favorite Saturday farm market stop, but cautions you that there’s a marathon starting in 2 hours so you better get a move on. A “ping” in your email indicates that the killer little black dress you’ve wanted just became affordable with a special discount coupon you received as you drive past the store. While you’re away, the sun comes out, so your Smart Home lowers the window shades, turns the A/C up a few degrees and suggests adding popsicles to the grocery list. Like any fabulous assistant, technology not only aids you, but anticipates your needs and helps you make smarter, faster decisions based on “advice” you can trust. This is the best way to use Big Data.

Having the ability to be smarter, faster and always connected without having to carry around a device (or anything at all)…great.

Using Big Data to synthesize all of the fragmented individual data points into an orchestrated, holistic, powerfully intelligent view of the customer to help them during these everyday micro-marketing moments…priceless.

Big Data allows brands to go beyond customer motivation and engagement in driving value exchange to allowing them to foster their brand affinity and cultivate their customer’s evangelism in real-time, responding to their customer’s behaviors even as their activities and likes shift.

Although simple in concept, many brands are struggling to get it right (or get started at all). Leading brands have already gained a powerful competitive advantage by adopting consumer management technology that allows them to understand and engage based on individual consumer preferences and observation of behaviors and buying signals in their Buyer and Customer journey – thus taking a big step toward making Big Data a strategic reality.

Is Big Data, or really behemoth data, really the answer all by itself? There is lot of insight to be garnered from that data, but the key is being able to quickly sift through it all, tuning out the noise to focus on the key patterns and meaningful relationships in that data.

Traditional statistical analytics techniques which focus on finding relationships between variables to predict an outcome simply won’t do when the goal is to optimize decisions using massive pools of data that are growing and evolving on a near-continuous basis. This is where machine learning comes into play and brings the needed “giddy-up” to the analytic component. Machine learning evolved from the study of pattern recognition within the field of artificial intelligence. The easy way to think about it is, it provides computers the ability to learn and improve without a specific program being written to tell the computer to “learn and improve”. Machine learning software identifies patterns in the data in order to group similar data together and to make predictions. Whenever new data is introduced, the software “learns” and creates a better understanding of the optimal decision. Think of it as the automation of the predictive analytic process.

There is certainly a lot of overlap between statistical analytics and machine learning but there is one key difference. The former requires that someone formulate a hypothesis and structure a test to evaluate whether that that hypothesis is true or not. For example, a hypotheses that states a particular marketing lever (i.e. a certain offer or message) will generate or “cause” additional account openings or sales. Machine learning does not worry about hypothesis testing and simply starts with the outcome that you are trying to optimize – sales for example – and uncovers the factors that are the drivers. As more data is introduced, the algorithm learns and improves its predictions in almost real time.
Interestingly, machine learning has been around for decades. But now, due to the massive explosion in data, cheaper cloud based data stores, and huge increases in computing horsepower, the interest in machine learning is really starting to hit its stride.

Laura Watson is Strategy Director at Harte Hanks, and Korey Thurber is Chief Analytics & Insights Officer at Harte Hanks. Harte Hanks can help your brand leverage big data, contact us for a free assessment.
Forbes Tech

IoT and Micro-Moments Marketing: Opportunities and Pitfalls

With the advent of smart technology, we are getting ever closer to the Orsen Wells imagined world of Big Brother oversight in everyday interactions…and many of us are starting to like it because it makes our decision-making easier, our lives more efficient and allows us to do more of the “fun stuff” we’d all rather be doing.

Marketers used to think about the “top of the funnel” with sales and marketing engagement strategies, but most consumers these days are starting their buyer’s journey quietly online through research using video, ratings and reviews and more interactive decision-making short-cuts. And they’re mostly doing it via their mobile devices. Tomorrow is fast-approaching though, as smartwatches mature and the need for “tethering” to a smartphone goes away, devices supporting e-SIMs that are able to tap into your cell network at no extra cost will magnify the Internet of Things (IoT) explosion of use and related data.

The popularity of wearables, especially fitness-related devices, has sky-rocketed over the last couple of years, with 39.5MM US adults using wearables in 2015, including smartwatches and fitness trackers. There’s an expectation that the number will double to 81.7MM users by 2018, or 32% of US adults.1

Wearable devices go way beyond the smartwatch and fitness tracker, with things like FitBark, activity monitoring for Fido, to Athena, a personal security wearable that may help save lives. Verily has a glucose-detecting contact lens and Google is set to use tech to target cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health problems too. More devices are moving from the nice-to-have category to an integral-to-our-lives status.

With all of this cool, new tech, it’s the nature of marketers to want to use it to sell stuff.

And that’s where we, as marketers, want to caution our compatriots to take the highest marketing road. You can’t get any more personal than something you wear on your body, even sleep with. With great personal engagement comes great responsibility to ensure the consumer experience with your Brand is a beneficial – even trusted – relationship. In digital terms, a break-up takes only seconds. Marketing messages that are annoying in other channels have the potential to take on a new and amplified level of aggravation in personal, wearable devices…running the risk of customers divorcing themselves from your Brand forever.

Yes, new tech means new, small-data points resulting in a big (very big) data explosion measured on the zettabyte scale. (A zettabyte is a 1 followed by 21 zeros.)Finding ways to use that data in a meaningful, mutually beneficial way in micro-moments marketing will ultimately best serve both Brands and their customers.

Laura Watson is Strategy Director at Harte Hanks, and Korey Thurber is Chief Analytics & Insights Officer at Harte Hanks. Harte Hanks can help your brand utilize micro-moments marketing, contact us for a free assessment.


1 eMarketer
2 and the International Data Corporation

Takeaways from the VR World Congress

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.11.37 PMOn April 12 virtual reality trailblazers from across the globe descended on Bristol for VR World Congress. As you’d expect, many attendees were gaming professionals. But some speakers and exhibitors explored VR in relation to wider areas such as data visualisation, engineering, medicine and education.

VR is clearly beginning to make inroads to the corporate world. But even the most experienced enthusiasts concede that it’s an emerging technology. The way it’s created and consumed is still evolving, and nobody knows exactly where the industry will go next.

Is your brand VR-ready?
There is a lot of excitement about VR. And there is also some scepticism. Critics argue that it is over-hyped and gimmicky. However, there are some compelling business cases of VR delivering tangible benefits across sectors ranging from fashion to automotive and construction to medical.

Early signs indicate VR can add value in many potential applications. It could unlock whole new worlds of possibility for brand marketers. But how and when should you make a move into VR?

Here are three takeaways from the Congress that might help you make up your mind:

Everyone’s a pioneer
If you want a definitive rulebook on VR, you’ll be disappointed. Nobody has all the answers yet. However, if you want to build a reputation as an innovator or an early adopter, the VR world is your oyster.

As with all pioneering activity, there are risks as well as rewards. Whatever you set out to achieve, there will inevitably be an element of compromise and sacrifice. Paul Deane, Digital Development Lead at BBC Natural History Unit, shared his experiences creating David Attenborough’s Walk with the World’s Biggest Dinosaur. He said the project posed challenges as virtual reality has so many unknowns. Basic production decisions – such as which point of view to use and whether the camera should move – have more implications than with a linear film. Because the medium is in its infancy, there isn’t a set way to produce content.

On the flipside of this, many people experiencing VR are also new to the technology. In their enjoyment of the immersive, interactive elements they are likely to be more forgiving of imperfections. Walk with the World’s Biggest Dinosaur has been hugely successful despite the compromises made. Since it was launched in February it’s had more than 5million views and a dwell time between two and three times that of linear online videos produced by the BBC.

360-degree video could be a first step into immersive content
It’s important to differentiate between true VR and 360-degree video content. Generally, 360-degree video involves an immersive real-world view. You might use it to give consumers a front row seat at an exclusive celebrity event, or to enhance a video of your product in action. First Lady Michelle Obama recently took part in a 360-degree video interview surrounding her use of social media. And the New York Times has launched NYTVR enabling people to immerse themselves in 360-degree content associated with certain news items. While the viewing experience is greatly enhanced with a VR headset, it can be accessed on a regular PC or mobile device.

VR transcends 360-degree video to provide a virtual experience that wouldn’t be possible in real-life. Brand-led examples to date range from Patrón Tequila’s ‘bee’s eye view’ of production to Nescafe’s virtual reality coffee experience. Viewers need a VR headset of some kind, whether it’s the consumer-level Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR; or something more sophisticated like Oculus Rift. Some brands are helping customers take their first steps into VR by providing headsets, such as the McDonald’s Happy Goggles fashioned from a Happy Meal Box.

360-degree video is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. If you already work with video, it could represent a safer platform from which to start exploring immersive brand content. It’s more accessible to the masses, as well as being simpler and cheaper to produce. However, it is possible to blend elements of VR with 360-degree video to create a ‘mixed reality’ format as the BBC achieved in Walk with the World’s Biggest Dinosaur.

Ultimately it comes down to your objectives and resources as well as your audience and the business goals you aim to fulfil.

Educate internal stakeholders
Obtaining final approval on creative assets can be frustrating at the best of times for marketers. With a medium like VR such challenges are amplified. There is no frame of reference in this new territory, so it can be difficult for stakeholders to give a constructive, rational critique of the end result.

If you’re managing a VR project, this risk needs to anticipated and mitigated from the outset.
Establish firm ground rules surrounding the approval process, agree who will be responsible for decision making, and make sure that all approvers are VR users.

Laying strong foundations will be hugely beneficial since addressing problems at a late stage in the production process is more costly and complex than with other media. Everybody who will be involved needs to be fully on board with the scope, goals and limitations of the activity. Stakeholders who have limited experience of VR should be educated before production gets underway. Expose them to examples of content so they can build an understanding of the medium. It may be worth creating a test VR asset using familiar items, so they can explore the functionality of the medium in comfort.

In summary
Nobody can be sure when VR will reach tipping point, but all the signs point towards it becoming a very valuable medium for fully immersive brand engagement. While it is still largely associated with the gaming community, there is nothing to prevent brand marketers from developing its commercial potential.

If you are about to take the plunge, don’t do it in isolation. Talk to people who’ve already had a go, so you can benefit from their learnings and share experiences. Be realistic about what you can achieve with such a fledgling technology and accept that you may have to compromise on some elements. But feel assured that your early steps could put you at a distinct advantage in the future as you pave the way for effective use of VR in your organisation.

Even if your brand isn’t ready for VR, you can’t afford to ignore it. Take the initiative. Explore 360-degree video on Facebook and YouTube, and get an entry level VR headset. Not every brand is cut out to be a trailblazer, and VR might not be relevant to your industry or your offering at the moment. But you can’t make an informed decision unless you educate yourself.

David Chandler is Director, Strategic Accounts at Harte Hanks. He’s co-presenting a webinar exploring the potential of VR for B2B brands on 5 May 2016. Book your seat here.

The Machines of SXSW Future

sxsw-600x379We’ve been urged (well, that’s maybe overstating a little) to follow up on the pre-SXSW evaluations post. In it, Alan opined that the three “tracks” most likely to get most industry attention were Wearables, IoT and VR/AR.

We’d say he pretty much nailed it. Well, except that (in our view at least) Wearables was usurped by discussions on AI and Machine Learning.

Not to say there wasn’t excitement about some of the world’s best start-up wearable companies demonstrating their products––particularly cool Korean firms like skin care and health device WAY and posture-adjusting wristband ZIKTO––but we were not as blown away as we’d hoped. Anyway, back to self-learning machines …

Artificial Intelligence
With the Google DeepMind AlphaGo triumphs against Lee Sedol fresh in our minds, we heard from the brightest and best in AI such as Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer and Allen Institute’s Oren Etzioni in a panel called “Can AI Systems Really Think?” We also saw Professor Pedro Domingos talk about “The Secrets of Machine Learning Revealed” which outlined the five tribes of AI scientists and their schools of thought.

Many others, including Dag Kittlaus (Cheyer’s co-founder in new firm VIV) and Pinterest’s Head of Commerce Michael Yamartino, discussed all the forms and factors in AI’s implementation in the current and future worlds of medicine, education, environment and, of course, marketing.

They all took it upon themselves to reassure us that the singularity is (most likely) still hundreds of years away. But if you simplify it down (and we had to so it all made sense) what they were describing was tremendously exciting. And this area of thinking is a very rich and fertile space for data-driven marketers.

You’ve probably seen IBM’s new branded point of view advertising featuring Watson. And you also probably know marketers are using Watson to (among other things) build predictive models for buyer trends and to build optimal customer journeys. A sandbox for the industry’s best analytic and strategy minds to test hypotheses and determine the most efficient sequence of touch points to create optimal returns––Watson consumes limitless amounts of unstructured data as it goes about its work.

And yet its still “just” a tool … a very, very artificially clever tool, but nonetheless completely controlled by us.

In the world of shopper experience, AI is helping to predict customer preference before they can even recognize their desire to purchase. Ecommerce sites like and parent company Amazon have created an art out of the science of personalized recommendations. AI can create the same level of customer service as a local storeowner who’s had the same customer for years … all in the blink of a cursor.

So learning machines are definitely going to feature in future SXSW Festivals.
But what about other machines and devices connected to each other, and us, via the Internet? We are referring of course to the IoT track…

The Internet of Things
Well, we heard many hours worth of discussion about connected cars, cities, homes and more. From demonstrations on the trade show floor to panels around Downtown venues, it was hard to avoid someone talking about the Internet of Things. We were keen to learn about people’s opinions on an ethical code for makers and coders building these connected experiences (from AppDynamic’s Prathap Dendi) and how connected devices should respect our privacy (panel including Intel and Microsoft representatives).

And we had many divergent conversations about IoT … a sure sign it’s already an embedded and popular topic. “Cognition Clash in the Internet of Things”; “Internet of Banking Things”; “IoT: A Thousand Touchpoints of Marketing?”; and more.

So. the Internet of Things will continue to spread into more niche conversations over the next few years which leaves us with our final forecast––VR/AR ubiquity.

Virtual Reality
And so it came to pass … VR was EVERYWHERE! The trade show stands were full of Gear VR and Google Cardboard devices encouraging everyone and anyone to be impressed … Sennheiser demonstrated Ambeo VR headphones that let wearers experience sound in 3D. SAP promoted their Digital Boardroom, allowing users to enter a shared space and review documents using VR devices. And of course many panels and sessions took the trend to heart as they vied for attendee attention.

With more mainstream devices making it possible for more and more people to access VR content, the question for marketers becomes: What stories make the most sense?

The VR filmmakers at the panel discussion “New Advertising Models for Virtual Reality” sought to answer just that. All agreed that no marketer wants their advertising associated with a VR injury––so creating TVC style spots to be consumed instantly is unlikely to become standard practice.

Rather, the best brand-in-VR experiences are when audiences are transported to an experience that fits your brand values. Perhaps even your product, it it’s relevant in the case of the film. If all else fails, brands that sponsor a VR film can grab some of the attention—even if they’re not the stars of the show. But curating and presenting content associated with your brand personality is at least one way of capitalising.

Across the various VR sessions, many agreed the New York Times had scored the biggest hit so far with its Google Cardboard collaboration, “The Displaced”—and according to the Times’ SXSW session, they’re planning to ramp up VR editorial features to around twice monthly.

The Times’ VR story played out so well because they solved two key problems: 1) They literally put Google Cardboard kits in the hands of their readers by delivering sets with the Sunday paper; and 2) with “The Displaced,” they told a story that resonates with their brand’s core value of providing exceptional journalism to its readers. By adding a VR component to this particular story, they transported readers into the lives of three refugee children displaced by war and persecution. An essential story brought to life in a format that delivers more than important information: It creates empathy.

The best VR, everyone agreed, isn’t what you see, but how it makes you feel. And, as the technology becomes more and more commonplace, the machines of the future that let you feel a connection on a more visceral level, will win the day.


Alan Kittle is Global Executive Creative Director at Harte Hanks, and Andrew Womack is Group Creative Director at Harte Hanks.

Pre-SXSW: Three Trends and Tracks That May Impact Your Marketing Plans in 2016

As I prepare for my second pilgrimage to Austin, to immerse myself in all that is emerging and mind-blowing in our industry, I thought I’d curate some of the information the organizers are now sending to registered attendees. There are three very important customer engagement trends, or “tracks” as SXSW calls them, that every marketer will want to evaluate.

The evolution of wearable technologies
An emerging trend last year will become even bigger this year, as more products enter the market. In 2015, Samsung and others showcased smart watches, VR headsets, fitness trackers, sensor clothing and so on. The Apple Watch launched post-event (their rumored SXSW pop up shop never did appear) and many, many other companies released products in a move towards a future where “quantifiable self” becomes a “thing”.

This year the big evolution seems to be a convergence between fashion, technology, art and other cultural influences. Within the SXStyle Convergence Track sessions and events, I’m hoping thought leaders answer a pertinent question for marketers everywhere, “What branded experiences are possible with emerging wearable technologies and what useful data can I collect to enhance my relationships with customers who have them?” Creatively, considering these devices as inputs and outputs for campaigns ushers in a brave new world.

And if you consider, as you should, that wearable technologies form part of the connected devices ecosystem that is the Internet of Things, then you’re already prepared for the next trend …

The potential of the Internet of Things
Ever-higher speed connections are creating opportunities for devices to converse with each other through the Internet. IoT means smart cities; connected cars; sensor and wearable technologies; connected homes and appliances; and so much more; speak to each other and can make decisions on our behalf. The on-going conversations about Artificial Intelligence, even in something as user-friendly as Google Now, also fuels conversation on IoT.

“The Internet of Things is nothing short of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” – Jamshed Dubash, “Marketing and The Internet of Things: Are you Ready?”

The big data created can, theoretically, be used to create enriched experiences between brands and customers. Figuring out how to wield the data to do this, though, is very difficult … honestly, marketers seem to have given up trying to get their heads around “big data” as a topic and have moved on to IoT––hoping this will help make the real world applications of information more obvious and easier to get their heads around.

Brands taking advantage of third, fourth and fifth screens in fridges, cars and watches … building in unrivaled relevance and usefulness, will win the engagement game in the near future. I hope the sessions focussing on IoT help us all get our heads in the game. Speaking of games …

The explosion of VR and AR
360 content is everywhere, already. You can see it in your social feeds; on YouTube channels; through cardboard viewfinders and soon on gaming consoles. Global brands like Samsung are building technologies like the Gear VR headset and Gear 360 camera; Microsoft is waiting for the right time to launch their Augmented Reality headset, the Hololens; Facebook-owned Oculus Rift made VR accessible to everyone and days ago (at Samsung’s Unpacked event in Barcelona) Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the growth in popularity will be exponential … his presence reinforced original statements made when they spent $2 billion when buying Oculus.

“This is really a new communication platform … We believe this kind of immersive reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”

So if you’re a brand built around an experience not easily replicated on a website, or in a showroom or through a telephone agent, VR content can create immersive experiences that genuinely offer a window into a world that your customers could live in. Harte Hanks’ David Chandler offers insight into how brands can harness VR effectively in this blog post.

Of course this doesn’t even consider the notion that the pure entertainment value of great advertising could be enriched with VR. Will someone be brave enough to create a VR Super Bowl LI commercial next year? I hope so.

So. There you have it. Just three trend tracks I’ll be engaging with in Texas. There’ll be more to follow from me, post-event. And a whole lot to keep your eye on over the next few years!

Are you planning on attending SXSW this year? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and let us know which tracks you think will draw the biggest crowds this year.

Three Marketing Automation Myths That Need to Die

Marketing_AutomationAutomation is a fairly young, up-and-coming concept in the marketing industry, so it is understandable that there would be misconceptions in the beginning about what it is and what it does. As we start 2016 and “marketing automation” becomes less of a buzzword and more of a mainstream strategy, Harte Hanks wants to set the record straight on the facts about marketing automation. Here are three myths that we want to clear up:

1. Marketing Automation is for Scheduling Email Batch-and-Blasts

This is by far the most common myth, and misuse, of marketing automation. Email is just ONE tactic within automation. Most enterprise marketing automation technology platforms can incorporate landing pages, social media, personalized emails, gated content, videos, pay-per-click ads, and third party apps into your campaigns.

“59 percent of companies do not fully use the technology they have available.”Ascend2 “Marketing Technology Strategy” (August 2015)

The beauty of a marketing automation platform is its ability to respond differently depending on the contact. It can be integrated with your CRM and allow you to personalize all emails and touchpoints in a campaign based on this data. For example, a highly personalized email can be sent to a contact who has visited a certain page of your website, while simultaneously a more generic discovery email can be sent to another contact who you know little about or who has never visited your website.

Marketing automation is also much more “aware” than traditional email marketing. Automation tools are sophisticated enough to not only tell whether a customer clicked on a link in your email, but also which product-specific pages they visited after they clicked, whether they filled out a contact form, and even gather geographical and language information from them based on their IP address. Marketing automation tools can then take that user’s activity data and segment him or her into another flow of automated touchpoints (including additional emails, retargeting ads, high value content, etc.) that are specific to their interests.

2. Marketing Automation Means ‘Set It and Forget It’

While it’s true that marketing automation is great for scheduling emails and other campaign activities in advance, simply “setting and forgetting” is a sure-fire way to make sure your investment goes down the drain.

Many marketing automation tools offer robust functionality out of the box, but most are also cloud-based platforms that have new features added on a regular basis. Keeping a pulse on these updates, and participating in product improvement discussions, is important in making the most of your automation software. In fact, Eloqua will be rolling out a new UX experience this spring.

Another reason you should never “set it and forget it” is that with a healthy marketing automation program, your contact database will be continuously growing. Your customer insight will evolve as the system collects more data from your customers and their activities. And as you learn new things about your customers and their preferences, you can use that information to create more meaningful content in your campaigns.

3. Marketing Automation Stops After the Lead Converts to a Customer

Using marketing automation only for lead generation underestimates the power of the tool. As marketers, we know that the best lead source is always your previous customer. Repeat business and customer referrals will always give you the best ROI for your marketing budget. So why not make the most of that source?

“53 percent of marketers say continued communication and nurturing of their existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact.” (DemandMetric, Customer Marketing: Improving Customer Satisfaction & Revenue Impact, October 2014)

Luckily, marketing automation is not only a powerful lead generation tool, but it also gives you a platform to keep the conversation going with your new customer(s). When you properly sync your CRM to your automation tool, you can harness the power of segmenting by moving converted customers away from prospects into their own nurturing campaigns. These customer-specific nurturing campaigns open a two-way communication channel allowing your customer to become more engaged with your brand and to fully utilize your product or service.

For example, a customer-specific nurturing campaign can share content on best practices using your product (or service) via weekly newsletters, retargeted ads, and videos. Likewise, you can use those touchpoints to upsell products or services that complement what they’ve already bought. Automated campaigns can also be used to promote customer-only events via email invitations and trigger follow up phone calls from telemarketing or sales representatives.

You will never see the value in your marketing automation strategy if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it can accomplish. Marketing automation is more than the latest corporate buzzword. It’s a powerful marketing strategy and tool that allows companies to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content. It helps convert prospects into customers, and customers into brand ambassadors.

Harte Hanks is a full-service marketing agency that can support all aspects of your marketing automation program with minimal ramp up and faster go to market. Contact us for a free audit of your marketing automation programs at 1-844-233-9281.

How to Optimize Spend with Fractional Attribution



When traditional “database marketing” first took off in the early 1990’s, marketing performance measurement and attribution was quite simple. We generated sales and direct mail campaign performance reports using a handful of dimensions. Attribution was easily derived through business reply cards (attached to direct mail pieces), phone numbers or tracking codes. We also used indirect attribution rules by making control group comparisons. We were fairly accurate and the process was easy to execute.

The Current State of Attribution

We all know that the marketing landscape has changed … and it continues to evolve with massive channel proliferation. With so much data and so many options regarding how to best apply a limited marketing budget, how can a CMO receive richer insight to influence tactical decisions that will improve media/channel performance?

Let’s first examine the various states of attribution from the viewpoint of the modern day marketer:

  • Direct Attribution: Still used widely today and still relevant. A specific customer behavior (e.g. a purchase) can be “directly” attributed to a given marketing stimuli via a unique code, landing page/URL, response device, etc. However, other marketing stimuli may have created momentum and been a significant contributor to the consumer’s ultimate decision to purchase.
  • Last Touch Attribution: Attributing the desired customer behavior to the last “known” marketing touch. Similar to “Direct” Attribution, but not always the same, here the marketer attributes the desired customer behavior to the last known touch. This method is very common when there are no specific tracking codes/tags that tie a desired customer behavior directly to a specific marketing stimuli.
  • Multi-Full Attribution: Channel proliferation has led to individual channel/media silos, each with their own unique attribution rules. The separation of traditional offline data and online data is very common. For example, direct mail data is stored in a traditional customer database, email data is stored with the email service provider, and online data is stored by various DMPs, by vendors/partners that are contracted to capture it, each often with their own siloed attribution logic taking FULL credit for the same desired behaviors.
  • Rules Based Attribution: Building on the “Multi-Full Attribution” described above, here marketers use what is often called a “common sense approach” to proportionally assign attribution to very siloed marketing stimuli. For example, a business had recently identified the large overlap between their direct mail and digital channels. For the overlapping purchases identified in both groups, 100% of a given purchase was attributed to direct mail, while simultaneously 100% was also attributed to a combination of digital channels. A rule was then quickly implemented to assign 20% of the attribution to the direct mail channel and proportionally reduce the attribution by 20% across the various forms of digital media. So, it is “fractional” by the simplest definition, but no real math or analytics was being used to assign the “fraction” to each media/channel.

Each of these options contains significant attribution bias towards channels/forms of media, that when taken for face value will result is less than optimal decision-making.


What’s Next and What is Fractional Attribution?

Marketers must now leverage math, science and statistics to analyze and derive insight from large pools of data, much of which can now be integrated across channels to inform decisions across touch points during the customer journey. Fractional Attribution is a necessary tool for understanding campaign performance across a multitude of touch points.

Through advanced (and proven) analytic techniques, a weighting calculation is developed and applied to the various marketing touches during the customer’s buying journey. In short, you are attributing a portion of that customer’s purchase to each of the marketing touches that impacted the customer’s decision to buy.

Harte Hanks has a team of analysts that work with marketing organizations to create a fractional attribution model through a collaborative development process:

  1. Define the overall objectives and identify the behavior metrics you want to positively impact (e.g. response, sales, conversion, product registration, etc.).
  2. Define and implement the roadmap including identification of key performance indicators (KPIs) and setting the overall attribution approach. Companies have used both “quick start” fractional attribution solutions and more robust solutions that require dedicated data stores and data integration tools.
  3. Collect and compile the data.
  4. Execute the fractional attribution solution and create the scenario planning tool.

The “scenario planning tool” is what enables the user to optimize media/channel performance. Using the tool, the analyst or marketer can quickly run “what-if” analyses to estimate the impact of reallocating marketing spend across channel/media or removing a channel/media from the mix altogether. The end result is a much more informed decision that can result in significantly higher returns from your marketing budget. Performance data and insights from the optimization exercise are then used to calibrate and refine the attribution engine going forward.

Fractional Attribution rooted in proven math and statistical techniques is a critical tool to accurately improve and optimize the performance of an incredibly fragmented and complex system of channels and media, both online and offline.


It’s not perfect – no marketing science or advanced marketing analytic solution is. But a robust modeled attribution solution is proven marketing science, and those that leverage it appropriately will generate higher return from their marketing spend and outperform their competitors.

Has your company used fractional attribution to better analyze your marketing spend? Tweet us at @HarteHanks and share your experience with us.

How Pharmaceutical CRMs Can Lead to Healthier Relationships

Boosting physician and patient engagement

pharma CRM postCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) software offers a great deal of potential for the pharmaceutical industry. However, this is a complex sector, riddled with regulations surrounding sensitive data. It is not easy to find a solution that fits business needs while complying with relevant laws. This is especially true at an international level when different rules need to be observed for different countries.

Purchasing a standard CRM solution and trying to adapt it to various business and regulatory requirements is time consuming and difficult. Inevitably it involves compromise and hidden expense.

Instead, many pharmaceutical companies could benefit from international CRM programs that are purpose-built from the ground up by a marketing services provider.

Bespoke CRM for pharmaceuticals

A truly customized approach uses business goals as a starting point and builds a CRM framework around them. This ensures variations across different countries can be accounted for and embraced at an early stage, rather than being bolted on later. The result is a highly specified solution intrinsically optimized to meet business needs. It can have built-in scalability and the flexibility to handle international differences in data laws or standard practice, such as call centre versus nurse-led activity.

Ultimately, custom-built CRM offers better value and efficiency. Adapting existing systems is expensive, license fees can be high and product release cycles can delay the implementation of certain functionalities.

Using an MSP to build, manage and implement the solution brings multiple advantages. Since all aspects – from database management to phone calls, emails and SMS to direct mail – are handled by one organization, the program is more cohesive and affordable. What’s more, sensitive data is all held securely in one place.

Physician and patient communications

The best pharmaceutical CRM programs empower physicians and patients to make better, more informed choices – whether they’re prescribing treatment or following it.

Meeting physicians in person is becoming increasingly difficult for pharmaceutical companies. Physicians are often under pressure to see a certain number of patients per day, leaving limited time for meeting with third parties. Some countries also have complex regulations surrounding personal interaction between pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals. In many cases, direct marketing can play an effective role alongside or in place of face-to-face meetings. It enables physicians to keep abreast of the latest developments in treatments and processes such as pharmaceutical-led patient support.

Patient-focused activity varies depending on the nature of the patient’s condition, where they are in the treatment cycle, the level of data available and nuances of their country of residence. Naturally, when more is known about a patient, activity can be better tailored to their current needs and communications become more meaningful.

A central aim of pharmaceutical CRM should be fostering good relationships between patients and physicians. This means acknowledging the authority of the physician in prescribing drugs, while enabling patients to get more out of their appointments and the overall treatment. Ideally communications should operate progressively, supporting patients as they move from the initial awareness that they may have a certain condition, to actively acknowledging it, then learning to live with it. The latter stage is vital to boost adherence to treatment regimen and enhance overall patient outcomes.

Overcoming challenges

There are many challenges facing the marketing of pharmaceuticals today. However, deeper engagement rooted in custom-built CRM can help navigate many of them.

Direct alignment of patient and physician communications is complex from a data perspective, but with care and attention it can usually be achieved. Bespoke CRM programs can incorporate specific opt-in language to overcome many of the barriers surrounding sensitive data. This ensures that patients who are happy to share their data can access the wider support that is on offer should they need it.

Achieving buy-in from physicians and patients is not easy – nor should it be. Pharmaceutical organizations need to earn trust and loyalty over time. Striving for better, deeper engagement is a critical factor. An effective way to realize this in the short- to medium-term is through the empowerment of patients and physicians, arming them with knowledge and information so they can make informed choices. In the longer term, improved patient outcomes will speak for themselves.


Harte Hanks handles CRM programs for leading global pharmaceutical companies. Patient data is handled sensitively and an integrated approach ensures improved patient support and outcomes. Natalia Gallur has more than ten years’ experience in the sector.


Smarter Demand Gen Awakens

Convergence of Tech and People Will Amplify Demand Generation in 2016

UnknownThe B2B demand-marketing ecosystem continues to evolve at a rapid pace. It’s driven by emerging technologies, tactics and buyer behaviors, alongside other well-established factors that continue to shape the discipline.

Industry influencers and analysts such as SiriusDecisions and Forrester identified a raft of demand generation trends and requirements in 2015. These range from better use of analytics as a foundation for demand planning to buyer journey alignment and operationalizing personas.

The notion of operationalizing personas involves integrating persona intelligence into demand generation efforts. At a fundamental level, it involves dynamic delivery of persona-based content, messaging and offers across email, landing pages and websites. It was first mooted by SiriusDecisions in 2014, but began to take hold last year. During 2016 it will occupy a more central role as we enter the next stage of the journey: smarter demand generation.

Why do we need Smarter Demand Generation?

Many B2B organizations find their demand generation efforts are characterized by small pipelines, missed targets and failure to respond to the needs of today’s buyers. It’s not surprising when you consider the seismic shift in buyer behavior over the past few years.

B2B sales and marketing is becoming increasingly complex and far less linear in its nature. There are multiple influencers, decision makers and stakeholders. There are multiple online and offline marketing channels. And there are multiple interactions and conversations taking place.

In this fractured, multifaceted landscape we need to find a path to more effective, joined-up demand generation. We need an approach that embraces the complex realities of the B2B sector today and handles them with ease. Smarter demand generation is the answer.

What does it mean?

A central feature of smarter demand generation is the convergence of people and technology. This is true throughout the process. Human insight and expertise facilitates the creation and operationalization of personas. It also shapes the development and substance of programs that are augmented and delivered via sophisticated technologies. Finally, individuals at the receiving end of smarter demand generation are served with optimized, highly personalized communications. Content is relevant to their current and future professional needs and it is delivered at an opportune time via the most appropriate platform. The upshot is finely tuned buyer engagement and a more robust pipeline.

This might sound a world away from traditional demand generation. And it’s true that it requires a deeply analytical and intelligent approach expertly integrated with technical capabilities. But every journey begins with a single step. Marketers who set their sights on smarter demand generation can quickly realize benefits at a micro level that can later be replicated at a larger scale.

Exploring smarter demand generation with one segment of your target audience can be a good place to start. Integrating data, technology, people and tactics for the first time isn’t easy – but it is more manageable and achievable at a smaller scale. Ring-fence a project that leverages insight to improve targeting, messaging and optimization. Then closely monitor the results to track the impact on the sales pipeline. Spotlighting the effectiveness of smarter demand generation in this way, and sharing it at a Board level, can create an appetite for more. It might help secure investment in the technologies and skills required for a wider rollout.

The B2B sector has strived for precision marketing for decades. With the awakening of smarter demand generation, it is finally within reach.


Alex Gill explores this theme in a B2B Marketing webinar on 27 January: How to align your marketing for smarter demand generation and stronger ROI. Book your seat here.

Four Simple Ways to Amplify Your Customer Support with Social Media

Social Media-BlogSocial media is quickly becoming a critical factor in augmenting and enhancing your customer support strategy. Last week, I participated in an industry roundtable hosted by CRM Magazine on the subject. When businesses think of social media, it’s often in terms of marketing or public relations. And while social media is a great tool to help extend both, its impact goes beyond promoting and marketing your company. Increasingly, social media has become a powerful contributor to customer service and support. Customers are now powerful influencers. They take to social media to talk about brands and products – positively and negatively – in an attempt to influence their peers and the brands they buy from. So how do you influence the influencers, and utilize social media to enhance your customer service?

  1. Start by listening.

The first step in extending your customer support system through social media is to listen – and learn. Start by scanning social media channels for complaints, compliments and questions about your brand. Find out who is talking about your brand (customers, prospects, competitors?) and what they’re saying. You can learn a lot about customer pain points and perceptions that you might not learn through your contact center customer support. You will quickly identify areas of opportunity and then you can build a cohesive strategy, start to engage with your customers and prospects – and begin to influence the conversation around your brand.

  1. Set the rules of engagement.

Social media can be a bit like the Wild West – an unpredictable place where anything goes. As such, it is important for brands to devise a set of rules and operational goals. Who will be authorized to speak for your company on social media? How will they go about engaging customers? At what point should a public conversation be moved to a private conversation? Will you have a proactive presence as well as a reactive one? How will your social presence support your brand promise?

A defined social strategy is paramount. Social media is a free-flowing, casual platform that requires 24/7 resources. A single poor choice of words or an ill-timed post can damage your brand. As an example: If a consumer posts a message that your product injured them and you respond by apologizing, you may have implied guilt without knowing any of the facts. Your rules of engagement will ensure that your social customer support benefits both your brand and your customers.

  1. Ready, set, engage.

Your strategy is set, and you’re ready to go. Now it’s time to engage. Find someone who is talking about your brand and start a conversation through authentic engagement. It’s not unusual to find that customers are already reaching out to you using social channels. Whether it’s thanking someone who complimented your brand – or engaging with someone who is seeking assistance with your product or service – a simple conversation can go a long way in changing the perception of your brand. And you just might learn something you hadn’t previously considered. More often than not, the audience you engage via social media will be completely different from those who contact your customer service center. They may have a similar issue or topic, but they are approaching you from a position of influence. Consider it an opportunity to become an invited contributor into a public conversation. When handled correctly, social customer engagements can turn antagonists into fans who will spread the gospel of your brand.

  1. Inject helpful content.

Social customer support should be as proactive as it is reactive. Helpful content – like “how to” guides or useful tips about your product – will help you engage with your customers after the sale, positioning your brand as one that is consistently connected with and cares about its customers. When injecting marketing content into your social presence, be careful not to push hard sales messaging. Imagine social media platforms as a conversational dinner party. It is OK to talk positively about your brand, but hard sell tactics go against what is considered to be a good “social citizen.” Social media audiences can spot a pitch from a mile away and nothing will turn your community away faster.

The Harte Hanks contact center teams and agents utilize these techniques to manage social commentary and customer support for many of their clients. If you would like to dive deeper into how social can enhance your customer support, you can view our roundtable discussion on Destination CRM here.

Hello Reality, Let’s Go Virtual


As marketers, digital savvies and media gurus, whenever virtual reality (VR) comes into conversation, it’s safe to say we can’t help but drop a bold reference to Minority Report, The Matrix or Back to the Future. These pop-culture films made technologies of the future sexy; or at least provided recognizable uses for them.

But what was once only a dream for the future, has become a reality for many of these technologies: gesture-based technology, video calling, social networking and mobile payments were all fantasy in Back to the Future but are now part of everyday life. And the latest to hit the headlines as 2015 draws to a close? Virtual reality.

Samsung Gear VR

Global mobile provider Samsung launched the Gear VR Innovator Edition last year to great success, which can largely be attributed to the fact it ran off the firm’s flagship Galaxy smartphones rather than housing its own built-in power unit. This design had two fundamental impacts on the market:

  1. With power driven by the Galaxy smartphone, the Samsung headset was significantly cheaper to produce. Its price was therefore significantly lower than rivals, who were building processing power directly into their headsets.
  2. Content could now be distributed through existing app platforms already established in the market.

And it’s the second point that makes the Samsung approach a success for today’s consumer. One of the smartphone’s earliest accolades came in Apple’s advent of the App Store which radically changed our notion of smartphones’ capabilities overnight. “Nothing like the App Store existed before, and it has fundamentally changed the world,” said CEO Tim Cook.

If we look at the evolution of media consumption over the years, we’re certainly in the smart era: smartphones, smart wearables, smart televisions – all have revolutionized the way we interact with content. And arguably fundamental to each of these technologies, are the content platforms they operate from.

It comes as no surprise therefore, that the launch of the latest Samsung Gear VR has been surrounded by a number of further content platforms springing up. Samsung’s own Milk VR store is just one of several platforms available at its launch; the popular video streaming service Hulu being the latest to join the likes of Netflix and Twitch on the Android platform.

In addition to content stores, one of the most exciting areas surrounding the launch has been the new optimized VR web browser, unique to the Gear VR. With 360-degree content, providers are now able to upload their content to Google’s YouTube and play live in Facebook’s newsfeed. Samsung’s latest move has further strengthened the Gear VR’s ecosystem, and positioned the firm as a pioneer in the mobile VR industry.

Virtual Reality 2016 and Beyond

2016 will see a number of brands launch their own VR products to rival Samsung Gear VR. But what Samsung has shown yet again, is their ability to build on what they’re good at; taking their flagship Galaxy smartphone series and expanding the universe in which they operate. To quote their latest video advertisement,  “Your Galaxy truly got bigger.” The technical evolution of these smartphones will continue, shifting to content creation, developing experiences that truly push the boundaries from the ordinary, to the out of this world.

What does virtual reality success hinge on for 2016? There are three key areas brands should focus on when pursuing the new realms of virtual reality:

  1. Pure simplicity

When everything is boiled down, consumers still want a product that simply (a) looks great, and (b) behaves as it should. Comfort, design, and quality of the physical device all factor, and their importance should not be underestimated.

  1. Compelling, personal and shareable content

As we discussed earlier, VR content itself must hit the mark. Users require quick and easy access to discover, view and share content with others. Content creators need to offer experiences that aren’t purely an extension of their smartphone or film experience. They need to provide access to truly revolutionary and immersive experiences that consumers have yet to witness anywhere else.

  1. Collaboration

What both Samsung and Oculus have done well is to open the VR window to a whole realm of content providers, making the technology openly available to those outside of their own respective worlds. Even Apple, probably the most notoriously introverted firms around, had to open their App Store to developers outside of their company in order to realize success; and the same applies to VR.

There is no question, this is an exciting time with the evolution of mobile and virtual reality. Evolving virtual applications open up new doors for content and present limitless ways to engage consumers in new ways. Hello, the future is here and it’s sure to be an exciting ride.

Watch the latest Samsung Gear VR launch video, produced by Harte Hanks, with content from Imangi Studio’s Temple Run, CPP Games’ Gunjack, Ustwo’s Land’s End, Aldin Dynamics’ Twisted Realms, Felix & Paul Studio’s Jurassic World, Samsung Australia’s Shark Diving in the Dessert, the New York Times Magazine’s Walking in New York by Vrse, and Mountain Dew’s Dew 360 Snow Experience.

Technology Is Not a Substitute for Creativity


Marketing has always been a blend of art and science. But the rise of marketing technology has tilted the scales heavily towards the science end of the equation. This is not necessarily a bad thing – the digital revolution has armed marketers with information and techniques that drive more accurate, cost-effective campaigns. Essentially, technology has eliminated a good portion of the “guesswork” traditionally associated with marketing. Again, this is a wonderful development for marketers. Technology allows us to personalize our approach to better connect with audiences and do a better job of meeting their needs and desires. But too much technology can have negative effects – namely, the erosion of creativity.

Marketing automation programs are rapidly becoming “cookie cutter” strategies that rely too heavily on the medium of delivery. The “three emails and a landing page” approach can (and often does) work, but as marketing automation becomes more and more prominent, the impact of a “basic” campaign will quickly dissipate. The deluge of analytics available to the modern marketer is a veritable treasure trove of information. But too often, marketers are held hostage by data points, finding themselves afraid to venture outside of the established thinking.

Going forward, brand marketers must rely more on intuition and creativity to avoid becoming just another source of noise in the market. And brands must embrace creativity and avoid the “safe” approach of standardized campaigns. Great ideas have always been the bedrock of great marketing campaigns. Technology will never change that fact. Technology – if developed and implemented correctly – can help marketers amplify creative approaches. Real-time response measurement can quickly let marketers know what’s working and what’s not, allowing them to adjust and mold ideas into messages that get results – and prove beyond a doubt what consumers want to see, hear and, ultimately, buy from brands.

Marketing technology allows brands to paint a clearer picture of their audiences and develop a deeper understanding of their desires, needs and behaviors. Rather than playing it safe, marketers should harness this information to help them develop great ideas that make a lasting impact on audiences.

As we approach the New Year, my advice to marketers for 2016 is: be bold, lean on your intuition, and create smarter, more personal customer interactions.

The Hottest Three Letter Acronym for 2016: D-M-P


Marketers are overwhelmed with tools and channels, and most of these – OMG! – have a three-letter acronym (TLA) that we use to theoretically make it easier for us to discuss them (and of course, to make us feel like we are in the know!). DSP, SEM, PMD, PLA, SEO, FPD, LOL, CRM, FAN, GDN . . . the list goes on and on. BTW, “LOL” on the previous list refers to “laugh out loud,” ICYM!

IMO, the hot TLA for 2016 will be DMP – data management platform. FYI, a DMP is a data warehouse that “can be used to house and manage any form of information, but for marketers, they’re most often used to manage cookie IDs and to generate audience segments, which are subsequently used to target specific users with online ads.”

For example, let’s say that you have a CRM full of FPD (first-party data) about your customers. You can upload this data to a DMP, enhance the data with third-party behavioral targeting, and then generate audience profiles that you can use to create more targeted and effective ads across your social, search, and display channels. Compared to your competitors without a DMP, your marketing campaigns should resonate better with consumers. Information asymmetry leads to better ROI, so marketers who don’t have a DMP have more to fear than just the FOMO – they may actually be at a significant disadvantage.

All of this assumes, of course, that marketers who invest in a DMP will install it correctly and use it correctly. As anyone who has seen an amazing pitch of marketing technology knows, the product never seems to work quite as well as it does in the canned demo! Setting up a DMP properly is fraught with potential pitfalls, from not properly importing data to incorrect data interpretation. So simply having a DMP is not enough – having the right pilots of data collection and analysis is vital. Given that this is a corporate blog, now would be a good time for me to promote Harte Hanks’ DMP/service solution, which we call Total Customer Discovery.

The future of marketing is always murky, so the centrality of the DMP is still TBD. That said, theoretically DMPs make a lot of sense, and it seems likely that it will be an important component of all online marketing strategies going forward. TTYL!

Harte Hanks Announces Data Refinery to Harness Customer Data and Drive Marketing Results

Data Refinery ProcessMarketers are increasingly looking for innovative ways to get to know their customers better, and to get the most out of the campaigns they create every day. The best way to learn more about your customers is by leveraging data. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. With a plethora of channels at your customers’ disposal, both online and offline, and the growing number of devices that people use, it is difficult to harness all of that data – especially when you’re mining it from multiple sources. Utilizing big data also requires the complexities of hiring a staff to manage data, ensuring best-in-class quality and governance procedures and working with constrained budgets across siloed departments. This is no easy feat.

How do we overcome these challenges together? The answer lies in gathering and storing the most current data on your customers through a data refinery. Data refinery is a scalable platform that allows for on-demand access to compiled customer views that can be accessed by all departments within your organization. The compiled views should be nimble, customizable and rich with proprietary and third-party data sources so they effectively serve the ever-changing marketing demands placed on the various teams that need access, and as a result, empower marketers to know more and communicate better to their customers.

So how does it work?
At the heart of a good data refinery platform is the aggregation of large amounts of various data types from multiple sources and channels, both traditional and digital. A data refinery platform starts with an ideal customer profile that defines data attributes needed to deliver results. This ideal customer profile serves as your “map,” guiding data profiling and sourcing to bring together and enhance owned data with third-party data. The data refinery then cleanses, validates and standardizes the customer profile for output to any downstream marketing or sales application.

Today we are excited to announce that Harte Hanks is launching its very own Data RefinerySM solution. With our solution, access to pre-vetted data sources by vertical and marketing objective are utilized – think of this as an app store for data – reducing the time to value. Selecting data based on reliability and performance metrics optimizes data usage and spending, ensuring campaigns don’t become stagnant. To learn more about Harte Hanks’ Data Refinery click here.

A brand’s success will continue to be dependent on technology, innovation and the ability to connect with the customer in a highly relevant way. A data refinery platform is needed to bring data together and make it foundational to all your marketing and sales efforts.

Next week we’ll review what data sources are available and how best to manage them using the latest open source technologies. In the meantime, start thinking about what you could do if all your data could be harnessed, treated as a single source of the truth and accessed by anyone on demand. The possibilities are almost endless, aren’t they?

Delivering data from all different sources and augmenting it to form purpose-built customer profiles allow you to understand your customers. This insight is powerful and allows you to acquire new customers, reduce churn within your existing customer base, increase repeat purchases and increase customer satisfaction.

A Data Refinery Platform Helps You:

  1. Better understand existing customer base
  2. Create models and segmentation to find better prospects at scale
  3. Understand existing customer behavior, avoid attrition and encourage growth

The Campaign is Dead, Long Live the Campaign


The evolution of the customer journey from vendor-led to the modern, customer-empowered experience has all but killed the idea of a “campaign.” Marketing to today’s consumer is not a short-term affair – it requires a sustained effort that provides the consumer with relevant and useful information at the right time and place. This “long” approach has seemingly ended the usefulness of the traditional campaign, with the thought being that the modern consumer is acutely aware of when they are being marketed to and are turned off by campaigns. While this is partially true – consumers are more aware – the rumors of the campaign’s death are unsubstantiated.

Traditional Campaigns

When we think of the word “campaign” in the traditional sense, we think of short-term, targeted efforts and messaging designed to spur action, like voting for a political candidate or driving consumers to a holiday sale event. In the past, these campaigns were singular efforts, and while not completely disconnected from the brand, existed largely outside of the overall brand message. In essence, the customer journey was brief. Those customers targeted by the campaign were targeted specifically for the campaign, but not necessarily for an ongoing relationship.

It’s All About Semantics

The massive customer journey sea change in the digital age has painted the campaign in a negative light. But the rumors of the campaign’s demise are greatly exaggerated. The campaign is alive and well – if viewed as a tactic rather than a strategy. After all, “campaign” is just a word. Campaigns – no matter what you call them – do have a place in the modern customer journey. But they must be seamlessly integrated into a larger, more macro approach to customer engagement.

The Tactical Approach

To successfully promote your brand and its products or services, simply marketing to consumers is not enough. You must build relationships and build trust. Today’s consumer knows a pitch when they see it and tends to be turned off when approached with a purely sales-driven message, especially as an initial communication. Consumers are, however, receptive to individual campaigns within the larger context of an existing relationship with your brand. Those consumers who already have a level of engagement with your brand – particularly those who have shown increased interest by opting in to your communications – are likely to embrace a campaign for your product or service, or at the very least consider the message.

Consumer engagement communications should never be stagnant – simply promoting the same thing in perpetuity will eventually lead to message fatigue and a loss of interest in your brand. Injecting timely, targeted campaigns into your customer communications can breathe life into your customer engagement and drive revenue for your brand.

Marketing Technology: Where’s My ROI?


The modern customer journey is consumer driven and often fractured. Unlike the linear, vendor-led customer journeys of the past, the buyer is now in full control. With endless options – and a bevvy of information about each product or service readily available for consumers – marketers must devise new ways to attract customers and secure brand awareness and loyalty. A slew of new marketing technology, including CRM, marketing automation and inbound marketing platforms, have risen up to solve the new customer journey riddle. But despite the effectiveness of these platforms, too many B2B companies are reporting negative ROI for marketing technology investments. There are a number of reasons why.

Failure to Launch

The B2B sales cycle is a complex process. Unlike B2C products, there is no such thing as an “impulse purchase.” Buyers typically spend weeks, months and sometimes even years researching and deliberating before deciding on a purchase – particularly where big-ticket items are concerned. Marketing technology can help significantly simplify this process, but it isn’t a magic bullet. Marketing platforms aren’t plug and play; they are a set of interconnected tools for marketers to utilize as part of an overall strategy. Too often, B2B companies purchase marketing technology, but fail to allocate the resources necessary to realize their benefits. Marketing systems are a great delivery system, but engaging and strategic content that guides prospects along the customer journey must be created first. You can buy a car, but if you don’t fill it with gas and get behind the wheel, it isn’t going to move.

Scratching the Surface

Most of the marketing technology platforms available today come equipped with an array of features that justify their cost – intelligent analytics, A/B testing, easy integration, etc. Companies who fail to realize ROI on these products are often utilizing only a fraction of the features available to them. These features can significantly enhance the power of the platform and should be utilized whenever possible.

Stove Piping

With so many different types of technology available, B2B companies often have more than one system for sales and marketing. Failure to integrate these systems – particularly marketing automation platforms and CRM software – creates a confusing environment where systems are not communicating with each other and often duplicating efforts. In order to get the most out of marketing software and a favorable ROI, marketing platforms and CRM software should always be integrated.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Too many B2B companies dive head first into marketing technology – purchasing platforms without a full understanding of the system or a plan to implement it. B2B marketers often find themselves tasked with becoming technology experts trying to implement and integrate systems they know little, if anything, about. Additionally, systems are often purchased before a strategy has been developed to utilize them.

Boost Your ROI

To fully realize the benefits of marketing technology platforms, B2B marketers must view these platforms as an important tool, but as only part of the process. Creative campaigns, strategic plans and actual customer conversations are all an integral part of the modern customer journey as well. Before purchasing a new marketing technology platform, B2B companies should perform due diligence on the products they wish to purchase and have a plan in place on how they will be utilized.

And if you need help boosting the ROI of your marketing investment, Harte Hanks has extensive experience integrating marketing technology with marketing strategy. We’re here to help!

The Revolution Will Be Televised


Smart B2B brands have been learning from their B2C cousins about wrapping messages up in a more appealing way for years. Some B2B players have a clear vision of the role video needs to play and how to make the viewer experience both enjoyable and meaningful. Plaudits where they’re due!

However, some B2B companies have been slow to adopt video to attract customers or communicate effectively – due largely to inexperience and a failure to understand the financial and creative commitments necessary to produce video content that gets results. Whether it’s a B2C or B2B audience, humans typically respond better to – and retain more information from – video content. We’ve been hard-wired to respond to moving pictures and alluring sounds since we were all tiny humans. All B2B marketers must learn to adapt and create visual content in order to survive.

Learn From The Pros

There’s a good reason B2C companies are adept at visual content – they’ve been doing it since the 1940s. (The first paid television advertisement, for Bulova watches, was broadcast during a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1941). Since those halcyon days, the medium has expanded, changed, moved and expanded again. While few companies have the marketing budget to run a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl (estimated cost: $4.5 million), the barrier to entry for visual advertising is nearly non-existent. Anyone with a YouTube account and a smartphone can shoot and upload a video. But with expanded access comes immense competition. Simply uploading a video won’t move the needle on customer engagement. B2C marketers know this and dedicate the necessary resources for strategy, creative services and production to create engaging and entertaining video content. The rest of the B2B marketers must follow suit or run the risk of creating dull content that drives away viewers.

Plan For Success 

Before jumping into the video content world, B2B marketers must first devise a strategy. What is the goal of the video? How will it be implemented? For the most part, video content is not a “one-off” product, but a tactic to be implemented along the customer journey as the part of an overall strategy. The content and the style of the video should be determined by its place in the customer journey – top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, etc. Before creating content marketers must determine where and how the video will be best utilized.

Entertain and Engage

Perhaps the biggest mistake some B2B marketers make when creating video is the tendency to focus intently on product details. Minute product details are great for a buyer at the very end of the customer journey, but for most audiences these types of videos end up feeling like an excruciating PowerPoint presentation. Effective video entertains, engages and ultimately, wins loyalty. Dollar Shave Club – a three-year-old company now worth $615 million – launched its success with an irreverent and incredibly entertaining video that quickly went viral, garnering 19 million views. The 90-second video didn’t mention any details about the product itself (aside from calling its razors “f***ing great”), but it achieved its goal – it introduced a new brand to a vast audience, won their affection by entertaining them, and asked them to consider the company’s product without bogging the audience down with details. B2B marketers must find ways to deliver messages implicitly rather than directly, and wrap these messages inside attractive packaging.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

One of the many benefits of marketing automation and content delivery platforms is the ability to evaluate and adjust content based on metrics. These systems give marketers at 360-degree view into content performance – which videos were opened, how long they were viewed and whether or not users clicked to learn more. By paying close attention to metrics, marketers can continually alter content to deliver more engaging and effective communications.

The Recipe

Creating engaging video content requires a thoughtful strategy, an investment in production quality and a hefty dose of creativity. Without all three, your videos may end up DOA!


YouTube – the world’s second largest search engine – has over one billion users. The site reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network. The number of companies running ads on YouTube increases 40 percent from year to year. The site has become the most important advertising platform in America and beyond.

Back to the Future: Predictive Analytics


What if you knew what your customers wanted, when they wanted it? With predictive marketing analytics, gazing into the future is entirely possible. While predictive analytics is not a new concept – marketers have often tried to use past performance to predict future behavior – the dawn of the information age has amplified its effectiveness and usability. Predictive analytics allow marketers to focus efforts and maximize their budgets by identifying targets who are ready to buy and by eliminating those who aren’t.

Big Data

 To accurately predict consumer behavior, you need more than focus groups and surveys. The era of Big Data has armed marketers with a deluge of information on consumers – including engagement with marketing automation platforms and “intent” data from across the web. The technology to crunch this data and make sense of it is rapidly evolving, providing marketers with a roadmap to reach the right audience at the right time.

Data in Action

The Big Data era has produced an incredible amount of information about habits, desires and tendencies of consumers. Marketers who follow these digital footprints can optimize their marketing efforts to target individual audience segments and personalize messages to speak directly to potential customers. Predictive analytics can help create incredibly specific buyer personas – marketers no longer need to rely on broad demographic data and guestimates of what a particular buyer prefers. Enhanced buyer personas lay the groundwork for highly personalized messaging for nurture campaigns, which multiple studies show leads to significant increases in conversion and revenue. Predictive analytics also provide the benefit of targeted spending. Knowing what audiences to target and which platforms to target them through significantly increases the impact of marketing budgets.

B2B Adoption

B2B marketers have lagged behind their B2C counterparts in the adoption of marketing technology ­­– predictive analytics included. And while it’s true that personalized data from individual consumers offer a more clear view into purchasing habits and tendencies, plenty of data exists for B2B customers that can be utilized to implement more intelligent marketing tactics. Purchase history, for instance, is a great predictor of current and future behavior. If a customer has recently purchased a software system that won’t need an upgrade for three years, targeting that customer with marketing messages is not only inefficient, but could negatively affect that customers’ perception of your brand. Existing software licenses, log-in frequency, help desk calls and firmographics can also help B2B companies predict the need and desire for their products. Normally this kind of data will predict the type of customers that buy your products. Add social data sources to the mix, and you can predict customers that are ready to buy.


Depending on the level of sophistication and budget resources, B2B marketers can deploy analyst-led solutions or automated “black box” solutions to perform predictive analytics. For larger, more comprehensive data operations, an analyst-led approach is preferred. Computers are wonderful, but a human touch – specifically when there are oddities in the data – can more accurately utilize the information output to design programs and messaging that take into account both the customer and the nuances of the company. However, there are various automated solutions that are more than sufficient for less sophisticated marketing automation programs. Both approaches have their own merit, but one thing is clear: predictive analytics allow businesses to focus on what’s important and discard what’s not, leading to amplified revenue growth – and happy customers.


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