Ed-Ramsey-Edit-e1471883127906This is a guest post by Edward Ramsey, Vice President, Marketing Data & Tech Strategy, Valassis

Most of us can agree that reaching and engaging the right consumers with relevant messages is important in advertising. And that data – of any kind – is crucial to include. While some advertisers are already well down the path of intensive customer and database segmentation, others are just beginning to apply data and trying to use it to plan their media campaigns more effectively. Regardless of where you are on your data journey, below are a few tips that serve as good reminders for us all.

Go Beyond the Data Basics

Adults 25-54. Homeowners. Number of households in a designated area. As a starting point, these descriptors will begin to define the potential universe around a store or for a particular service. But what do they really tell you? Do they reveal consumer lifestyle or life stage? Buying propensity? Focusing too much on the numbers without truly understanding the nuances can be a recipe for failure.

Imagine you have just opened a cafe by a busy intersection, and were told that 10,000 cars travel past it each day. However, foot traffic and sales are lackluster at best. Although you may know the potential number of consumers who could walk through your door daily, do you really know your customer potential to forecast your revenue numbers? Are they traveling to work, for errands, or dropping off kids at school when they pass your café? Do commuter patterns and suburban sprawl impact how and where you make them aware of your location? Do these consumers have a propensity toward organic, whole bean, fair trade coffee? And what about the competitors right around the corner – are consumers frequenting their locations and just how much share are they capturing of the total market?

You get the idea. Not digging deeper into consumers’ lifestyles and behaviors is like using a thick, broad stroke when really a fine point is needed. Yes, there may be times when you just need to get your message out to as many people as possible, but don’t let that be the default for every campaign. Understanding the finer nuances not only helps you tailor your offerings to your potential customer base, it helps you adapt where, how and when you message them.

Transactional and Sales Data as a Starting Point

Your own customer information is the king of data sets – it can reveal where your shoppers live, what they look like and their spending patterns. Although this data can vary by industry, it is a treasure trove of insight. And by leveraging this knowledge, you can engage and entice your customers with the right messages and offers.

We’ve all heard that it costs more to attract new customers vs. generating deeper loyalty with existing customers, but by over-focusing on current shoppers, you could be limiting your growth. There could be consumers who look just like your best customers, but perhaps they live outside your typical trade radius or are in market for what you offer (and you don’t yet know it).

Enter act-alike data. By using sales data as the foundation, you can integrate third-party data sources to find other potential customers that look – and more importantly, act – just like your best customers. Then you can leverage that profile to pinpoint where these likely customers live – physically or digitally. By extending the insights from your customer database, you can uncover untapped geographic areas and consumer segments – all who may be interested in making a purchase.

Let Data Transcend Medium and Channel

Data collected from one medium/shopping channel (i.e. online behavior via website pixels, in-store shopping via frequent shopper card transactions or consumer response to a printed coupon) should be leveraged across the entire campaign (vs. viewed in isolation). For example, if you are seeing online consumers in the market for home repair, consider adjusting your print distribution strategies based on this knowledge. If your print offers aren’t securing the response you desire, then test different savings digitally to quickly refine the message. Seeing specific shopping patterns in-store during certain days or times? Adjust your media to preempt key times and day parts to capture that consideration.

This approach extends beyond print, digital and in-store to be applicable across all media and shopping channels. Are you taking a holistic view of not only your media planning but of your data as well? What is your current process to capture insights across your entire advertising plan? As a start, identify all the media tactics used today – especially if planned across different groups – and create opportunities for cross-channel data sharing (no matter how seemingly unrelated those tactics may be). Make it a point to involve your analytics team at the beginning of an integrated media effort to ensure key performance indicators are well-defined and any learning is then incorporated (holistically) for future campaigns.

By understanding all the ways to leverage data more effectively, experts and novices alike can reap the benefits of a well-planned, holistic media campaign to fuel faster growth.