Fresh Off The Press: Lisa Arthur’s new book, Big Data Marketing: Engage Your Customers More Effectively And Drive Value paves the way to a bright, enlightened world of customer experience.

Flash back with me to late 2008-09. Ashton Kutcher is the first person on earth to reach 1 million Twitter followers, MySpace has more members than LinkedIn, Yammer is less than a year old, a company called Clearspace has just changed its name to Jive and everyone is lugging around laptops because iPads ... (iPad?)

When marketers tried to send messages to you, they usually came via email or banner ads on your computer screen -- and their relevance was no more targeted than the circulars that showed up in your physical mailbox.

Customer experience expert and author Lisa Arthur calls it “spray and pray” marketing. To the consumer it’s electronic junk mail, aka SPAM. But Arthur contends the world has changed and is about to change even more.


At an O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference in New York City an enthusiastic red head runs out onto a big stage and hails the crowd “Sawubona.” There’s a giant Twitter screen behind him. “Sawu-what-a?” someone tweets.

Apparently the person who sent the tweet -- and everyone else who doesn’t speak Zulu -- is wondering what the word means.

“Sawubona means I see you,” social media marketing maven Chris Brogan explained. It’s different than hello. It means that I recognize there’s another person present.

The “person” Brogan refers to isn’t just anyone. It’s you, wherever you are, with all your particular “likes,”  “friends,” “connections,” ”followers,” memberships, hangouts, schedules, interests and so on…

As you sit there and think about it, the world suddenly becomes a little more friendly and intimate. You tune into social media to discover that the world is populated by “people like us,” “people we’d like to meet” and “people we’d like to be like.” We can engage with or eavesdrop on most of them, openly and with their permission, whenever we want.

We are Empowered

And the world suddenly becomes full of “ordinary” guy or gal experts as well, who, for the most part, have no reason to tell us anything other than their honest opinions about where we should eat or go on vacation, what plumber we should call or how we might make the gadget we just brought home work most effectively.

Our dependence on advertising for awareness diminishes. We don’t want to fill out forms on the web so we bypass vendors. This makes it harder for them to figure out who we are. And if there’s something we need to buy, like a baby stroller, we can pre-shop on the web -- there’s no need to drive to Costco, Sears or Babies"R"Us.

Come to think of it, there might not be much of a need to even read a review. It might be planted by a marketer, after all. So we turn to our e-Communities, which have summaries of real world experiences, answers and advice before we’re done combing our hair. We can learn exactly what stroller to buy without having stroller manufacturers flood us with information and ads for days. We love our Internet friends.

I see you. Sawubona. It’s a beautiful thing.

Visionary Companies

At least this is the way it can be, if you’re a consumer or a pioneering data-driven company like Google, Facebook, eBay, Amazon or Netflix.

Those companies were born in the Internet era. You began your relationship with them in e-mode. They've been -- and still are -- collecting, processing and analyzing huge volumes of data (the more the merrier) and making predictions about you.

They use commodity hardware, so what they’re doing isn’t really that expensive. To figure out what they should pitch to you, they write algorithms like “people who buy this also need that” (say batteries for a flashlight), “people who bought this often buy that” (baby bottles or bibs) as well as social graphs (people who stay at Ritz-Calrlton hotels have friends who stay at Ritz-Carlton hotels) and interest graphs (people who like to ski Aspen and live in New York City also like champagne, or people who like to ski Aspen and live in Pittsburgh like to drink Scotch.)

They know things about you they couldn't learn from a questionnaire because the questionnaire would have to be never-ending.

Winning Over Consumers

For companies that can gain access to this kind of information, it’s a boon. Not only because merchants know what to sell you, but because they might be able to help keep you happy and engaged as well.

Let's say a VIP arrives at your hotel in Aspen and his room isn’t ready when it was promised. All you have to do is look into his file to see where he is from and invite him to sit by the fire and have a glass of your finest champagne or malt on the house. This will not only give him a pleasurable experience (and keep him from nagging you) as he waits. But he will also likely share his experience on Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, every business and every enterprise would like to use data to its advantage in this way and most of them have the information they need to do so, especially if you’re already a customer. But there’s a problem.

Too Much Information

Sometimes, they can’t find the information they need. And those who can probably can’t find it fast enough.

By the time the hotel manager contacts that VIP to pacify him, he may have e-ranted all about the experience. “Can you believe they treat their regulars this way!” He probably has also picked out the hotel where he plans to stay the next time he visits Aspen and may have sent pictures of its lobby to all of his friends on Instagram.

What does not having access to the right data cost the hotel? A loyal customer. Friends of the loyal customer. Friends of friends of the loyal customer. Too much.

Answers from Arthur’s “Big Data Marketing”

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We know the term “big data” can be a little intimidating, but having the right “coach” at your side can make it manageable. You won’t hear words like petabytes and Hadoop coming out of Arthur’s mouth. And different types of data -- enterprise, call center, social, weblogs and such don’t dominate the conversation.

“You have to look at data strategically,” she states. “How is it going to drive the top line?” The big deal isn't the data, she adds “It’s the customer experience.”

In other words, begin with the end in mind. What does the customer journey need to look like? Your goal is to create a consistent, omnichannel customer-centric journey, she writes. Data will inform that.

Unlike many of the big data-oriented books we've seen, Arthur’s book isn't deep in theory or geek-speak. You’re drawn in close with real world examples, in which you can see your customer and your customer can see you in a way that you can be helpful, offer a great experience or be of service.

The book was published Oct. 14 and made its debut at DMA2013, an annual global event for data-driven marketers. DMA2013 runs through Thursday i in Chicago.

I Can See You

Arthur cites an example from the International Speedway Corp. which manages tracks where NASCAR, motorcycle and other races are held. The same marketing messages and offers aren’t going to appeal to everyone. In fact, irrelevant pitches are annoying.

“The company caters to different communities,” Arthur explains, and one of the first things it needed to do was to get a holistic view of itself and its customers.

Data provides insight.

From there the company was able to look at micro- and nano-segmentation, to look at mobile, to ask what kind of experiences and messages should be offered to which individuals to build loyalty and drive the top line.

Data is needed to answer such questions and when used strategically it can produce big wins — like a full house on days when attendance might otherwise be low, loyalty from fans who were offered to come to a race for free (when having an extra body in the audience didn’t take anything away from ticket sales) and so on…

It’s smart business.

Arthur has laid the road map out for her readers. It begins with the customer journey and moves to the customer experiences along the way. It asks what mechanisms are required to deliver the experience, what kind of analytics and organizational strategies need to be in place and, of course, what data and what kind of worker skill sets are necessary to help deliver such pivotal insights.

Untangle That Data Hairball

Arthur states that one of the most interesting, challenging and worthwhile projects she’s seen is at the American Red Cross, whose 700 chapters market their own events in five languages. It’s an organization of about 3,500 employees and 500,000 volunteers that has offered relief efforts at more than 70,000 disasters. And as if those weren't variables enough, consider the types of stakeholders -- disaster victims, volunteers, employees, donors of blood, donors of money -- and some of these stakeholders wear more than one hat.

Since this data wasn't centralized, it was difficult to tell if the “John Smith” who gave blood is also the “John Smith” who made a financial donation, received aid or volunteered.

If thinking about all these strings of data, tangled up in whichever what way, makes your stomach turn, no worries. Arthur will put you at ease by helping you relax and laugh. “You’re dealing with a snarled, nasty, data hairball,” she said. She coaches her readers to have the courage to face it and untangle it, strand by strand.

It can happen.

The American Red Cross is certainly going for the challenge. Its goal is to gain a consolidated, powerful and breathtaking view of the organization, through which it can serve its stakeholders better.

It’s a powerful enough of a vision to face a gnarly mess.

“I can see you,” you want the Red Cross to be able to say to its community. Maybe you want the same for your enterprise, too. If so, check out the book.

Lisa Arthur is the Chief Marketing Officer of Teradata Applications. She plans to donate all profits from worldwide sales of Big Data Marketing to the American Red Cross.