Using Data to Market Efficiently – and Effectively


Ever receive more than one of the same pieces of direct mail? You know, that generic postcard, the catalog, the plea for money? We get these duplicates every day at Overit.

Every. Day.

What about email marketing? The email you get from a retailer you like but for a product you would never buy? Or maybe it’s not the product targeting that’s wrong, but the frequency of the emails that has you hovering over the unsubscribe button.

I feel your pain.

“Itʼs not what I do, but the way I do it. Itʼs not what I say, but how I say it.”
-Mae West

Whether you call it a pet peeve, nerdy trait or an eco-conscious responsibility, this waste of unfocused marketing materials is a topic that gets under my skin.

As a business owner, these duplicate mailings make me shake my head, completely baffled that a simple and cost effective fix – paying attention to data – is ignored by so many smart companies.

As a consumer, I despise getting duplicate emails and mailers about products that, not only do I not want, but would never appeal to me as a consumer, mother, wife, daughter, human, pet lover, marketer, college graduate, foodie, Mac aficionado, shoe obsessor, music geek or however else that list has chosen to categorize me.

But luckily for my outdoor mailbox and iPhone’s inbox, not every company is spamming me with irrelevant “picks of the day” the marketers (or computers) thought I’d appreciate. Through understanding purchase histories and habits, where I’ve browsed on websites previously and other patterns, many companies are becoming quite good at taking that data and translating it to effective direct marketing plans.

Who is ahead of the curve in executing targeted marketing efforts? Here are a couple examples.

Yes, I admit, Amazon is a monster company. But they’re also in the forefront of e-commerce usability and utilizing smart data. For them, data mining with a data center is old school- the Hadoop Framework is where it’s at. Amazon has been, and continues to be, an extremely large influencer of the Web—particularly in e-commerce.

What information does Amazon look at with each user?

  1. Purchase history
  2. Product similarity
  3. Wish list
  4. Past views
  5. Audience similarity
  6. Reviews/social media/comments
  7. Predictor patterns (Histograms
  8. Cart consciousness
  9. Many more math equations.

Re-read that list above and consider how it might apply to understanding your own customers. Below are some screenshots from my Amazon account. You know whatʼs awesome? Your Amazon account will always look different than mine because you are not me (or, if they are similar, perhaps we should be shopping together!).

Design and fashion are conscious and smart industries. Piperlime is also a monster of a company, but so much of their competition is, as well, and in my experience, Piperlime stands ahead of the field with its great direct marketing efforts.

From Piperlime, I get newsletters for shoes I actually like – they know I donʼt want an email about Crocs, but studded motorcycle boots? Yeah, I’d read that.

The company asks for my preferences every time it emails me, making each subsequent e-mail more tailored to my
interests, and I received a note for $15 off on my birthday. Thanks Piperlime, for caring.

Many women have their go-to cosmetic choices, and when the bottles run empty, it’s time to order the same product again. Knowing this, Sephora shows me the products I’ve previously ordered, with the suggestion that I may want to repurchase it in a new order. The company makes recommendations based on my history, on what I may like to buy and based on my profile of brown eyes and pale skin. E-mails don’t come too frequently, just enough. The company pays attention: Even though I have two accounts, I don’t get two pieces of direct mail.

This type of marketing supplements a great and relevant blog, freebies and the points” earned for being a loyal customer that together make being a shopper at Sephora pretty darn cool. Bravo!

Those doing it wrong…

Some of them amaze me, but I won’t shout-out specific names.

PC vendor: Can you quit sending a mostly Apple shop a dozen different catalogs? We have written and called to let you know our preferences. You are wasting so much money we want to save you!
National office supplier: How much does sending us four giant catalogs every two weeks cost you? There are 35 people in our building. We order a bulk supply of pens, paper and Post-Its every two months and we’re good to go.

Almost everyone: If you have the option to direct mail or e-mail us your marketing efforts, is it really cost-effective for you to do both? Look at your contact databases and cross-reference to eliminate duplicates, saving you time and resources. If you’re going to pick one method, choose to e-mail us.

Most e-mail marketers: Take note please. There are certain messages I will never, ever, ever click on. If you email me daily, even if I like you, I will call it spam. Monitor your open rates and engagement, and rather than a daily e-mail, send the less engaged audience more comprehensive marketing materials less often. Fab recently got major media attention for unsubscribing users from emails they weren’t reading before users even asked. What do you think of that? Customers thought it was not only smart, but showed Fab to be a brand that cared more about its customers than bombarding them with messages they weren’t interested in.

In closing, here are some quick recommendations to reflect on:

  1. Collect smart data: Understand differentiators. Care who your customer is, and what makes them pick the particular products they purchase.
  2. Regularly clean and fix data: Maintenance is so important. Take a look every three months and clean out irrelevant information. You can’t market toddler clothes to a mom forever – her kids are going to grow up. Adjust your marketing to fit her evolving lifestyle, as she goes from changing diapers to coaching soccer.
  3. Analyze data: To do this, I recommend a team. Keep a close eye on data. Understand what works and what doesn’t. If people aren’t opening your e-mails, don’t immediately assume you should send more e-mails. Identify who is responsive to your marketing, and whether or not those people are your target audience.
  4. Build relevant content for your marketing to utilize: If you have useless, pointless content, you are nothing more than a spammer/junk mail producer. Change tired patterns. Be creative in your content and design if you find people are taking one glance and hitting delete (or putting it in the paper shredder). Strike the receiver’s curiosity.
  5. Learn a new word: Firmographics. Itʼs a close friend to demographic. Research what it means, and how it applies to your organization.