If you don’t have at least two years worth of data,” says Alex Kota, vice president of advertising for Troy, MI-based Kmart, “then you are already behind. The future isn’t ahead, it has already happened.” I’ll bet those words bring a nice chill to your business spine. But most promotion executives think one thing when they hear “data”: Money!
More money to spend for this seemingly intangible item that, at times, defies your ability to control it. More scanner data, more demographic data, and even more metadata (that’s data about data).
But you’ve got to have it. For co-marketing to systematically prove itself, you need to know what is working. And you need to know it by program, and in the context of each retailer. You can execute, you can plan that execution, but to close the loop you have to analyze and then build a firm knowledge base about what works and why. The thing that feeds this beast of a process is data.
Now here’s a hint on where to find more data, real data, data that will provide new insight into your promotional activity. Ready? Make it yourself!
Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold. You can do the same. Look at everything you do in promotion and start to transform it into data. Vast strongholds of information are frozen in paper and activity.
“The irony of the paperless office,” says Apopka, FL-based industry consultant Mark Harran, “is that we are more inundated with paper than ever.” But that can also be the opportunity.
“Tons of data are trapped in paper,” says Michael Sigel, chief runner for Retail Runner, a San Francisco-based call-reporting firm. “And all of it just piles up wasted. Salespeople keep paper in a file, and when that gets too big they put it in a box, and when that gets too heavy they put the box in the garage.”
One challenge you have as a marketer is to convert that promotion activity into data. You might already get nice tidy reports from your service suppliers, but think harder about the activities they execute for you. Find the hidden data.
You hire someone who hires someone else to go into a supermarket for you next Saturday. They hand out 300 coupons, give away 300 samples, and check your facings and your competitor’s price. That’s activity. That’s the raw material for data. Number of coupons and samples, cost per sampling day – convert it into data.
If you are wondering about the true power of this premise, look at one of the fundamental elements of marketing intelligence – scanner data. What is scanner data, really, but the elegant conversion of activity? Someone buys a can, a bottle, or a box in a store. That’s a transaction. Each one turned electronic, tagged with a UPC, scanned by lasers, tabulated, cleaned, and converted. Billions of everyday, independent activities transformed into data. If you want to get scared, think about what your life would be like without scanner data. You’d be in the dark.
Coupon mining Take a step back and look over all the activity you have going on for your brand: network TV, co-op TV, radio, couponing, direct mail, sampling, in-store media, and merchandising. It’s all data; you just need to think of it that way.
You’d be surprised by the number of retailers that don’t. Wal-Mart, the master of store-level accuracy, sends POS data to 7,000 vendors through its Retail Link system. It’s weekly movement data to challenge vendors to work harder and quicker. But coupon redemptions are left out of the equation. And not just at Wal-Mart; it’s pretty much standard industry practice. Where’s the disconnect?
Forget the clearing aspect of couponing for a minute. That industry may be too focused on store-level clearing. Sure, clearing is important, and validation is critical, but you’ll find new understanding if you get at the data.
“Coupon promotion managers have been on the leading edge of usable, interactive electronic data for a decade and didn’t even know it.” says Charles Brown, vice president, analytical information services at Lincolnshire, IL-based NCH NuWorld Marketing Limited.
Store-level coupon scanning exists, yet these huge knowledge reserves go virtually unexplored. When is someone going to start drilling? Whoever does it is going to strike a gusher.
Make new requirements of your service suppliers, your staff, and your agencies. Call them in and ask them to show you the data! Then you can begin the trip that leads from data to information toward knowledge and eventually wisdom.
Finally, put an end to paper in promotional execution. “The problem with paper,” my colleague Marianne Frasco at Trade Dimensions likes to point out, “is that paper burns.”