By Mark Roy, chief executive, The REaD Group
Would you like some good news first or bad?
Well, brace yourselves and try this bad news on for size: According to a recent QAS survey only 42 per cent of UK organisations have any form of data quality strategy.
Add to that the average consumer database degrades by 14 per cent each year (ratchet that up to 35 per cent for B2B data) according to Formscan, plus 53 per cent of consumers have received direct mail addressed to someone who no longer lives at their house, or is deceased, in the past six months.
On top of this the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising report that 66 per cent of consumers are annoyed by the amount of direct mail pouring into their letterboxes.
And finally the new Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 promise fines of up to £5,000 or two years in prison for marketers who ‘continue to make persistent and unwanted solicitations by telephone, fax, email or other remote media except in circumstances and to the extent justified to enforce a contractual obligation.’
All of which reminds me of an old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.
But before any of you contemplate bailing out of marketing into more sedate jobs such as window dressing or rock stardom, here’s some good stats to offset those above.
DM remains the most responsive advertising medium, generating £14 for every £1 spent (DMIS).
Fifty one per cent of adults still like receiving product samples (IPA).
DM campaigns that have a strong integration with other brand activity deliver response rates of 60 per cent above the norm (Royal Mail/Quadrangle);
Strong creative elements generate over twice the average level of response (Royal Mail/Quadrangle)
Retaining an existing customer costs only one-fifth to one-eighth as much as acquiring a new one – a particularly pertinent stat given that, typically, up to 65 per cent of a company’s income comes from its current client base.
I’m the first to admit, it’s a data minefield out there. And with a new EU ePrivacy Directive looming on the horizon (if the current draft is ratified next year, it will be compulsory for all companies to notify customers of data breaches), and Information Commissioner Richard Thomas’ and Wellcome Trust director Dr Mark Walport’s recent Data Sharing Report inducing needless hysteria among some (trust me – their report is not an anti-direct marketing tirade), the where, when and how of personal data collection and usage by UK companies is set to get even more complicated.
For responsible marketers, however, I don’t believe any of the above poses insurmountable obstacles. It is possible to maximise brand loyalty and ROI without falling foul of CPUT or the Data Protection Act by better managing all of your data assets.
Regularly cleaning both B2B and B2C databases of deceaseds, gone-aways (people who have moved house or job) and MPS/TPS registrants using commercially available suppression files is no longer an ‘optional extra’ but a ‘must do’ item for all data owners. The results are more up-to-date and better-targeted datasets, substantial cuts in overall direct mail volumes and considerable money saved.
With the current credit crunch biting ever-harder and consumer confidence sliding, this new ‘data mantra’ - suppress, better manage and save – will be music to the ears of even the most downturn-hardened CEO.
What’s more, with 64 per cent of EU citizens concerned about whether their data is being appropriately handled and identity fraud-related crime skyrocketing by a whopping 66 per cent so far this year, your better data practices will not go unnoticed by consumers.
And in a good way.
Speaking of mantras, I’ve been saying this a lot lately: Overall, I believe we need a fundamental change in Britain’s ‘data culture’. One that embodies a more respectful relationship with consumers by not playing fast and loose with their personal information, mailing deceased persons and/or boring prospects senseless with mismatched offers.
In this way, not only will marketers and brand managers continue to prove their worth during tough times, but we will have, as a sector, helped usher in an exciting and more equitable era in the ongoing tussle between the forces of supply and demand – to the benefit of industry, consumers and the environment alike.
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