Using sales and service data for better marketing

Skoda sent me an email recently. That’s no big surprise. I own two of their cars and I’m very happy about it. The email’s subject line was “Welcome to Driven”. Did that persuade me, a happy Skoda customer, to open it? Did it hell.

Your own sales data can dramatically improve your marketing.

Your own sales data can dramatically improve your marketing.

Just think about all the things Skoda knows about me:

  • They know I bought a Kodiaq SUV.
  • They know I bought the extra protection pack: mud flaps, boot liner – that sort of thing.
  • They know it’s got a tow bar.
  • They know when it was last serviced.
  • They know how many miles I’ve driven in the last year or so.
  • They know what problems I’ve had with the car (just one, by the way).
  • They know it’s powered by diesel.

That tells them a lot about my lifestyle.

And with all that information, did they put something in their email’s subject line to make me think it might be relevant to me? Obviously not. If I’d given them permission to email me (and I presume I did although I don’t remember it), you’d think they’d do better than sending me an utterly generic email newsletter. They got an entirely predictable response.

It’s embarrassing to see big companies behaving this way but it’s encouraging for normal businesses – we can be so much better. The key is to link your sales data to your marketing and/or CRM systems.

That’s a great theory but it takes some planning to put it into action.


What you should be able to do

Once your marketing and/or CRM systems know what your customers have bought, you can talk to them in four brilliant ways – and all of them help generate more sales:

  1. Tell customers how to get the best out of what they’ve bought from you. We used to call this type of email hugguty-boos, a sort of mnemonic of the initials HTGTBOO. This doesn’t lead to immediate revenue but it does strengthen the bond between you and your customer. They’ll buy from you again. Imagine how much better Skoda’s email would have been if they’d focused on off-road activities or anything that involves towing.
  2. Cross-sell other items that may be of interest. If you’ve sold them a concrete mixer, they’re into building. Do they need a wheel-barrow too?
  3. Up-sell enhancements to what they’ve already bought. If they’ve bought studio lights, do they need extra filters to add funky colours to their next shoot? You could sell warranty as an up-sell but, God, it’s dull.
  4. And as we’ve mentioned the ‘w’ word, remind customers when a warranty or other time-limited service expires. It’s dull and transactional but if you’ve got the process automated, it’s better than not doing it.

One quick word on technique: if you want to keep email open rates high, most of your emails should be the HTGTBOO, non-sales type.


Why is sales data so valuable to marketing?

This type of ‘first-party’ data (i.e. data you generated yourself) has three wonderful advantages:

  • It isn’t going to be banned by privacy laws nor is using it considered unethical. It’s the digital equivalent of a shop assistant noticing what you like.
  • It’s free.
  • It’s probably more accurate than data you get from third-party sources (i.e. data other people generated).


What sales data do you pass to marketing systems?

Start simple. Getting too ambitious too soon will crush your chances of succeeding and leave you so demoralised you’ll never return to the project (yep, that’s experience talking).

Make your first integration just product categories and sale dates. By categories, we’re talking about “SUVs”, “concrete mixers”, etc. That’s enough to tell your marketing system what sort of products were bought and when.

It’s enough information to do all four types of email. That’s a fantastic start from some pretty basic information.

Once that stage is working, you may never need to go any further. Alternatively, you may want refine your process to include:

  • Specific product names/codes as well as product categories i.e. a Skoda Kodiaq, not just an SUV.
  • Product options – if they exist – tell you a lot about your customer’s interests. A tow bar and protection pack should have told Skoda I’d be towing a horse trailer on fields. It could mean I’d be towing a caravan, I suppose, but I haven’t sunk that far yet.
  • Product quantities will give you an indication of how important you are to that customer. If they bought a wheel-barrow off you in 1974 you’ve got a long way to go before they consider you a key supplier.


How do you pass sales data to marketing systems?

Here’s the ideal situation: your accounts system is integrated with your marketing systems out of the box. But that’s pie in the sky. Sorry. Some application suites go some way towards this (Sage and Zoho, for example) but they’re the exceptions not the rule.

Most of us will be left to build the integration.

Your first port of call should be a middleware app like Zapier. It connects to a vast number of business apps, it can automate its data transfer processes and it’s reasonably priced. It’s especially good with the kind of apps normal businesses use. If you’re unlucky enough to use enterprise software like Microsoft AX or Dynamics you’ll have to put up with enterprise middleware too (yep, another painful experience).

If you can’t automate the integration using middleware you have to fall back on exporting spreadsheets from your accounts system and importing them into your marketing system. A lot of people will shy away from this. That’s understandable. It’s a rather painful process. But backing away from it robs your marketing of its most valuable source of data. Think twice before you do that.


What do you do once sales data is on your marketing systems?

Once your sales data is in your marketing or CRM system, you’re in the land of milk and honey. You have data on which to produce the four types of marcoms detailed above. Every email will be relevant to the people you send them to.

There’s one more step to make sure you exploit your sales data effectively: automation. If you rely on a human being writing or broadcasting emails every month based on new sales data, your process will fail. We all have too much to do in our regular days to add this type of task.

You need to setup automations that send relevant emails to the right audiences based on the sales data that comes from your accounts system. This isn’t as complex as you think – you just need a marketing automation system to do it. We always promote Zoho Marketing Automation but you can also use HubSpot, Salesforce Pardot and a number of other systems.


How do you bring service data into marketing systems?

The principle behind using service data in marketing is just the same as using sales data. It gives you valuable information about how your customers use your products. You know how regularly they maintain them, whether they respond to or ignore alerts, how heavily they use them, whether they’ve had trouble with them, what they struggle to understand, etc.

If fortune smiles on you, your service system is already integrated with your marketing system to some degree. This happens with Zoho, HubSpot and Salesforce to name but three.

If not, you’re back to creating the integration with Zapier or another piece of middleware to integrate your service system with your marketing system.


And finally…

In the interests of completeness, I should say that Skoda have once used data to send me an email. I got an anniversary email a year after buying the Kodiaq.


Next steps

  1. The DIY route. If you want to link your sales data to your marketing systems, you should:
    1. Categorise your products/services so you can send category data to your marketing systems rather than details of specific products or services.
    2. Create custom fields in your marketing system to hold the sales data.
    3. Create the integration between your accounts and marketing systems – sounds simple but it may be long-winded. It depends which systems you’re using.
    4. Create the marketing automations that react to your sales data, sending relevant emails to the right customers.
  2. The Assisted route. If you don’t have the time, people or system to do this yourself, well, that’s what we’re here for. Give us a call. We’re surprisingly friendly.

Remember, Forbes Baxter Associates is a marketing development agency so we develop your in-house marketing skills while we help you grow your business.