Customer Centric Marketing: Putting customers and data science at the heart of marketing

This week we are joined not just by one but two guests. We have the fabulous Hazel Pitchers, CMO and Global Head of Marketing for various financial services brands and now founder of Merakiting, a company that helps clients solve problems and discover new opportunities. Dr Stephen Welch, data scientist and Managing Director of Realise UNLIMITED, our data and analytics arm is also joining us today. Welcome both!

We are going to be exploring data-driven marketing, becoming more customer-centric in order to thrive and what it takes for a global brand to adjust.


Becoming customer centric – why should organisations have this as their goal and why is it so important?

Hazel – you would think it was obvious, but this is not always the case. Some sectors are very customer-focused, but some aren’t. In comparison B2B companies are less good at this than B2C.

A customer-centric company is really focused on providing a really good customer experience and driving to enhance loyalty and repeat business and therefore growth. You need to make sure internal teams are focused on the customer: leadership and frontline staff that are having the day-to-day interaction with the customer.


How does the organisation become aware that it needs to be more customer-centric? How does this problem manifest itself in the organisation?

Hazel – it is sometimes recognised from people looking in from the outside. It could also manifest itself in customer satisfaction levels. For example, not one part of your customer experience is not performing particularly well but is important for customer retention. Do you ask your customers for feedback? Do you use the data you have to work out what your customers are thinking? In B2B sectors, the sales teams think they own the customer…this is definitely not the case.


Steve, what would you advise CMOs to think about when trying to become more customer-centric?

Steve – You need to generate understanding of the customer by collecting data. The start point is working out what data we have, where it exists and what it can be used for. You then align that with the business objectives and come up with steppingstones from where you are now to where you want to business change. You need to identify where the key opportunities in the business are to drive change. You need to also identify the barriers to achieving that e.g. re-training.


The data presents just some of the picture – when you are putting the roadmap together – how do you figure out what data you don’t have and how do know what order to do things in?

Hazel – from my perspective the CMO needs to know what their vision is from the get-go. I knew what I needed to achieve but didn’t know how to get there, what technologies we needed…which is where Steve came in. From objectives and B2B perspective you need to have a 360 view of your customer which helps drive growth and understand what they are interested in. You also need to gather this information to provide objective information to present to the leadership team instead of subjective hearsay.

Steve – there is no easy blueprint to follow – it depends where the comaony is and where they want tog et to. As a CMO yoy dn’t necessarily know what that solution looks like. Until you start on the jounrye and demonstrating success, new systems won’t be signed off by the leadership team. Often it is identifying the low-hanging fruit – where can you start achieving value quickly and how?

In B2B there are so many disparate systems, just getting the data in all the same place is a job in itself. How do you do that and go about getting insights out of the data you collect?

Steve – often initial conversations in IT often can lead to answers like ‘no budget’, ‘bottom of priority’ ‘it’s going to take 3 years’. Then you have a strategy you are trying to deliver with no internal support to help you start the journey. You have to be pragmatic and pull data together ourselves and then you can start to add value and change the information that was being led into sales teams.


How does embarking on the data journey help to unlock some of the buy-in?

Hazel – the value of pilots are crucial. Just using the data you have today to show how you can provide better sales qualified leads for instance, entices the leadership team to invest in the change more. With bigger firms you get more barriers towards getting to your hoal. It is quick to put together an audit of what you want to do and how are you going to get there but the getting there is really slow. You need to work out how to get this moved up the priority list.


What sort of things were you testing on your pilots and what were the most important things to learn?

Hazel – we weer looking at engagement with emails. We were trtying to map out who our customer types were, how they made decisions and what journeys they were going to take. How do we move them through the sales funnel and change their behaviour on a long-term basis? The important thing is to set KPIs, so you have easy ways to measure your performance and show them to the leadership team.


So you didn’t have an aversion to data – how did you help the teams get ready for a new way of working in terms of working with customer data?

As a marketer/sales/business role people struggle to make good KPIs and set strategy. One of the biggest things we did was educating our teams on how to set and analyse these first so everyone is working in the same language. You need to teach people how to communicate the data as well. As a marketer you love detailed data sets to do with how well an ad has gone etc but the higher leadership team is not always interested in that. They want a clear set: what’s the story? Don’t try and measure everything – you won’t know what to do with it.


There are so many possibilities of what you can do with that data – setting a clear vision, goals and building a framework are key to this, aren’t they?

Yes and making sure that everyone understands it! Build yourself a framework and make people understand why you need that data. Even if you have 50 people you don’t know what they are doing and having some form of insight into how engaged they are.

From a data science point of view, once you are there, becoming more customer-centric from a data perspective – how do you do that e.g. advanced segmentation and board value.

Once everyone is ‘speaking the same language’ in terms of data and a framework has been set up and have set goals, you can use data science to go further and actually predict how customers are going to react, you can use techniques that analyse the English language and helps you to tailor your comms for different types of people to increase engagement. Segmentation is also good. You can also measure how people interact with images to see at what point in the film they are most engaged using neuroscience techniques.


Starting from scratch – how did it go? What were some of the milestones along the way?

This sort of project is normally always ongoing. The initial process of the data audit can be done quickly – it normally takes around three to six months. What happens next is dependent on size of firm, priorities and budget. Smaller companies are more agile as there is less process and cultural change.


What is your advice to CMOs and where they should begin their journey?

Steve – starting the journey is a challenge – you know where you want to get to but don’t know where to start. When you start to go to internal IT it can be a challenge.


What are the key things you would share to deliver the transformation and getting on the journey to customer centricity?

Hazel – Use your network, reach out to other CMOs. You have to have a clear vision and commercial objectives – there is no point reaching out for help if you don’t know what help you need. Ensure you have executive sponsorship from key stakeholders so they are on board with what you need to achieve. Break down your roadmap into small pieces and only do what you can realistically do first. Help stakeholders understand why data is important. Finally test and learn! The more you know the more likely you’ll be successful. It is also about failing too! Finally, you need energy and passion.

Steve – don’t take no for an answer. There is always a way!


Thanks for joining us on the journey and to hear the full episode you can listen here. For more insight please contact