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4 Reasons You Need to Market with Data

When you provide 5,600 blood transfusions, 424,000 measles vaccinations, 18,000 safety trainings, and countless other services to citizens each day, how are you supposed to present a single organization and mission? That was the question the American Red Cross’s (ARC) first Chief Marketing Officer, Peggy Dyer, was challenged with five years ago. Her response was to use data to create a unified marketing campaign capable of engaging anyone who interacted with the Red Cross.

In GovLoop’s online training, Data-Driven Marketing for Government, we asked Banafsheh Ghassemi, ARC’s VP of Marketing Customer Experience, CRM & Marketing Excellence to explain why her organization found it so crucial to transform the Red Cross’s brand identity. She also described why they chose a data-driven approach to this marketing makeover. For Ghassemi’s full insights, access the on-demand training by clicking here. Below, we’ve highlighted her top four reasons for leading the ARC with data-driven marketing.

Reason #1: Government is no longer compared to just government

“Our constituents are no longer judging us within the context of our sector. They’re not comparing us to healthcare organizations or disaster response programs. They are comparing us against other brands,” said Ghassemi. Companies like Apple, Uber, and Amazon have always been touted for their customer service within the private sector. Now, these brands are also setting the bar against which nonprofit and government organizations are being considered for their consumer engagement.

Sean Shoffstall, another guest at our training and the Vice President of Innovation and Strategy at Teradata Interactive, advised: “Don’t just look at what other government agencies doing. Look at what other companies are doing. You’re being compared to everyone. You have heavy competition out there.”

The ARC decided to learn from its new competitors. These mega-companies target their audience by monitoring their activities and then using that data to determine how the consumer operates and what his preferences are. A nonprofit or government agency, similarly interacting with its consumers across multiple platforms, can collect the same sort of data. “Within that data, we are getting signals from our customer. Users don’t have to tell them preferences. They show preferences through their actions,” said Ghassemi. Using insights gained from this data allows the ARC to investigate and act on the inclinations of its audience, to ensure that it offers a level of service equivalent to its private sector competitors.

Reason #2: Marketers must prove value 

Under increasing budgetary constraints, marketers are being asked to show a return on investment for every dollar or labor hour put into consumer engagement campaigns. Using a data-driven approach to these campaigns offered the ARC’s marketing team the ability not only to explore what consumers expected, but also to track whether or not they were meeting those expectations through new marketing initiatives. When data indicators are positive, Ghassemi is able to validate marketing efforts and build on those successes. When indicators show that a campaign is not having the desired effect amongst consumers, ARC’s wealth of data can be used to guide alternations in strategy and increase impact.

Reason #3: External events drive marketing change

Ghassemi pointed to a number of transformations taking place outside of the marketing world, such as exponential growth in the nonprofit sector, an increase in natural disaster incidents, and changing healthcare processes, that nevertheless directly impact their marketing strategy. Each of these changes impacts the ARC’s consumer base, either by demanding more of their resources of by changing the way the interact with the organization.

What’s more, many of these changes happen quickly and with little warning. Therefore, it was necessary to create a marketing strategy that could adapt to the latest challenges. By constantly leveraging new data, the ARC’s marketing strategy can change with the times. For instance, if donors are beginning to experience fatigue from supporting more frequent natural disasters, indicators in the updated dataset will alert the ARC marketing team to that fact. Accordingly, messaging for donations can be adapted to empathize with that fatigue or approach disaster response with a different narrative. The ARC’s data can also tell them what that new narrative should be, based on what has been proven effective in other scenarios.

Reason #4: Marketing itself is changing

Finally, Ghassemi asserted that nonprofits like the ARC are facing the same challenge that every other marketing department confronts. Consumers now have a plethora of outlets through which they can express their expectations, experiences, and disappointments. This endless flow of information is valuable data on your consumer, which cannot be ignored. Negative expressions can damage an organization’s reputation. Positive messages can guide your marketing strategy by showing what works. Therefore, it’s critical that your branding team maintain a data-driven strategy that can incorporate these external signals.

Ghassemi explained that the ARC’s marketing strategy is not a one-time transformation in image. Instead, it is a journey that will evolve over time. Using data to guide that strategy ensures that it will adapt to changing expectations, consumers, and environments.

To learn how effective, data-driven marketing can be achieved with fewer government resources, check out our blog, Use Data-driven Marketing to Improve Your Public Service.

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