soccer-cartoonWhen it comes to data and marketing, most people take the analogy to Moneyball.

And it’s pretty easy one to see why: Just like how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, used previously ignored data to field a better baseball team, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are asking their teams to use previously ignored data to create a better marketing plan.

Once you get past that part of the analogy, though, it’s a different sport that completes the picture: soccer.

See, one of the biggest challenges organizations face when trying to use that data to create better marketing isn’t understanding the data they have about their customers; it’s actually understanding how that data can work for them and for their customers in a meaningful way.

And there’s really no sport outside of soccer that requires a precise understanding of what you have and how you’re going to use it. So, in the spirit of offering a fresh take on Moneyball (the European soccer seasons just started earlier this month), let’s take a look at how you can pull together an effective marketing strategy by shaping it after the “beautiful game.”

First, some definitions on the type of data you can use:

  • First-Party Data: Data that you have and collect about your customers. This can be a CRM or data warehouse of transactions, but it is almost always explicit in its understanding of the customer. (For example, you know I’ve purchased an Andrea Pirlo soccer jersey from you.)
  • Second-Party Data: An extension of first-party data in that a partner is collecting, aggregating, or modeling customer data for new, or expanded, data sets for you to use. Think of a site analytics platform or maybe a data modeling partner that uses your information for persona or segment development.
  • Third-Party Data: This is data that provides broader insight into a customer by using sources beyond your site and your interaction with a customer. The BlueKais and Experians of the world typically fall into this area.

Second, some framework: this isn’t about ranking which data sources are the best. It’s about understanding how all these sources are valuable and about understanding how you can get them to work together. (A reminder, then, that a soccer team fields 11 players and usually divides its players into a formation called the 4-4-2, where each role has a somewhat distinct set of responsibilities: (1) goalkeeper, (4) defenders, (4) midfielders, and (2) forwards.)

  • Goalkeeper: The last line of defense and someone who can be a bit quirky. At any given moment, the keeper can be the only thing standing between the opponent and a goal. In data, the goalkeeper would be your transactional data. It’s the baseline need for a personalization program and if it’s not doing a good job of confidently storing your data, the game is over before it begins. The transaction data is the root of what you know about your customer and what you’d love to use when speaking in a personalized way.
  • Defenders: In soccer, you usually see two types of defenders: those who work in the middle of the field (central defenders) and those who play on the outside (wingbacks). As in most sports, defense is paramount for success and often the backbone of the team. (Note: Defenders are often the captain of the team.) Your central defenders are the first-party data pieces, such as your reward or loyalty program. It’s the data that your customers are continually providing and developing for you and that you can use to proactively connect new products or offers with the right customers. Your wingbacks, who need to defend but also support offensive attacks, are third-party data. This data can be as flexible as you need, like providing gender, or as nuanced as lending you detail on in-market propensity for certain purchases. This broad applicability, like the wingback, makes it very valuable in your personalization plan to add dimensions to your targeting effort.
  • Midfielders: We could spend all day speaking about formations here. Whether English, Spanish, or Italian, the midfielder has the most flexible set of skills and responsibilities on the team. They may be asked to defend, score, or be the conduit between the two. And it’s this position that delivers a lot of data analogies. Because the skills area varied, your midfielders are similar to second-party data (the data you observe and collect to augment your knowledge of a customer). This is where you might glean behavioral intent vs. action and how you can be proactive in providing a personalized experience.
  • Forwards: On the field, forwards deliver the goods and get the glory. But that comes with a lot of pressure: in a 90-minute game, they may only get one or two chances to put a shot on goal. How good they are at converting those opportunities can be the difference between winning and losing. In data, good parallels are your data providers who are providing modeling and segmentation services to help you understand your customers in ways you hadn’t been able to develop yourself. Working with partners allows you to call upon rich and detailed data to provide a potentially pinpointed experience to a customer you might not have been able to connect with previously.

What does this all mean?

You need a complete team of data sources and types to put in place a winning personalization plan. Start with the players from the team you already have and look for ways to bring in additional sources as you progress.

And remember: It’s not about a single player or data point. It’s about combinations and interplay that allow the beautiful game to open up. That’s why the best personalization programs have data work together.