Just using data to target customers? You may lose them instead.

Predicting the “next-best” offer is the rage of marketing teams as companies become focused on leveraging data to make their revenue models more and more efficient.  But in this fight for the customer’s wallet share there is a hidden but growing danger.

What happens when all your competitors become equally good at predicting business purchase behavior?  The profits advantage from efficient marketing will be squished and gone.  The classic arms race approach to revenue acquisition will not yield a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage.

Long-term advantage is established by continually increasing value for the business customer.  So when it comes to data, we need to rethink how to use it to create customer value.  Data can augment your products and services to answer new questions and automate new workflows that make your customers efficient, responsive, and smart.

So what questions should we be asking?

What information will help customers reduce their costs? 

Giving customers easy access to downloading invoices certainly makes it easier to review and pay monthly invoices.  But what about taking it further to automate critical workflows such as chargebacks, split billing, and payment.  The more automated the function the more cost you eliminate and value you create for customers.

What information will help customers respond in a timely manner? 

Is there data customers want more frequently than every billing cycle?  Allowing customers to monitor and alert based on usage patterns allows them to control whether employees are using services according to company policy and to predict and prepare for spikes in usage.

What information will help customer make better decisions? 

It’s not just about billing decisions either.  Think about integrating the calling data into the customer’s CRM.  Your customers.  Knowing who was contacted, when, how often, how long, and by whom could drive new insights into what’s working in sales, support, and marketing.

Now don’t get me wrong, using data to predict the next purchase is a solid strategy especially if your competitors are lagging in their analytic abilities.  But this strategy will only last so long. To sustain long-term advantage, you need to rethink the role of data and shift from what data can do for you to what data can do for your customers.