Exclusion Zones:

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Data-Driven Relevance: Don’t Get Caught in Your Customer’s Exclusion Zone.


The other day I drove to the and filled my car with petrol.

No, you didn’t misread that sentence. I’ve deliberately excluded a word or two but you still know what I mean.

It’s the same with great marketing communications. Sometimes the things brands don’t say are the most important. Enter the exclusion strategy.

If you haven’t come across the term before, it’s the act of making comms as relevant as possible for every consumer. When executed well, this approach can be extremely effective. But achieving it is easier said than done.

Considering some common comms errors that are committed by brands is a good place to start. Here are just a few examples:

  • The blanket Bank Holiday email intended for folks enjoying a day off in England and Wales that only succeeds in stirring up resentment among hard-at-work Scots.
  • A gentle annual reminder that it’s possible to opt out of a brand’s Mother’s or Father’s Day marketing emails — when you already took the time to do so the previous year.
  • “Suggested product” emails that bear no relation to items you’ve browsed or bought.

Common sense is needed to fix these communication crimes that greatly increase the risk of consumers giving a brand the cold shoulder (unless its customer service is too good to ignore).

So, how do you build a successful exclusion strategy to nip these problems in the bud?

Data is driving a relevance revolution.

It all starts with data. With the right data at your fingertips you can build a clear picture of every ecosystem where the consumer is active. When a customer buys a product for the first time, analysis reveals their next expected purchase  — whether it’s in the same or an adjacent category.

For example, if you’re a travel company and a customer has just booked their dream cruise departing in 18 months, ensure your data reflects this. Any marketing tactics should be led by the data so you don’t spam or alienate your customers, and instead speak to them in an informed manner. Far better to fish for their remaining budget with short break offers to tempt them away before the big embarkation.

Data quality is a vital element of any exclusion strategy. If you’re able to pull together multi-transactional information for an individual, the chances of remaining relevant increase. For instance, a charity with a face-to-face team celebrating signing up a donor who has decided to leave a big legacy should check that the regular giving department doesn’t send the same person multiple monthly giving asks.

High-quality, well-managed data is also central to cross-channel consistency because it allows a laser-focused approach, helping marketers know their target customer and how and when to speak to them.

Data-driven, relevant messaging should be front of mind for brands across all touchpoints. Each one has an impact on the customer relationship.

Exclusion’s effect on the customer experience.

Relevance, driven by high-quality data, is the upshot of a well-conceived, efficient exclusion strategy. The outcome of that is often highly personalised, targeted communications with outstanding ROI.

Because 99% of marketers believe personalisation strengthens customer relationships, a data-led strategy is crucial. Consumers still respond well to the tried and tested tenet: “Know me. Understand me. Acknowledge me.” This can only be achieved with the use of clean and effective data. Once a brand knows its customer, it can better recognise and reward that individual.

Ultimately, the consumer feels the brand has taken time to understand them. It can be something as simple as a DIY store that refrains from targeting a keen gardener who bought a lawnmower one week, with comms about the latest Flymo the next. An exclusion strategy acknowledges the existing purchase, and what follows is relevant marketing about lawn care and all things green-fingered.

A test-and-learn approach is advisable. It just isn’t very visible in the market at present. This is where external experts come to the fore. They can provide additional firepower for exclusion strategies: understanding consumers and the touchpoints they use; knowing how to develop engaging content; and drawing on data to devise successful communication programs.

A pathfinder strategy is just one example of an approach to exclusion marketing. Data can be used to identify an “advanced party” within your customer base. The data team spots and analyses the incoming arrows from the vanguard of customers, helping the brand understand incremental gains, iron out wrinkles and optimise the strategy. Armed with this new knowledge, the brand can successfully roll out the approach across an entire database of customers who sit beyond the initial cohort.

Exclusion certainly doesn’t mean sucking the life out of your marketing strategy. But if your brand needs to improve efficiency and strengthen customer bonds, it really can’t be left out. And great quality data is the key to unlocking it.


CDOMAGAZINE.TECH – Data-Driven Relevance: Don’t Get Caught in Your Customer’s Exclusion Zone

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Becky Sherwin, a smiling woman in a black shirt with polka dots.

Becky Sherwin

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