Tips & Tricks

Customer Data Analysis: 33 Experts Reveal the Most Important Piece of Customer Data to Help Make Smarter Marketing Decisions

Data Analytics Tools help provide companies with thousands of possible customer data points, all of which could potentially be considered when it comes time to make critical marketing decisions. It’s no secret that the more you know and understand about your customers, the better you’re able to cater to their unique needs.

But how can marketers determine which customer data points should be weighed more heavily in driving those all-important marketing decisions?

From location data to conversion rate metrics, simple demographic data, purchase history, path-to-conversion, content analytics (which marketing content turned this customer into a solid lead?), and hundreds to thousands of bits of information, the sea of customer data is complex. Making sense of all the data available to marketers today, not to mention analyzing that data in meaningful ways to drive decision-making, is no simple task.

We wanted to gain a better understanding of how modern organizations analyze and use customer data and leverage customer analytics to drive decision-making. To help today’s marketers pinpoint the most critical customer data in driving decision-making, we asked a panel of customer data and marketing experts to answer this question:

What’s the single most important piece of customer data that can help organizations improve marketing decisions?

See what our panel of experts say below:

Meet Our Panel of Customer Data Analysis Experts:


Brad MargBrad Marg


Brad serves Clutch as Chief Operating Officer, overseeing operations, finance, and marketing for the organization. His primary focus is delivering outstanding experiences for clients and customers. Prior to Clutch, Brad served various operation leadership roles for Aramark (NYSE:ARMK). He is a graduate of Villanova University and has his master’s degree from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

“The most important piece of customer data for influencing marketing decisions is…”

Given that the average brand sees upwards of 80 percent of its revenue come from 15 to 20 percent of its customers, few insights effectively drive success like simply identifying a brand’s best customers. While most businesses can name their best-performing product or store, few can identify their best customers. This insight delivers deep understanding of customer behavior and preferences, allowing the brand to personalize engagements, enhance experiences, and shape marketing strategy. While many brands believe this to be out of reach, consumer management technology synthesizes a brand’s cross-channel data sources, identifying its best customers across an array of dimensions.


Drew StevensDrew Stevens


Drew Stevens, Ph.D., of Stevens Consulting Group is a branding and positioning expert to small business.

“When it comes to customer data analysis, the most important piece of information businesses should use to drive marketing decisions is…”

What the demographics are saying about products or services and what are the “voices” saying specifically on social media.

Marketers need to listen more, and their customers will tell them. Great example: Gap changed their logo, customers recanted, and Gap revised the logo back to the original. Customers own the brand.

Brian CarterBrian Carter


Brian Carter is a 15-year digital marketing veteran and popular social media speaker (with clients like NBC, Microsoft, Dramamine and PrideStaff) who delivers practical takeaways, entertainment, and motivation. His Brian Carter Group is a boutique agency with world-class expertise using digital/social marketing and advertising to boost profits for growth-minded businesses.

“For my and my clients’ money, the most important customer metric for driving marketing decisions is…”

Which marketing content leads to the buying decision, or at least pushes them into the next marketing/sales funnel segment, so the ultimate sales conversion rate or the conversion-rate-to-next-funnel-segment are the most important customer data for us. With a real marketing automation setup and a multitude of buyer stages, that means this is really more like 10-15 things you want to know about your customers. If I had to choose one thing, it would be the conversion-rate-to-next-funnel-segment for each piece of marketing content.

Why is this the most important? Content marketing and marketing automation are the task du jour and can be both complicated and expensive. Content creation is also expensive, so the ROI of each piece of content is very important. Organizations need to make sure they’ve shifted to thinking scientifically in marketing and content decision-making. It can be very wasteful to plan huge swaths of content without data to confirm that kind of content leads to sales or at least pushes prospects further down the funnel. The kind of marketing that get results for each company is sometimes surprising, and research has shown that even marketing experts don’t get better at merely guessing what will work. So make sure your marketing automation setup is a learning lab, and try a variety of things before investing deeply in one type of content.


Paul MawaringPaul Manwaring


Paul is part of Outsprung, a multi-disciplinary design and marketing agency based in London. Their aim is simple: to help small businesses and bloggers grow.

“With data analysis, the single most important piece of customer data is…” 

We have worked with a few retail and catering clients on ways to solicit feedback from customers and what we have always found to be the most insightful and important data is how much the customer would spend on a product within the market.

One client was a high-end, gluten-free food truck. Their food was delicious and sourced only the finest local, organic, and gluten-free produce. The problem was that this put a sandwich close to £8 in order for them to get the ROI they needed.

After researching the local food markets and nearby stalls and offering the public a free mini sandwich in exchange for a three-question form which they had to fill out, it was clear that more than 80 percent of customers would only spend £5 on a sandwich.

The chefs went back to the chopping board, tweaked their recipes, and made compromises with a few of the ingredients. Now, the company is having much more success.

Without profiling customers first, especially if you are a local business, and understanding how much they are willing to spend on your product, you’ll likely never make a sale.

Jim McCallumJim McCallum


For the last thirty years or so, Jim McCallum has used his unique “Be the Best” approach to help some of the leading companies around the world dramatically transform their business operations and become the best in their sector.

“The most important piece of customer data to help companies drive marketing decision-making is…” 

Most companies consider their customer’s’ requirements when assessing their marketing strategy. And that’’s okay, as far as it goes.

However, elite companies often use a trick that makes their marketing strategies much more effective. They take into account the requirements of their customer’s’ customer.

That double step uncovers lots more issues. Once answered, they help to convince the customer that the product or service is even more relevant to them.

Many companies find that their customer’’s customer is often the end user of the product or service. It’s relatively easy, then, to establish the key buying influencers.

One example from my experience was a UK store-fitting company. They designed and installed the counters, shelves, displays, etc., used in retail stores.

As part of one of my “Be the Best” programs, they developed the phrase, ““This company creates environments that encourage people to buy.””

The statement implied that they designed store equipment with the right line, style, color, lighting and décor. As a result, the members of the public shopping in the store would feel more comfortable, and, hence, would buy more.

Incorporating this ethos into their products and services significantly helped sales and marketing. It also helped internally to guide the thinking of designers and other customer contact staff. The BtB program directly helped them become among the best in their sector in Europe.

Every company should therefore consider how they can use that same important trick to significantly improve their marketing decisions and become even more successful.

Ian AronovichIan Aronovich


Ian Aronovich is the president and co-founder of, a site that compiles and provides information about government auctions of seized and surplus merchandise from all over the country.

“One of the most important aspects of customer data analysis that helps organizations improve their marketing decisions is…”

Understanding customer interests.

As soon as you find out the preferences of each individual customer, you may immediately tailor your marketing efforts to revolve around these unique preferences. Constructing ads that illustrate their interests instantly appeals to them and attracts more and more viewers to your business or website. Additionally, in order to improve your marketing efforts and know exactly how to target the right customer groups, you must also know the demographics and the underlying reasons as to why customers use your service or product. The single most important piece of customer data is the interest of your customers that makes them like your product or service.

John LimJohn Lim


John Lim is a mobile entrepreneur and marketing professional with nearly two decades of experience in the industry. John is the CEO of Life In Mobile, a global mobile monetization agency that maximizes the efficiencies and ROI of their clients’ mobile marketing efforts, and provides marketers the ability to utilize post-click engagement with their new, platform.

“When analyzing data, the most important customer data point for making marketing decisions is…”

There is no “single” piece of data that marketers should look at, but rather a whole new source that should be taken into consideration. Marketers need to start looking at the environment of their target audience and consider how it affects their buying habits. Environment wasn’t a factor in the 40s when you knew you could reach audiences with a television, or even in the 90s when you knew that they were sitting in front of a computer screen. However, now that technology has finally caught up with the mobility of the consumer, the real-time environment plays a crucial role in their spending and buying habits.

Marketers need to start thinking outside of psycho-demographics and geo-location to target their audience and need to focus on external factors that are affecting their individual consumers. Learning how to leverage environmental data, location, traffic, time, weather, and the like will help markets fully understand their target consumer and improve their marketing decisions. That is the power of the human factor of marketing.

Matt LeeMatt Lee


Matt Lee is the Director of Marketing at Adhere Creative, an inbound marketing agency based in Houston, TX. He is a BBQ connoisseur and a burrito fanatic. With a Labradoodle named Shiner, he considers himself the true definition of a Texan.

“The single most important piece of customer data that can inform marketing decisions is…”

Traffic source.

Being able to tell how your organization is getting found will allow you to appropriate your marketing spend accordingly, maximize its impact, and draw more customers. For instance, if you spend 15 percent of your marketing budget on radio advertising but find it results in only 3 percent of your customer base, it may be time to dedicate a majority of that radio advertising budget to an area like search engine marketing, where you may be spending 10 percent of your marketing budget resulting in 30 percent of your new customer acquisitions. Taking this one step further, you also have to look at the value of customers based on the attributed conversion route. For instance, if your average customer LTV is $100 when they come from trade shows and $150 when coming from social media, it’s wise to follow-through on the analysis and budget smarter marketing decisions based on that data.

Sean SiSean Si


Sean Si is the CEO and Founder of Qeryz. A start-up, data analysis and urgency junkie who spends his time inspiring young entrepreneurs through talks and seminars. Check out his personal blog where he writes about starting up two companies and life in general.

“When it comes to customer data analysis, the most important piece of information is…” 

I think that the answer for this varies from case to case, so I’ll try to hit the most critical point that I think spreads through any and every relative context in terms of data analysis.

The single most important piece of customer data is customer behavior, and this is in terms of engagement: how people engage with your product. Now, you could use a flurry of customer data analytics tools available for the public today, and that’s not the point. The point is, you have to capture your user engagement data, and you have to have red-flag metrics that signal to you when a user is about to drop-off in their interest or engagement with your product. You also have to have red-flag metrics on when a user converts and why they convert. That is your main selling point. That is what you want to keep hitting on in terms of marketing.

Not all customers will find the ‘sweet spot’ with your product or service, and since there are lots of other providers out there, they are keen on trying others out. You have to keep on telling others about that sweet spot, how others found it, and why they should try it out.

I think that makes for a solid, data-backed, marketing strategy.

Barney CohenBarney Cohen


Barney Cohen is the President of Business 360 Northwest and has more than 40 years of experience in starting and operating businesses. Once his company, Valley Media reached $900 million in sales, he took it public. He teaches a business tune-up class, facilitates retreats and workshops, serves on advisory boards, and does business consulting. Barney has an undergraduate degree from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio and an Executive MBA from Harvard University.

“For most businesses, particularly small- to medium-sized companies, I think the most important piece of data an owner should focus on when it comes to making marketing decisions is…”


So much of our buying is based on convenience, and that means: How much time does it take to get from where I am to where the store or service is located? For example, if a dentist focuses his marketing efforts within three miles of his location, he has a much better chance of getting new customers than marketing to people who live 20 miles away.

There is a corresponding need for the internet as well. Location may reflect regional preferences and influence shipping costs.

Courtney CoxCourtney Cox


Courtney is the Director of Digital Strategy at Atomic Design & Consulting in Plano, TX. Although most of her background is in SEO, she has experience in almost every aspect of digital marketing including web development, paid search, email, and social media marketing.

“With data analysis, the most critical piece of customer data for improving marketing decisions is…” 

In-market segments…they are critical to improving marketing decisions. These segments simply tell us what else our potential customers are looking to purchase in the near future.

Knowing this information is helpful in a few ways. The most obvious is knowing where to place ads. If your customers are in-market for new electronics, it makes sense to purchase banner ads on TechCrunch – even if your product isn’t directly related to tech. The second use for in-market segments is in developing personas. Personas help you have a deeper empathetic relationships with your audience and can help your team craft messaging that will resonate with the buyer.

Austin PaleyAustin Paley


Austin is a Corporate Marketing Communications Manager at Blue Fountain Media, a digital agency in NYC that uses creative solutions to bring results to companies online.

“In terms of customer data that can inform marketing decisions, companies should consider is…”

Which page a user is on or what they’re looking at when they sign up for a newsletter.

Once a user has provided their contact information because they want to hear from your organization in the future, the door of communication is open, and they are moving further down the sales funnel. If you know exactly what they were reading as they signed up, perhaps a particular blog post or downloading a specific whitepaper, you can tailor your email marketing to their individual needs and interests. Through marketing automation, you can then personalize the emails you send users by distributing content on a similar subject or theme to what they were initially looking at when they signed up. The more you understand your user on an individual basis, the greater likelihood you have of getting users to convert because you can identify specific tactics that will be most effective given their behavior on your site.

Sekoul KrastevSekoul Krastev


Sekoul Krastev is Managing Director and Decision Scientist at concept9, a boutique digital agency that uses behavioral architecture and persuasive technologies to address business goals in the online space. Sekoul holds an MSc in Decision Neuroscience from McGill University and has previously worked at Google and the Boston Consulting Group.

“The most important piece of customer information that can help companies take their marketing efforts to the next level is…”

I would actually turn the question around and say that the most important piece of customer information that can help organizations take their marketing efforts to the next level is not another raw data point, but rather a deeper approach to data analysis.

A well-synthesized insight, driven by approaches such as machine learning, can prove invaluable. In particular, I would say that customer-profiling based on data from touch-points can allow companies to not only determine the stage of a customer within the sales funnel, but to predict their actions and reactions in the future. While only the biggest players have access to the technological know-how to do this well right now, it’s only a matter of time before SMEs can replicate it and take advantage of the computing power already at their disposal.

Bill HarperBill Harper


Bill Harper, co-founder of Immortology in Chapel Hill, N.C., and formerly chief creative officer at MossWarner, Mission Viejo, Calif., has led advertising and marketing efforts for clients including Carfax, Delsey Luggage (resulting in a 78% year-over-year sales increase), Denny’s, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Lance Snack Foods, Mitsubishi, Precision Tune Auto Care and White House Black Market.

“The most important piece of data companies should have about their customers is...”

Understanding why customers make their decisions.

The questions businesses need to ask are not Œquestions about the features and benefits customers want. They need answers to the Œwhy questions. Why do customers need you in the first place? Why do they choose a competitor over you? Why do they make the decisions the way they do?And so forth. Understanding the “why” gives marketers the ability to be proactive and to engage customers and lead them places that the competition hasn’t, can’t, or won’t go. The “Œwhat” questions result in only me-too marketing and incremental sales gains, along with a constant state of fire-drill corporate reactivity. Want an example of what happens when you ask the “Œwhy” questions? Visit

Chip R. BellChip R. Bell


Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and has served as consultant or speaker to organizations such as Microsoft, Nationwide, Marriott, Lockheed-Martin, Cadillac, Ritz-Carlton, Caterpillar, Verizon, USAA, Harley-Davidson, and Victoria’s Secret.

He is the author of many best-sellers, including The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service, Wired and Dangerous (with John Patterson), Take Their Breath Away (with John Patterson), Managers as Mentors (with Marshall Goldsmith), Magnetic Service (with Bilijack Bell), and Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service (with Ron Zemke).

“When it comes to customer data analysis, the most important piece of customer data for driving marketing decisions is…”

The voice of the number-one organizational ambassador: the front-line employee.

No one hears more, feels more, and understands more about customers than those face-to-face, ear-to-ear, and click-to-click employees who, daily, deal with the needs, issues, hopes, and aspirations of customers. Their capacity to deliver unfiltered and unsanitized customer intelligence brilliance can provide more learning than all the surveys and focus groups put together. Wise organizations train and resource their front line to be smart scouts. They then listen to their input with an eye to spotting emerging concerns, systemic challenges, and growing trends. Front-line employees who are valued for their customer insights hear more, learn more, and most
importantly, report more.

Eric ZaluskiEric Zaluski


Eric Zaluski is President at ProspectTrax, Inc., a marketing automation and services company that provides end-to-end services primarily for advanced industrial manufacturers.

“The most critical piece of information companies should know about their customers is…”

Job title.

Personas are based on job title or function. It’s the starting point for creating your message and offer.

Bill FotschBill Fotsch


Bill Fotsch is the leading practitioner of Open-Book Management. He has seen it work in 400+ companies in the past 20+years, from small- and medium-sized companies to larger, publicly traded companies like Southwest Airlines, Capital One, and BHP Billiton, helping them improve their results and the lives of their employees by applying Open-Book Management principles.

“The most powerful question businesses can ask their customers to inform marketing decisions is…” 

We have found a four-question customer interview script, using a modified version of Fred Reichheld’s Ultimate Question, consistently provides great market intelligence as well as increased repeat and referral business.

Of the four questions, the second one, “Why do you rate us as you did?”, is the single most powerful question. By probing for operational details, customers will both tell the company their purchase criteria, as well as relive what they valued in the work done by the company, which is what drives improved relationships and consequently increased repeat business. We find most companies do not do this, and so it enables companies to distinguish themselves from their competition.

Matt RutterMatt Rutter


Matt Rutter is Co-Founder of R+O Interactive, a SEO company specializing in online advertising, social networking, inbound marketing, content strategy, and coaching.

“With customer data analysis, the key data point that brands should capture is…”


Consumers are increasingly on-the-go and smartphone-enabled, so when they are looking for something online, they typically want information right now relative to where they are. Brands can leverage location through hyper-local mobile advertising based on previous search history and geo-fencing campaigns for when consumers are within a defined radius. Both results are very similar, but by pushing material, they are able to stay top-of-mind during the decision making process.

Deborah SweeneyDeborah Sweeney



Deborah Sweeney is an attorney and business owner. Her business, MyCorporation, is an online incorporation, business filing service based in Los Angeles, California.

“The single most important piece of customer data that improves marketing decisions is…

Time to Purchase.

The amount of time between a customer searching or learning of our service and purchasing the service is a critical piece of marketing data. This data impacts the frequency with which we reach out to our customers, it influences our messaging via email and paid search, and it impacts our sales team and the sales cycle. Since retargeting has become a critical piece of marketing, it is important for us to understand the proper messaging to customers as they consider a purchase of our service.

Brian GattiBrian Gatti


Brian is a senior marketing consultant and partner at Inspire Business Concepts with over 10 years experience in sales and marketing. With an MBA from Thunderbird International School of Business, Brian has a passion for marketing, storytelling, and statistical analysis.

“The most important piece of customer data for making marketing decisions is…” 

Customer segment. Period.

The problem is that customer segmentation is not something that can be filled out on a questionnaire. Meaningful customer segmentation is done based on how your existing and potential customers make their decisions to buy.

You can start with things like demographics (age/race/sex/etc.), then add psychographics (religion/political affiliation/etc.), and then factor in buying behavior (frequency/price/size).

Once you do this, you can start to develop meaningful segmentations within your customer bases. This allows you to focus on the kinds of people to target and the ways in which you should target them. You would not run ads targeting middle-aged, male, white managers the same way you would young African American female managers. While they may value some of the same outcomes (efficiency, results, etc.), they will not value them the same way and they will not think of them in the same context.

Better segments creates better targeting, higher conversions, and profitability.

Miri OffirMiri Offir


Miri Offir has been the Chief Marketing Officer for 911 Restoration for more than 13 years, managing over $11M in marketing budget. She specializes in internet marketing, with more than a decade of experience in web design, PPC campaigns, SEO, and marketing campaign analysis. In her spare time she enjoys horseback riding with her two children.

“The most important piece of customer data that improves organizations’
marketing decisions is…”

Location. 911 Restoration is a company specializing in disaster recovery, and has more than 60 franchises across the country and Canada. We track every call we receive by zip code. Knowing where the calls are coming from allows us to determine:

1. Where we should place our local headquarter/warehouse. Our team needs to arrive on-site within 45 minutes of receiving a hot lead. Having a central location is key to providing speedy service, which is of paramount importance in the disaster restoration industry.

2. Which keywords to emphasize in our SEO content to target local clients. A client in Los Angeles will have a different search result than one in Pasadena. Google ranks your website higher in local searches if you have a lot of rich, targeted content that caters to that location.

3. How to allocate our marketing budget for a particular branch. We track the calls we receive to see how many convert into leads and then, actual jobs. We measure the return revenue against money spent on local marketing efforts such as PPC or SEO and determine which city we should spend more money on for the best profit yield.

Bill RiceBill Rice


Bill Rice is the CEO & Founder of Kaleidico, a full-service digital marketing agency with over a decade of experience creating, leading, and evolving marketing strategies in a variety of industries. Kaleidico focuses its marketing work on targeting consumer behavior, a passion he first discovered as a pioneer in Information Warfare operations with the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense and various federal intelligence agencies.

“The most important piece of customer data companies should consider in informing marketing decisions is…”

Engagement in all of our campaigns. The particular attention metric that we focus on varies by channel, but in all cases I want to be sure that I have my audience’s attention.

When you can comfortably assume that you have an engaged audience, then all of your other marketing data can be used for credible marketing decisions. Without this critical starting point, you will guess (not to mention be statistically insignificant) if it’s your targeting, creative, or message that’s failing. It’s for this reason that we always like first to test creative and copy in channels where we have established (and hopefully attention baselined) audiences.

Eric LauneEric Laune


Working across business divisions and multiple departments as a Solutions Architect, Eric Laune collaborates with Data Analysts at Kinetic Supply Company to develop key Insights that help clients realize their strategic marketing objectives.

“The most important piece of customer data companies should rely on to improve marketing decisions is…”

Behavioral data. Behavioral data can dramatically shift an unevolved, stale marketing initiative into dynamic marketing based on customer actions.

Seb AtkinsonSeb Atkinson



Seb Atkinson is a search marketer at Selesti, a multi-award winning creative digital agency. Seb has helped a range of clients grow their online presence, from start-ups and small businesses to large international corporations.

“The most important piece of customer data for driving marketing decision-making is…”

Search data.


Most businesses have an over-reliance on web analytics data (e.g. Google Analytics). This is fundamentally flawed, as they can only see data from customers who have already found their site.

Meanwhile, search data, such as SearchMetrics, gives insights into what your customers are actually searching for, which isn’t always reflected in web analytics. Advantages of this approach include:

1. Trends over time. Is this service/product becoming more/less popular?

2. Seasonality. Put a figure against seasonality swings.

3. Combine with analytics data (conversion rate). You can put a price tag on the value of search terms.

4. What search terms are your competitors ranking for that you’re not? This gives insight on how they are maneuvering in the market, as well as what services/products/areas they are offering and talking about that you’re not.

Furthermore, search data can help us estimate a competitor’s traffic and revenue, giving a shortcut to reachable market figures.

Search data also provides information on customer pain points and questions they may have, especially when combined with on-site search data. This can help guide a content marketing strategy or improve your product offering.

Marc ProsserMarc Prosser


Marc Prosser is the co-founder and managing partner of Marc Waring Ventures, a firm which develops specialty internet properties for high value audiences. The company’s portfolio of websites includes Fit Small Business, which provides product and service reviews for small business owners. Started in 2013, Fit Small Business serves as the “Consumer Reports” for small business owners.

“The most important customer data for companies in driving marketing decision is…”

Time from initial contact to sale.

This is useful for two major reasons.

For one, it gives you a sense of where the person is in the buying cycle. You know whether your customers are ready to buy or merely interested in the product. It’s helpful here to look at the lead source and examine who’s reading what and responding to what ads.

This metric also gives you a sense of how long your buying cycle is. It times your communication for the full duration of the customer’s buying process, enables you to market to them, and gives you an opportunity to see if you can decrease the time between initial contact and sale.

Brian ThackstonBrian Thackston


Brian Thackston is the Director of Marketing at WebMechanix, a digital marketing startup in Elkridge, MD. By day, Brian creates exceptional content and enduring publishing strategies for WebMechanix. At night, he is grooving through law school so that he can fight for the freedom of the web.

“A marketer’s favorite piece of customer data is…”

Converting source.

Converting source is the person, place, or thing that referred a purchasing customer to your business.

If you understand exactly what’s leading purchasing customers to your business, you make data-backed marketing decisions based on what works and what doesn’t work.

For example, if we see that most of a client’s online sales are coming from a single campaign on one social network, we would recommend putting more resources into similar campaigns on that network. This makes the client’s marketing dollars stretch much further by saving money on less profitable campaigns.

The problem with converting source is that accurately tracking the metric can be incredibly difficult for some businesses. After all, businesses have traditionally lived by John Wanamaker’s famous maxim: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” But with the rise of digital marketing technologies, like Facebook’s recently debuted Conversion Lift Measurement, it’s making converting source a reality for online and offline marketing efforts.

Kartik VyasKartik Vyas


Kartik Vyas is a Senior Industry Expert in Analytics Practice at Persistent Systems.

“The most important piece of customer data for informing marketing decisions is…”

Well, it is said that data is like oil. By that logic, customer data is like the super-refined, well-concocted engine oil that your sports car needs to race ahead of the competition. There is one catch here, however. Everyone knows what to do with the oil (just pour it into the engine oil hose), but with data, one needs to know how to use it, too. Therefore, this piece about the most important piece of customer data cannot be complete without describing how it could be used, or instead we will start off with how we can use customer data to arrive at our most importance piece of data.

Customer data is used by companies in myriad ways, but most of these ways are focused on three things:

1. Understanding the customer better

2. Increasing engagement with the customer

3. Maximizing (or trying to maximize) customer lifetime value of the engaged customers

If we look at these three points in detail, we realize that the most important piece of information that can provide these points is customer interactions. In the last century, enterprises started having individual relationship managers for their important customers. These managers had to connect well with their clients, understand their specific needs, and ensure that those were met. Even today, most organizations want to achieve this, not only for a small portion of their customer base, but for a majority of customers.

Interaction is the best way to exchange information, and even for customers, the interactions that they have with your organization are the most important piece of the puzzle. If customer interaction data is captured completely, it can provide a variety of inputs, such as: What makes the customer reach out to your organization? Is it because of a specific need, because of an issue, or for making a purchase? The interaction can be in person, at an office, at a bank branch, at a store, or it could be digital, such as through a smartphone app. The information that is captured, such as the reason for interaction, time and duration of the interaction, feedback, with whom the interaction took place, etc., is perhaps the most important because it allows the marketer to get to the current state of the customer’s mind.

While aggregated information like behavioral trends and demographics are also important, the interactions data can be analyzed and actionized very easily. The fact that 1/6th of users tend to change their service providers because of poor service (or the perception of it) speaks volumes. At the end of the day, it is the interaction the reader has with the author through reading her writings which makes a difference in views or thought processes, rather than the credentials of the author. Isn’t it? Well it should!

Rebecca SendelRebecca Sendel



Rebecca Sendel is the Senior Director of the Customer Centricity Program for the TM Forum. Some of the key projects she manages include Customer Engagement, Big Data Analytics, and Metrics. Rebecca has worked in the communications industry for almost 25 years, focusing on operational and business support systems for the majority of her career. For the last 14 years, she has held leadership positions in product management and marketing at TM Forum. Prior to the TM Forum, she was with software supplier, Astracon, and spent 9 years with Motorola’s wireless infrastructure division. Rebecca holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

“The single most important piece of customer data that can help organizations significantly improve their marketing decisions is…”

Customer sentiment. Is the customer ecstatic, annoyed, or somewhere in between?

These days, many marketing campaigns are aiming to personalize messages and offers to customers. But what can truly make these messages and offers resonate with a customer is speaking to them in a voice that relates well to how they are feeling about your products and your company.

Considering customer sentiment enables marketing campaigns to define and deliver calls to action that make sense for where the customer is in their journey with your brand. For example, upselling is a very popular marketing technique, but it certainly would not make sense to upsell to a customer who has recently registered a complaint about your products or services. Offering a discount on an existing service or a free trial of something new could be a better approach, but without sentiment in the equation, the customer might not get the right message.

TM Forum recently ran a project around customer sentiment for small and medium business customers of communications service providers. The main takeaway was that customer sentiment must be captured whenever possible throughout every interaction, even if that interaction is simply a personal phone call between the customer and a sales rep, or if it’s a technician installing equipment. Too often, we focus on understanding customer behaviors (thanks to the world of big data analytics) but don’t understand as much about how they are feeling. As a result, organizations are losing opportunities for true personalization.

Ian FitzpatrickIan Fitzpatrick


Ian is a founding partner at Almighty, where he leads a research and strategy practice charged with developing insights into the behaviors and needs of the people who use the products and services we build, and outlining strategies for creating more-relevant content.

“When analyzing customer data to drive marketing decisions, companies should…”

While particularly thoughtful and forward-thinking organizations segment their customer data in such a way as to distinguish between purchases made for the customer and those made for someone else, not nearly enough use this data to drive marketing spend and messaging. Sales data gives us a rich look into who our customers are, who they care about (and when they care), if we look closely enough — which goes hand-in-hand with the customer-centric focus being espoused inside a great many organizations in 2015.

When Netflix debuted multiple user profiles in 2013, it was both an improvement in customer experience (better personalization) and in the capacity of the organization to develop more structured data about the preferences and habits of its customers.

It’s this sort of data, captured implicitly rather than explicitly, that will allow companies to better connect their sales and customer data to their forward-facing marketing spend.

Norberts ErtsNorberts Erts


Norberts Erts is the Marketing Manager for CakeHR.

“The most important piece of customer data for making business decisions is…”

Customer conversion rate — the act of converting site visitors from various channels (social media, marketplaces, blog, etc.) into paying customers.

However, there’s the viewpoint that the most important metric for SaaS enterprises is retention rate, which is undoubtedly true.

Amy MarshallAmy Marshall


Amy Marshall is the VP of Digital Strategy & Research for Fathom Healthcare, a digital agency that also provides comprehensive online marketing research.

“When analyzing customer data points, the most important piece of information that impacts our client’s marketing decisions is…”

The positive and negative conversation trends that people write about their product/service or the competitor’s product/service.

Understanding what customers love and hate about a brand is powerful. The information we provide is data – not internal ideas about the brand/product/service. Our clients have made drastic changes to their marketing strategies based on this intel.

Brandon SeymourBrandon Seymour


Brandon is founder and CEO of Beymour Consulting, a South Florida-based online marketing agency specializing in SEO, content marketing, and online reputation management. Brandon is also a columnist for Search Engine Journal and has been featured as an expert source in a variety of media publications.

“When it comes to valuable customer data that companies should consider in making marketing decisions…”

There a ton of metrics that business owners track to measure performance and ROI. Some of the most popular include site traffic, engagement, and conversions.

One aspect that many brands don’t analyze is consumer reviews. Most brands understand the importance of building and maintaining (and sometimes cleaning up) their online reputation. But very few brands dig into the review data to determine their customers’ biggest pain points. As a reputation management specialist, I work with clients to put together a feedback analysis report that outlines which specific aspects of their business need the most improvement, based on the consumer experience. Most online marketers spend a great deal of time optimizing their website to improve the UX, but neglect other areas that are equally important. In addition to disarming negative reviews, it’s also a good idea to address the root of the problem to avoid future complaints.

Joe PinoJoe Pino


Joe Pino is Director of Client Success for Clutch, a leading provider of advanced consumer management solutions an array of premier brands. In his role, he heads managed services and oversees operational aspects and strategic client relationships. Previously he served strategic operational roles for Merrill Lynch (NYSE:BAC), Fiserv (NASDAQ:FISV) and Prudential (NYSE:PRU).

“When it comes to customer data analysis, the most important data point to consider when making marketing decisions is…”

According to Marketing Metrics, the average probability of converting an existing customer is 65 percent, while the average probability of converting a new customer is 10 percent. Gartner states the average business generates 80 percent of profits from 20 percent of its existing customers.

Given this, identifying your best customers to effectively engage and motivate them is critical for success.

Data-Driven Solutions from NGDATA