Using Data to Connect With Customers with Neil O’Keefe from the DMA – Episode 25


In this episode we interview Neil O’Keefe who is the Senior VP of CRM and Member Engagement at the Data and Marketing Association.

The Data & Marketing Association is a 100 Year old organisation (formerly the direct marketing association) is the community that champions deeper consumer engagement and business value through the innovative and responsible use of data-driven marketing.

Neil shares some amazing insights from his prior experiences at Home Depot, Spiegel brands, and some of the other forward thinking businesses he has in depth knowledge of.

Q1: How has the use of cognitive systems and data changed the way that we do business?

By allowing us to become more personal and more relevant with customers.

This allows a modern day business to strengthen and build out a relationship with the customer.

If you can get the conversation going in an interesting and relevant way with the customer they are going to do business with you, if not you are going to miss out.

Cognitive is Enabling Marketers to Scale

In the old days it was one to groups of many but the cognitive systems allow one marketer to speak to people individually.

Most marketers need to evaluate what they have already and to begin with it is good to start analyzing it and collecting it if not.

We need to speak to people about what they are buying and work with predictive modelers to assist with their next purchase.

How changes in people’s lives can effect purchasing decisions and how theses meaningful things can affect them within their purchasing decisions.

Meaningful interaction and relevancy is the key.

Q2 : Do you think the use of personalization can be over personalized or intrusive?

When is personalization too much: Where is the line?Neil-OKeefe_400x400

With personalization for it to be done well it’s more than just using someone’s name.

For example if you show up at your ladies house with a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and some of her favorite roses then of course she would appreciate it…

On the other hand if you show up at the house of someone who you just met with all their favorite food and drink that’s going to creep them out.

The important this is to be on the right side of creepy!

He talks about dynamic content in emails and this is a superb way to build stronger relationships with your customers.

Relevancy is Key

Home Depot is embracing Cognitive and when Neil was there they were doing lots of dynamic content.

They are using predictive analytics to generate more personal experiences and when he was at HD there were some serious CRM systems, the need is to get out in front of the customer and crunching the data is so important to make sure they don’t lose out on the major purchases like bathroom or kitchen purchases.

When the economy is bad and the contractors that were part of the data sets this can mess up the results as they may be a tiler one day and a roofer the next, ensuring you are flexible in how you collect this data you need to make sure you don’t miss the opportunities.

Relevancy is absolutely crucial to keeping the customers happy and ensuring success.

Garin recommends you tag people so that you can follow up to ensure open rates and click rates are high.

Segmentation is very powerful, but don’t forget you can still use it without having the big business resources.

What we need to keep in mind is keep looking at the first party transaction data from as recently as possible.

Use Lead Magnets To Capture Leads and Segment

Give something of value and then ask for an email so that you can build your email list.

The DMA has a whole section on education and makes lots of studies available.

They do joint studies and make a lot of content available, they work with lots of different organisations to create content.

Q3: Ad blockers are affecting marketing dramatically, how do you think businesses can combat this problem?

It is a challenge, for a long time we have been delivering really bad adverts and some blame lies with the marketers!

Neil did a segment on Bloomberg about this and here is a blog from the DMA on Ad Blockers.

Ad Blocker Blog –

Bloomberg Video associated with above –

Taco Bell in particular have recently gone to create fun content so they can advertise without turning off all their clients.

Google prefers less intrusive adverts and will penalize you, don’t forget ad blockers are out there and if your business does not use great adverts you will turn people off.

Neil recommends you take care of the customers you have now, as it will be more difficult to get them in the future.

It is easier to get your existing customers to buy again than it is to get new people to buy from you for the first time.

Q4: Why do you think personal branding is important for people in jobs?

Real, Authentic and Genuine: RAG, if you are going to represent yourself you have to be true to yourself, you can’t contrive it.

Riffing on Home Depot’s RAG acronym Garin came up with GREAT: Genuine, Real, Entertaining, Authentic, and Transparent.

Q5: What are your top tips for career development through the use of social media?

Back to the real, authentic and genuine, for Neil he carves up the way he uses social media to enable him to have fun with it and agrees that everyone is entitled to a little more privacy by choosing which channels they want to make private VS business or a combination of the both.

Once you have been recognized you will begin to grow your network, your credibility and authority in your market and then people will increasingly know, like and trust you as you prove to be trustworthy by adding value.

Q6: What is your greatest concern for the immediate future of social media?

To see how the generations are moving from one social media channel to another and how people are not listening to the huge amount of content that is out there.

Politics are effecting things dramatically so people don’t like to be lectured about other people’s opinions and Neil prefers to be on the more business related platforms that are more relevant to his interests.

We all agreed using Twitter lists are a great way to ensure not seeing too much spam, Garin uses something called news feed eradicator which keeps his desktop free from the hypnotic way Facebook puts relevant content in front of your feed.

The piece that is missing is the engagement in social media, work on your soft skills that seem to be missing from todays world.

Use social media to be social rather than just being blunt take the time to engage with people.

Q7: Do you have any tips for people who are overwhelmed by technology?

Get engaged with it and use it, understand it, dive in, look at the content and who is sharing the right content, lots of Re-Tweeting, but Neil likes to engage with people who create their own content.

Take the time to learn how to use the technology.

Q8: Do you see a future for classical marketing?

We discussed the old classical methods and how now the challenge for marketers is so many different channels and managing those channels.

Discussing the data driven approach to business and managing their lists and cleaning their lists to refrain from sending information to people that are not interested in buying your products or services.dma-logo

Neil mentions that it is a lot easier to keep track of B2C lists for direct, the B2B list management is not as easy when people change jobs it is more difficult.

Neil’s advice is to make sure that people have all the recommendations and are part of the industry bodies.

We discussed a little bit more about ad blockers and why they are being embraced by such a large proportion of the population.

If you are interested In learning more about the DMA then please click here and check out the DMA home page.

& THEN home page –

If you would like to find Neil on Twitter here he is @NeilOkeefe.

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