Can I talk to you or not?

An integrated, single customer view has many benefits but it can often pose a tricky question too if your various data sources harbour different opt-in/opt-out contact permissions for the same individuals: can I talk to you or not? It’s important to address this problem, to ensure you are communicating with as many relevant people as possible, while also respecting the wishes of those who prefer not to receive marketing messages. Here’s how we have worked with some of our clients to address this challenge:

1. Let the marketing team decide. If John Smith opted out when he created his registration profile on your content site, but he opted in when he signed up as an author, you might want to keep those different choices visible. Then, when the marketing team creates a contact list for a campaign, it can consider all of those competing opt-in/opt-out filters (drawn together on one screen for easy reference perhaps) and set them appropriately for the campaign in question.

2. One out, all out. The difficulty with the approach above is that if John Smith has conflicting permissions from different source systems, then which value takes precedence? One alternative strategy is to generate a master ‘OK to Contact?’ field and then set that to ‘No’ if any one of the source datasets contains an explicit opt-out. This way you’re only ever using one field to identify who is eligible for marketing, regardless of what the message is. It’s simple and it’s user-friendly (but a “one out, all out” policy will also produce a smaller set of contactable customers).

3. Establish a hierarchy. As an organisation you may see some data sources as more important than others (e.g. member data for a society publisher). In this scenario, you might set your ‘OK to Contact?’ field based on your member data permissions first, then another source second for users with no member data, and so on. In effect that allows you to set business rules to say that an opt-in from your member data overrules an opt-out from elsewhere. While this approach is more complicated to define, the detail does not need to be exposed to the marketing users: they still see the one ‘OK to Contact?’ field and simply set it accordingly.

4. The holy grail? Rather than just finding strategies to handle conflicting permission settings for the same individual, the longer-term goal might be a single system to manage all yes/no permissions data, with an interface for customers to manage all their choices on one page. If your marketing effort is being driven by an integrated, single customer view, it makes sense to try to move away from source-specific opt-in/opt-out options for customers, as it’s this repetition that creates the issues described above. However, it can obviously be a technical challenge to do this if different parts of your front-line, customer-facing business are managed by different suppliers.