Offline identity is the key to great marketing. It helps you understand people deeply, and bridge the offline to the online world. But marketers need to onboard their offline data with a purpose in mind.  

Joe Stanhope of Forrester joined me last week in a webinar to talk about the Age of the Entitled Customer and the opportunity for addressable marketing. We also discussed the key questions that marketers must understand to ensure their onboarding builds a strong foundation on identity for effective people-based marketing.

Joe identified, that due to the rampant changes in technology and culture, customers are no longer just empowered but are in fact entitled: today’s consumer has a high expectation to get what they want in their immediate context and moments of need. To flourish in this connected world, brands must be present and relevant at critical consumer moments. Brands need to evolve from being marketer-driven to customer-driven.  

The key to win these moments is to identify the moments that their customers and prospects are most addressable, and harness context. Marketers need a unique understanding of their consumer, which includes their online and offline history with the brand. To solve this challenge, identity is the connective tissue. Identity resolution creates addressability, coordinated customer experiences, deeper insights and better customer data governance.

Consumers interact with brands in an offline and online world. As such, brands must make their offline data available for the digital world through the process of onboarding.

Onboarding is more than just a door for a brand’s data. It is the foundation for understanding our consumers as humans. Onboarding is not a standalone process, but rather a solution in a marketer’s toolkit to succeed with their people based-marketing. Effective onboarding enriches a brand’s understanding of their consumers’ identity. It facilitates more mature and ever valuable efforts like personalization and more robust measurement.

Yet it is a subject that most marketers focus less attention vs. later steps of their digital marketing. It’s viewed as a cost, and a step that brands want to complete quickly so they can get to the business of digital marketing. But if a brand doesn’t get their foundation of identity right through their onboarding, their person-based marketing runs grave risks of being wrong.

Nobody wants to build a house on a questionable foundation. And nobody should hire partners who aren’t prepared to provide detailed information about the rigors of their onboarding process. The key to get onboarding right is to ask questions. Brands need to understand the principles of how their data will be matched for use in the digital world.

First, all onboarding is matched with both deterministic and probabilistic data linkages. Even some of the biggest owners of deterministic data, like Facebook, leverage probabilistic data to maximize the scale of available data.

Second, just because data is deterministic doesn’t mean it’s good. Onboarding partners purchase deterministic linkages through a publisher marketplace that is incentivized for creating scale, not accuracy. This has led to fraudulent deterministic data sets. Due to Neustar’s privileged access to data, we are in a unique position to corroborate and score quality for these proprietary, deterministic linkage sets. As a result, we have seen that over half of these linkages are bad. Matches based on this data are worthless and cannot be transacted upon. Not all providers score quality like Neustar can.

Third, onboarding needs to resolve to a single person. This is called identity management. Many consumers have multiple email addresses, social profiles and devices. Your onboarding partner needs to have multiple deterministic linkages to resolve a consumer to a single entity. Otherwise, one person could be viewed as 10 separate profiles. No brand wants to waste their marketing dollars treating one person as 10 separate people.  

Fourth, evaluating partners on match rate % alone is an incomplete measure. Brands should instead evaluate accurate reach of their onboarding. In addition to the fraud in some deterministic data, the scale of other data sets can be inflated due to the “look-back window”. Many of the linkages are 90 days old. Yet, cookies expire after 30 days. So an onboarding partner can drive up their match rates with expired cookies that a brand can never go find. That doesn’t drive accurate reach. At Neustar, we prioritize accurate reach and not match-rate tonnage.

Additionally, brands should understand the concept of household vs. individual linkages. Not all devices, such as a household computer, can be definitively matched to a single consumer. But, it can be matched to a household. So there is always greater scale for household data linkages vs. individuals. If scale is important, or if you’re looking to leverage data in markets that transact on household info like addressable TV, a brand should consider onboarding data to a household level. Neustar understands these nuances.

Lastly, onboarding data is complex and requires a hands-on provider. Brands have different needs for frequency of data refreshing. You need to understand any hidden fees for accessing and using your own data with your onboarding partner. Understand the fine print regarding service levels. Assess whether your needs are tactical or require strategic and professional service management. A deeper, comprehensive service layer will ensure that you get value out of your onboarding.

To raise your onboarding game, Neustar presents the following key questions:  

  • Understand how your data will be matched. What % of deterministic vs. probabilistic linkages does an onboarder have?
  • What is the quality scoring for their deterministic linkages?
  • How does a provider resolve to identity vs. profiles?
  • How is reach computed? What is the look-back window for the deterministic linkages?
  • What is the level and frequency of service provided without additional fees?  

At Neustar, we firmly believe that onboarding is a key piece of connective tissue to execute identity-based marketing. Prioritize accurate reach over tonnage, and use identity resolution to connect the dots. Build the right foundation. Ask questions. Scrutinize providers and their business practices. Find a partner who obsesses about the quality of the data supporting your business.

It’s time to onboard with a purpose. Raise your game. Because if you don’t get identity right, your people-based marketing will be wrong.