Intelligence: According to Merriam-Webster it’s “the ability to learn, understand or to deal with new or trying situations.” Intelligence is what market trailblazers like data centre giant Q9 and health benefits manager Express Scripts Canada have in massive proportions.

Express Scripts is a Fortune 50 company with over $100 billion USD in annual revenue and is one of the top 20 largest companies in the North America. They have served thousands of Canadian pharmacy patients over the past few years, as the company transforms the way organizations and employees think about and participate in their drug benefit plan.

Steve Nowak, director, sales & marketing of Express Scripts Canada, believes that their commitment to data intelligence informs their marketing strategies when it comes to acquiring new patients and better managing patient outcomes, giving them a huge competitive advantage.

“We diligently track marketing analytics across all channels. Our data analysis supported the creation of clearer, more direct new member acquisition communications, resulting in greater member enrolment in the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy. We also gleaned from our data that our members want us to be more active on social media. For example, the data indicated that they want us to post more information on health-related topics. Our blogs, tweets and LinkedIn posts have focused on the disease states that the data tell us are most relevant to our members. This element of member satisfaction has also generated positive changes to our member outreach processes,” says Nowak.

Q9 has data centres across Canada and houses a secretive and secure who’s-who of corporate information. Peter Kerr, director marketing communications at Q9, offers a sentiment similar to Nowak’s. Kerr, whose career beginnings were as a database marketer, knows that gathering market intelligence and interpreting it into go-forward strategies that his customers will buy is critical.

Kerr explains: “There is a disconnect in the marketplace in terms of how IT decision makers want to be communicated with and how technology companies speak to them. Using analyst research reports, digital analytics and marketing automation tools like Pardot, we are always able to drill down to understand this communication gap and transition to more customer-benefit messaging.”

For Q9, which just launched a new customer acquisition campaign, ongoing data review is critical. Kerr feels that “25 years ago data-driven marketing existed almost exclusively in the direct mail and telemarketing fields, where database marketing emerged. The data coming out of digital campaigns today is very similar, but on steroids. The challenge now isn’t accessing the data—it’s knowing what information to look at, given how much is available.”

Toronto-based advertising agency Clever Samurai has the formidable task of guiding and supporting both these trailblazers with their marketing and communications strategies including new national campaigns for each. And with data intelligence at the core of the campaigns, guessing what will work is not a strategy requirement.

Stuart Lewis, president and CEO at Clever Samurai, says, “sophisticated and market-leading organizations understand that anticipating customer requirements, even before the customer does, can be a winning formula. In the case of both Q9 and Express Scripts Canada, they absolutely have a better mousetrap than their competitors. The key is to simplify messaging for their complex offerings, constantly analyze what channels are working and understand that the application of ongoing intelligence leads to continuous improvement. It removes the guess work and allows for incremental and sustainable new business wins.”

In today’s digital marketing world, Steve Nowak believes that providing ongoing content that delivers his members value is akin to increasing profitability. “Data analytics provide us with insight into how to create better, more targeted content. Our content is relevant and valuable to our audience because the data helps us come up with our next blog or our next tweet. If we don’t leverage our marketing data then we are missing out on key opportunities to improve our company’s marketing strategy and ultimately our return on investment. “

Kerr echoes the sentiment and believes his content strategy was a key decision point in Q9’s repositioned brand. “Developing a content strategy in B2B technology marketing is a daunting task. We’ve been able to short-cut trial and error by understanding what information IT and line-of-business decision makers need at each stage of the buying cycle. This has made content decisions far easier.”

Underpinning Q9’s strategy is their new Clever Samurai developed ad campaign, which delivers the customer-focused message of “make your business thrive.” Express Scripts Canada’s campaign messaging promotes better health decisions for plan members, while managing and reducing drug benefit costs for plan sponsors.

“We’ve got clients that understand the notion of channel analysis, ABC testing, lead scoring and brand building,” says Lewis. “But, we don’t have the luxury of simply building these brands, we’re here to ensure that potential customers sign deals with these great organizations. And there’s one thing that’s easy to measure—you sold the deal or you didn’t.”

Kerr does have a cautionary tale regarding the use of data. “All of the data available today is fantastic and I get very excited by it. The trick is to not fall victim to analysis paralysis. Marketers still need to make decisions quickly and sometimes it can be difficult to see the forest from the trees. Start out at a high level with key metrics and drill down where you need to. It is a more practical approach and you can still be market responsive.”

Nowak points out that data isn’t only for new business wins. It also helps Express Scripts Canada better manage patient outcomes. “The analysis of key member data pointed to the need for a better first touch point with our members. This resulted in the creation of a better, more streamlined member welcome experience.”
While both Q9 and Express Scripts have very successful and very different businesses, one thing they have in common is this: Merriam-Webster might just add their names to the definition of intelligence.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Leigh-Ann Clarke

Leigh-Ann Clarke is director of sales, North America for 360 Leads. She has been with 360 Leads since 2014, following her progressive management career at Yellow Pages Group where she led their sales efforts in digital products, print, telephone sales and neighbourhood directories.