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Technology opens new marketing possibilities in Europe

The introduction of new software and data will enable marketers to build databases of European customers in the same way that UK databases have been compiled, writes Martin Bradbury, client services director at EuroDirect.

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In the last few years the UK and Europe have become increasingly close in terms of politics and business. The European Parliament is routinely consulted on matters of UK interest, and EU directives govern many of our day-to-day actions.

Indeed, the completion of the Channel Tunnel has heralded more interaction between the UK and the rest of Europe than ever before.

Directly related to this increased communication and pan-European activity, international companies are expanding their operations, not just within areas defined by traditional 'mainland Europe' market models based on common language and proximity, but by looking to UK markets for new customers.

The key to these moves has been the availability of huge amounts of market intelligence derived from UK consumer data.

As an entity, the UK marketing industry is at the forefront when it comes to building rich lifestyle datasets and equally, highly capable GIS applications through which to utilise them. It is through this success that technology and, most importantly, valuable consumer data has become available for other European companies to use, and rightly so.

This detailed information on consumers, their locations and buying habits, is key to approaching new markets, and the initiative of entrepreneurial European companies to use this data is steadily paying off.

This may be positive for UK marketing organisations supplying the knowledge and skill to European or even international clients, but by implication it may mean even greater competition for home-grown businesses who find their markets challenged by overseas counterparts.

Another reason for this growth of activity is because many European countries have lagged behind the UK in data-based direct marketing activity. One cause of this is the strict data legislation imposed across many regions in Europe that tightly controls how much information on consumers companies can record and use.

From a UK perspective, there is less to encourage companies to venture into European markets. In particular, there is a real lack of data available for organisations to utilise. Our experience and understanding of approaching customers has shown the value of arming oneself with as much information as possible about them. With this knowledge, UK marketers can target each customer with specific communications that are contextually relevant, and a more 'intimate' marketer/consumer relationship can be pursued from the start.

However, prospecting for entirely new customers in European markets that we are unfamiliar with, or deciding on a site for a new outlet without any information on the surrounding population, is extremely difficult, and the majority of UK firms would shy away from starting such a process from scratch.

But things are beginning to change and there is a growing opportunity for UK data organisations to construct and maintain their own international data sets. These databases, using combinations of localised PAF data alongside that from 'live' customer activity will allow UK companies to begin taking large, pan-European steps.

Alongside the development of owned data sets, more European countries in particular are beginning to open up to the benefits of customer data, and are making this information available to select UK marketers. Such datasets and platform technology allow companies to develop a range of customer acquisition strategies, which undoubtedly aid organisations looking to identify new market opportunities.

Clearly, for some products and services, care must be taken before approaching 'foreign' markets. Consumer taste can be highly market-specific and will remain so whatever the efforts made to prove the contrary. For example, football goes down a treat across Europe, but bullfighting...?

However, the increasing globalisation of major brands (and their associated marketing messages) proves that huge untapped potential exists for those organisations able to identify market similarity, wherever it is located, and accurately associate product with consumer.

If this sounds difficult, the following description of how to go about it proves otherwise. An initial approach into a new market can be made without the need for extensive testing, by profiling UK customer data, and identifying the key categories that are relevant to the campaign.

These traits, which are present in responsive customers in the UK, can be identified in consumers in the new market, who can then be approached directly with an inaugural campaign. In recent months, software and data that enable this activity have appeared on the UK marketing scene - and not before time!

Obviously, there are other considerations that must be made when operating in new markets, whether they are within, or outside of, the UK. But ultimately, however challenging the move to a new market, the potential rewards of building a customer base internationally will prove an irresistible draw to many UK marketers.

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