Modern brands can only get on to people’s radars if they provide value – but, in a modern market, there is more than one kind of value.

Customer data is the key to understanding what prospects and customers want from a brand – and that should inform how brands talk with them, according to IBM chief digital officer Bob Lord.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, he says: “You have to think about how you want to interact with your customer.”

Specifically, Lord sees at least three groups of customer: “You’re probably going to have customers that want to interact with you more, customers that just want to have an awareness of who you are, and then customers who don’t want to interact with you. If you set your data strategy right, you’re going to be able to work with those different groups differently.”

In Lord’s model, value exchange with different kinds of customers would go something like this:

  1. Customers opted-in for more interaction: When a local cafe already knows a customer’s favourite blend, it should be able to serve a message notifying them of offers or similar drinks.
  2. Awareness-only: When a customer doesn’t want to give data but just wants to be aware a brand exists, a coffee shop should be able to target them as they walk down the same street.
  3. Refuseniks: If a customer doesn’t want to be targeted at all, a brand should resort to a content strategy. A coffee shop might publish articles on sustainable coffee growing or the environment.

Either way, the key is to provide prospects or customers with value that is derived from understanding them using data.

“As long as I’m providing value – whether in the first group, second group or third group – you’re protected,” Lord adds. “Brands have to think through that strategy with their agencies.”