Marketers love data in whatever way they can collect it. Whether it is data from customers' website visits or information recorded on a fitness watch or GPS data obtained with the help of customers' smartphones, marketers will certainly try to capture it. The amount of data collection taking place is massive and, as we discussed in March, is leading to a rapidly growing demand for people skilled in managing data analytics.

While marketing organizations love big data, customers, on the other hand, are often not so keen on what they believe is being collected about them. Their chief concerns almost always revolve around privacy issues. However, while customers may not like how and what is being collected about them, a marketer should not assume consumers are totally opposed to data collection.

For instance, as discussed in this Harvard Business Review story, companies may find their customers are much more accepting of the data that is being collected if the marketer is open about their collection activity, especially for data customers feel is the most value to them. The story suggests the value-of-data question is cultural and may depend on the country in which customers reside. This means the openness marketers share about their data collection methods will depend on the type of information customers find most valuable, which may vary by country.

In addition to offering marketers suggestions for when they should focus on improving the openness of data, the story also provides several good research statistics including how customers view the trustworthiness of different industries when it comes to their personal data. It also presents information on how few customers really understand the ways data is being collected about them.

One of the great temptations for marketers is getting caught up in what attracts the attention of the news media. For the news media, when it comes to marketing, a good story is likely one dealing with advertising and product design, and not one dealing with other important marketing decisions such as shipping, warehousing and even product labeling. Yet, these less "glamorous" areas of marketing are still extremely important in building a successful marketing business.

Another area that can be added to this list of less-than-glamorous marketing functions is customer service. Many marketers despise getting involved in customer service as they view this as less of a service and more of dealing with whining customers. Of course, companies do face whining and, in some cases, arrogant customers, though to dismiss or give short shrift to a function that offers direct contact with those who support the business can be a big mistake.

However, recognizing the need for good customer service also means that companies must spend on technology. In today's instant-contact-is-expected age, marketers cannot afford to let customers be limited to obtaining help from a few phone lines or through email. Companies must expand to offering near instant communication with its customer service department. This means providing such options as online chat and, as described in this story from CRM Magazine, the use of text messaging.

Adding a text messaging option would seem to be easy. Just have a few smartphones manned by customer service folks, and you are good to go. However, as discussed in the story, that is not the way this works, as more technology is needed for text messaging to be a useful customer service option.

Yet, offering a customer service texting option creates a dilemma. While responding to customer issues by text may offer convenience for the customer, on the company end they may be losing out on opportunities to develop stronger relationships with their customers due to the impersonal nature of texting. Unlike a person-to-person phone call, it is much more difficult to engage the customer in communication that could possibly lead them to purchase other products. On the other hand, companies not offering this option could be perceived as not being very advanced or not caring about their customers.

The story offers a good background for why texting is quickly becoming many customers' preferred channel for reaching a company's customer service department and also suggests how companies can turn this customer service channel into a sales channel.

There are thousands of retailers born every year. Many, of course, are single outlet operations, such as a small coffee house or a new website selling a specialty product. Each new entry is looking to mold together the right combination of business decisions (e.g., marketing, finance, human resources, etc.) that will lead to a successful operation.

When it comes to the right marketing decisions, retailers can find success for several different reasons. Some are successful because they sell great products that others do not sell (e.g. Apple Stores). Other retailers find success because of personalized care they extend to their customers (e.g., Nordstrom). While for other retailers it is all about using low price to attract customers (e.g., Walmart). And then there are those who are successful because of ordering and delivery convenience (e.g., Amazon).

Yet, while these examples of retail success may suggest it is about being great at one marketing mix variable (i.e., product, price, promotion or distribution), what all successful retailers have in common is making sure they invest heavily in fully understanding their customers. For instance, the companies mentioned expend great efforts in researching customer needs and in capturing customer data, such as purchase history and website traffic patterns. They then take this information and provide a retail experience that they believe is addressing what customers are really seeking.

A case in point of a company that knows what its customers want can be found in this story from Bloomberg about the Sports Bar chain, Buffalo Wild Wings. The story provides a fairly in-depth explanation of how this company has grown to be a powerhouse eatery with over 1,000 U.S. locations with more on the way (including international locations). What is particularly important from a marketing perspective is how this company has taken what some would consider a niche food product, chicken wings, and turned it into a business that is thriving with over $1.5 billion in sales. What is even more impressive, they are accomplishing at a time when many other major restaurant chains are struggling.

The issues found in this story cover all key marketing decisions. And even for organizations not in the restaurant business, this story will serve as a good case study in how to do marketing right.

When developing a promotional campaign or deciding what to place on a product package, marketers will often search for comments by a neutral third party hoping these will impress potential customers. The idea is that customers may consider what is said by those who are not directly paid be a marketer to be unbiased and, consequently, highly credible. Examples are easy to find, such as a car company promoting their automobile's top rating in crash tests performed by a government agency or a university touting their ranking by a major news magazine.

The influence that third party evaluators can have is potentially so meaningful that organizations often bend over backwards to support and cater to them. For instance, a marketer may provide evaluators with direct access to top executives and even offer financial support, especially to important non-profits. Of course, there are many that will look at monetary support as an attempt to buy influence but that is far from being the case. There are many reputable third party evaluators whose evaluations and opinions cannot be bought, even if they receive money from  organizations they evaluate.

In the same vein there are non-profit trade groups that are funded by and work for their members. While these groups do not specifically evaluate and rate products, they do make decisions that marketers may be eager to promote. An excellent example can be found in this Fortune story that reports on changes in the craft beer industry. According to the story, the Brewers Association, a trade group representing U.S. craft brewers, has changed how they define craft beer. The new definition expands what is classified as a craft beer leading to a change in the listing of top craft brewers.

The alteration has raised Pennsylvania brewer, Yuengling, to the top of the U.S. craft beer list ahead of previous leader Samuel Adams. While there is no evidence in the story that Yuengling plans to take promotional advantage of their new status, do not be surprised to see this coming soon to their packaging, in-store displays and advertisements.

In February, we wrote how the promotional impact of a sales force may not always be viewed as strongly as what can be done with advertising. We suggested that, in part, this may be because people just do not understand what salespeople do. When it comes to field salespeople (i.e., travel to customers' locations), we can extend this by suggesting that some in an organization may not fully appreciate what they do because, to some inside an organization, field salespeople are more like independent contractors, who are paid for work done outside the office. They only occasionally make a physical appearance within an organization's building and, consequently, rarely interact with office employees.

Because many salespeople perform their work without having other members of their organization around, those who manage the sales function must trust that a salesperson is performing the tasks needed to build strong customer relationships, which will ultimately result in sales. For management, there are certainly methods that can be utilized to monitor what salespeople are doing, such as requiring daily reports. While such tracking is useful, getting a person, who you see infrequently, to go out and give it their strongest effort requires other methods for motivating them to work hard. One way in which management can motivate their sales force is through something that motivates most people – money. For many salespeople, they are particularly motivated when the compensation they receive is tied to sales results, especially when generating greater sales results in more money.

As discussed in this in-depth Harvard Business Review story, traditional methods for determining sales force compensation actually may be decreasing overall sales. Evidence for this comes from research undertaken by story's author. For instance, research results suggest placing a cap on commissions or raising a sales quota based on a previous year's results can negatively impact a salesperson's motivation and, thus, their effort.

This story covers a lot of ground including reviewing previous research on how to motivate salespeople and also offers steps for designing an effective sales force compensation plan.