With an ever expanding suite of marketing technology producing more and more information and insight into buyer behavior, big data is definitely here to stay. It takes time and effort to analyze your data and to let it lead your program decisions, however, the perception of what it takes is inflated and the consequences of waiting are heavy. Without data, we are left to make decisions based on gut-feeling and other emotional-based methodology, which can lead to costly mistakes.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker
Trying to make sense of it all can be overwhelming and a few failed attempts can derail even the best of intentions. Like eating right or working out, we know data driven decisions are better for us but its far easier to take the path well traveled and save it for last, or someone else.
Start with What You Know
While you can only analyze the data you’re capturing, too often we let gaps in the data keep us from taking action.
Forget about the holes in your data for a moment, set aside the fact that your titles are infinitely inconsistent and take a look at the data you have. Start simple and look for one thing you know, or strongly believe is true.
Approaching the virtual pile of data one decision at a time will get you moving down a path that is more relevant and more successful in the long run. Grab hold of your tenacity and don’t let messy and missing data lead you astray. Action is as simple as the power of one: Select one piece of data you have today and ask one question, “What one decision can you make with what you know?”
Perhaps your job title field is seemingly impossible to categorize, don’t let this stop you, press in. Can you pull out a segment that includes Chief, Vice or President? Voila, you have a grouping by job level. Is your segmentation perfect? Probably not. Is it good enough to get you started? Definitely.
Let’s go back to your messy data for a moment. There are times when data quality should prevent action, first name personalization for example should not be done unless your first name field is exceptionally clean. This type of personalization however, rarely creates the feeling of a custom experience. Far more impactful is when content is personalized, and this seldom requires perfect data.
“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.” – Don Draper
Listen to what your audience is telling you, look for clues about what they care about. Start your search for meaningful data focused on what will help you create a more unique experience for them. Repeatedly use the power of one to keep making progress.
Enhance Data for Future Decision Making
Now let’s look at the data you’d like to have. Again, start simple and ask yourself, “What decision could I make if I knew this?” If you can’t clearly map a business decision to that data point, its likely you don’t really need it to be more effective.
Once you know that the data would be used and valued, create a plan to capture it. Ideally, layout a plan to obtain the information without asking for it. Web forms are barriers to engagement, especially at the top of the funnel so look for alternative ways to increase what you know without them.
“More than 50% of online users will opt to go to another site rather than complete yet another sign-up form.”
– Janrain Social Identity Study
This is where technology can really come in handy. Without any form at all you can collect a multitude of data and use the information to provide tailored and personalized experiences. Questions such as, “What did my audience do after they read this article?” or “What type of device is my audience primarily engaging through?” can help inform future programs and content creation. You’ll avoid turning away potential customers with long forms and generic interactions and concurrently improve the overall experience for your audience.
Complexity is one of the most common reasons marketers don’t become data driven. For that reason, keep your approach simple. Start with two short lists of what you know and what you want to know and start to move forward one decision at a time.