Marketers talk it every day – ‘It’s all about the data’. Everyone nods their collective heads in agreement and the quest to gather even more data continues. There’s so much data available that marketing agencies and their clients are having a difficult time figuring out what’s significant and useful and what is not.
The data deluge is not slowing down, it’s actually speeding up. I believe that the practice of marketers sifting through the gobs of data in order to pull out worthwhile actionable information is precipitating paralysis by analysis. There are some companies (like Amazon and Netflix) that have managed to successfully filter their own customer and prospect data in order to offer real-time marketing suggestions to customers. Yet there are countless other companies that have been collecting masses of data but have no idea as to what to do with that data.
Are we over-measuring? It’s possible. In the context of companies spending so much time and effort organizing and stacking data they often fail to act, or when they do are conflicted as to what the data is telling them they ought to do. Look, I’m a big believer in data collection and its ability to assist companies in making better marketing and media decisions. Yet in the rush to measure EVERYTHING it’s only natural to then draw lines of connection borne from the data itself that does not necessarily have any correlation to good marketing instincts. What does one do when collected customer data suggests one approach which is at the same time contradicted by what is known to be a sound marketing practice?
Don’t read me wrong. I particularly enjoy challenging my own assumptions and I have on many occasions found the marketing data to be completely opposite of what I would have thought would be the case in terms of customer response or affinity. When that happens it’s our practice to test again to learn if our instincts were incorrect. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they aren’t.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you are testing an email campaign with an offer. You see results that show people prefer content over a sweepstakes. At the outset of the campaign you expected based on experience that a sweepstakes would outperform non-sweepstakes. Yet in the subject line of the email you note ‘Win…’ and really what may have happened is that spam filters sent that email to spam purgatory and recipients saw far fewer of those emails than they did for the offer of content. Drawing the conclusion that providing content is the way to go in the future may not be the right decision.
My point is not to stop testing or stop collecting data but to not blindly make decisions on the basis of the data alone. In the meantime we marketers will continue to swim in data and hopefully keep our head above water.
Are you drowning in data?