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Three Critical Errors Marketers Make When it Comes to Thinking about Data

This op-ed originally appeared on MarTech Advisor.



In 2016, internet traffic surpassed one zettabyte’s worth of data. To put that in perspective, one zettabyte is the data of roughly 125 trillion songs. If you had a playlist 125 trillion songs long, you could have started listening 750 million years ago, when the earth’s surface was frozen from the poles to the equator, and get to this moment without repeating a single song.

Suffice it to say, the phrase “big data” isn’t exactly doing justice to the sheer volume of global data being transacted. But even given these massive numbers, I often hear marketers complaining about incomplete data, bad data, and even a lack of data. Data-based marketing isn’t simple, but I find these complaints hard to digest.

In reality, there are just three common database oversights that will leave marketers with the taste of bad data in their mouths. 

1. Not realizing what data you have

Everyone has data. If you have customers, if you have site visitors, if your mom signed up for your newsletter, you have data. You don’t need to know everything about everyone who’s ever interacted with your brand. You don’t even need a fancy-schmancy CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or DMP (Data Management Platform) to keep track of what you know.

The only thing you need to know is the unique data you own.

Proprietary data can be a goldmine if you know what to do with it. Maybe it’s a list of email addresses from your newsletter signup – that’s a captive audience. Or a stack of business cards from an industry event – those are relevant leads. Do you have the device IDs where your app is installed? Sets of customer billing information? These are lists of your current customers.

The point is, figuring out what data you have is step one of smart data-driven marketing.

2. Not adding to your data

Data gets stale. The best way to keep it fresh is to keep adding to it. Can you append your customer records with email addresses? Can you tie a mailing address to that device? The data points you have on existing customers should be kept up to date, and you should also look to expand your overall list using organic and inorganic means.

Organic list expansion is the natural growth you’ll see as your customer base increases, as more folks sign up for your newsletter, as new leads come in, etc. This is often slow and steady growth, with peaks around events, product releases, etc.

Inorganic data growth requires external forces. In its simplest format, this could be the purchase of a targeted list or shared contacts from partners. Another trend is working with third-parties who take your data and enhance and extend it by finding new data points associated to existing records or by finding new records that are similar to what you already have. Lookalike modeling can be especially valuable for new user acquisition and prospecting, whereas data extension is more applicable for customer nurturing.

Depending on your goals, one or both of these tactics may be right for you. One way or another, it’s important that you keep your data growing.

3. Not activating your data

Even a full database with accurate and complete records is useless left untapped. Find a partner that can help you make your data-driven marketing dreams a reality.

Here are just a few ways to activate your data:

  • Build more relevant email campaigns.
  • Serve more targeted ads.
  • Customize the sales funnel.
  • Personalize product recommendations.
  • Deliver customized web content.
  • Measure online behavior across devices.

You see the reports all the time. IBM says 90% of the data in the world today was created within the last two years. How much of that data is ignored? Incomplete? Unactivated?

There’s no excuse. Data is your most valuable asset. It’s time for marketers to put their data to work.

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