Forget Big Data, Start With The Right Data

In a previous role, I was with my agency team at a new business pitch. Everything seemed to be going very well. Then, the person that was in charge of social media for the brand exclaimed that another vendor could tell her whether the fans/likes on the company Facebook page liked red or white wine. Of course, we asked what purpose it served but didn't really get a response. I was very curious at how this knowledge would help them sell retirement plans. It wouldn't. Why would someone go to a financial services product's Facebook page to talk about wine?

Data doesn't have feelings - it won't be sad if you leave some of it out.

Simply because we can gather every detail doesn't mean that we should. We certainly shouldn't report on every piece of data that we collect, especially when dealing with marketing campaigns. Have you ever been on a conference call that went through pages and pages of graphs? What is that accomplishing? When someone doesn't really understand what they are doing with data, they will give you all of it - every last bit of it. In order to make informed, strategic decisions you need the right data versus all of the data. Here's how to start from a marketing perspective:

1. Determine your goal: Are you looking for awareness for a new product? Do you need to get visits to a website? Would you like to get people to register to vote? Start with your overarching, primary goal. Yes, you can have secondary initiatives, but start at the very top and then work out from there. Your marketing/strategy team will guide you here. If you don't have a team and can't reach a goal, don't start your campaigns yet. Go back into a brainstorm session until you do have a goal. If you still don't have a goal then you probably have bigger issues at hand that don't involve marketing.

2. Choose metrics that measure progress toward that goal. There are really only three metrics: awareness, engagement, and conversion. You could consider the last two to be nearly the same thing - every other metric stems from there when you're talking about sales and/or marketing. Yes, there is also demographic data but from there you want to see if they're aware, engaged and converting - right?

3. Stay focused: Avoid "analysis paralysis" by reporting only on those metrics that you initially focused on. Do deep-dives only when absolutely necessary. Think about it, the C-suite really just wants the bottom line. Save everything else for an appendix. Your data/strategy team will need some of the other metrics, but they are the ones putting it together and should have a good feel for the data. If they don't, then you need a new data strategy.

4. When all else fails, give every piece of data the "so what" test. Read the data and then ask yourself, "So what?" If you don't have a good answer, that piece of data isn't necessary to inform your strategy.

Trust me, I also go down the proverbial rabbit hole myself every now and then. It happens. In all of my years of dealing with marketing data, I've discovered that the simplest answers are usually the right ones. Heck, even in college/grad school when I was doing actual cancer research this was still the case. The KISS rule (keep it simple, silly) applies in more cases than you might realize.

Don't get me wrong. I am a fan of big data and all it can do. I just prefer that we all start with the right data.