Digital Marketing, Youtility, Integrated Marketing and Media

Why Data May Be Steering You Into the Rocks

Inspired by YoutilityYes, big data is all the rage and incredibly powerful. And yes, it’s seductive that we can just “run a report” to see what customers and prospects are doing online. But….

Data and insight are not the same things. (tweet this)

Thirst for machined data can cause you to treat customer needs with LESS humanity and understanding, not more. And that’s a dangerous mistake.

data_and_insightsA few years ago, I did some consulting for Claire Burke, a company that manufactures and sells candles and scented air fresheners. Distributed in department stores, gift shops, and on their website, Claire Burke products are primarily purchased by women, 35 to 54 years old. Research told us this, and it was interesting information that we used when purchasing different forms of media to communicate to that segment of the population.

But, knowing that 35 to 54-year-old women buy your products isn’t insight, it’s just data.

Seek Answers, Not Facts

An effort led by my friend Susan Baier dug deeper into the motivations behind Claire Burke purchases, and found the gold. Of the five segments identified in the research, one group (approximately 15%) of customers purchased Claire Burke candles primarily because of the fragrance – the motivation the company was most familiar with. However, two other groups bought them for very different reasons: Twenty-five percent bought the candles to decorate their homes, so color and design were more important to them than fragrance, and twenty-one percent purchased them primarily as gifts, and cared more about the upscale brand and packaging.

Yes, customers were 35 to 54-year-old females, but their rationale for purchasing the products fell into three highly specific, wholly disparate segments.

Do not rely on data alone to make marketing and product decisions. Even with your array of seemingly magical software, the best way to find true insights is by actually talking to your customers.

If you don’t have a program in place to routinely probe the motivations and routines and lifestyles and thought processes of your current and prospective customers, stop worrying about Facebook and get that process in place today.

In marketing and in marriage, conversation breeds understanding. (tweet this)

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  1. says

    …and by my flippant comment, here is what I hope people *don’t* take from this article: that data does, indeed, steer you into the rocks. I hope, instead, that people read beyond the headline and understand what this excellent post really says–that the answer isn’t *less* data, it’s *more* data, in the form of astute questions and insightful answers. Demographic data (like ANY aggregate data) will never serve your specific brand, but it can form the basis of some better questions, which Susan asked and answered.

    So, really, what I hope people take from this post is that asking–and answering–those brand-specific questions has enormous value, and working with insightful partners like Susan should be your first impulse.

  2. susanbaier says

    LOL I agree with Tom – in the right hands, data can be incredibly helpful. In the wrong hands (AKA people just collecting data points to say they’re “data-based”), it doesn’t provide much insight and just ends up frustrating marketers who end up feeling they’re stupid because they can’t see how it can help them.

    Nice post Jay, and thanks for the mention. That project was a great example of the real story lurking underneath the aggregate numbers.

  3. @eventsresearch says

    It’s all about context. Understanding the data in context. Present your findings, recommendations and conclusions in context.

  4. says

    I really love this post. While it is indeed nice to see who is buying from you, the why (and I would add how they’re using your service/product) is much more important. If people are using your product different than its intended use, this would be incredibly valuable info to the marketing team. Campaigns tailored to the audience’s habits would undoubtedly be more effective.

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