How Data Can Show You What You Don’t Know

In the geeky world of statistics, data science and the like, there’s an idiom that’s proven transitional even since 1903:

“Don’t use data as a drunken man uses a lamp post – for support rather than illumination.”

Data – especially that nebulous term “big data” – is all the rage these last few years. It’s becoming more available and more accessible as each day passes. Programs that were so cutting edge in 2008 and 2012 and only available to the most well-funded presidential campaigns and high spending Fortune 500 companies are scaling down-ballot and across businesses everywhere.

The problems now are it’s easy to be overwhelmed and easy to misuse databecause of a lack of understanding. There’s an art to finding and integrating the right data to the right purpose at the right time. Having said this, there are principals that are definitely necessary to use data to show you what you don’t know.

  1. Build a Sustainable Foundation

It’s not just something we say, you have to start smart. Many organizations we talk to have a good amount of data, but it’s messy and strewn across multiple platforms and files. That is just as good as not having first-party data. The best place to start is with what you have. This includes email distribution lists, CRM data, past orders, etc. Once all of the existing data is consolidated, you – possibly with our help – can determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to clean and enhance your data.

  1. Turn It Into an Asset

Few orgs inherently have all the right data when they begin. By having your data matched with other types of relevant commercial and behavioral data, you can add numerous useful data points, ranging from the most basic demographic data like age and net worth to behavioral data such as news preferences, charitable giving, and where online time is spent. This provides a fuller picture of your audience composition and helps you discover successful ways to reach, motivate, and persuade them.

  1. Put a Face to the Numbers

Making your data truly relevant to you and what you are doing as an organization is one of the most helpful ways to use it correctly. With the appropriate targeting and modeling techniques, it is possible to take your enhanced data to create target profiles and audience personas. Each one should be representative of a “typical person” with different traits.

  1. Improves Your Efforts

The combination of these audience personas with the demographic and behavioral data helps you not only determine the best messages to employ, but also the best places to use them. By knowing things like typical gender, age, education level, income level, and profession, you can deduce your targets’ likely online/offline behaviors and action triggers. This allows for a strategy that more cost-effectively allocates advertising dollars or time resources.

The key to smart data is in its use. We like to think of using it as a high-powered rifle instead of beat up old shotgun. Knowing your audience is one of the most important things your organization should know and smart data can get you there.

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