Why Marketers Should Care About Privacy

People the world over are up in arms over the lack of privacy individuals have in the digital age. And while some of what they are saying gets lost in translation, it ultimately boils down to the fact that it seems that no matter what we do, someone is watching us – whether that be the government, the banks, or advertisers.

What ever happened to privacy, anyway?

As marketers, we want data. To get that data, we take advantage of new technologies that collect that data from consumers, sometimes safely and other times a little less so.

We might say we care about privacy, but we’ll do almost anything to get data if we think it will help improve our numbers. And so we easily cross that moral line in the name of personal success.

Should we care more than we do?

I think the answer is yes. We should care because we are in the business of trust. If consumers can’t trust us, can’t trust what we’re telling and selling them, then we have no chance of success. And collecting data we have no right to is a surefire way to lose their trust.

How do we keep the trust?

I don’t mean to say we should stop collecting and using the data available to us. That would be a far greater sacrifice than is necessary. But we should be clear with people what data we collect and why. There are benefits for consumers when we collect their data. And they should know what they’re getting out of the deal as well, so that they can make the right decision about whether to share that information or not.

The Problems with Analytics

Data is a good thing. The more we know about our customers, our website visitors, our business processes, the better off we should be.

But there are problems that come with analytics. If you are working in a data-driven company, or are in the process of changing over to a data-driven culture, be sure to avoid these common missteps.

1. The data is wrong.

The first problem that many companies encounter is that the data they are collecting and analyzing is incorrect or incomplete. Often you’ll find that there are gaps in your data, or things don’t match from one system to the next. Then you have to go back and try to piece your data together manually to get a more accurate look at your business.

Sometimes, it is not immediately obvious that the data is wrong. So you start using it to make important business decisions. And you don’t find out until it’s too late that those decisions were made looking at incorrect information.

You need to be very confident that your data is correct and complete before relying on it to make important decisions that will impact the future of your business.

2. You’re using the wrong metrics.

Know what problem you want to solve or what question you want to answer before you start getting too involved with data analysis. It is far too easy to spend a lot of time and energy analyzing one metric or set of metrics, when it’s something else entirely that should be commanding your attention.

Just because you are able to see something, doesn’t mean it’s important. Be sure to prioritize your data analysis based on the impact it can have on your business.

3. You’re missing the big picture.

Analysis paralysis is real, people. It’s when you get too bogged down in vast world of analytics and are unable to pull yourself out and look at your business as a whole.

Sure, it’s easy to think that data will solve all your problems. If we improve this metric and that metric, the business will naturally improve with it. But if you start thinking on a smaller scale, focusing too intently on the numbers, you may find yourself unable to see the forest for the trees.

How to Know More About Your Customers

It is my hope that yesterday’s post on data convinced you of the importance of collecting and mining customer data, and encouraged you to think in new ways about the data that you already have.

But what if you don’t have the data you want, or need, to really make a difference?

You need to figure out how to get it. And there are a number of things you can do to change the way that you collect data and get more of what you need.

  1. Ask your customers – through a combination of surveys, sign up forms, and checkout processes, you can collect a lot of information directly from your customers. They are your best source of data, especially when they willingly provide it to you. Make sure that you have the systems in place to collect and store all this data, trackable back to each individual customer.
  2. Add third party data – there are a number of large companies whose primary business is collecting data on consumers at the individual and household level. If you can afford it, you can marry their data to your customer list, adding new pieces of information that you might not be willing or able to collect directly.
  3. Track web activity – even the most basic website analytics platforms give you thousands of different pieces of information about the behavior of people on your website. And you should be able to connect your customer database to your analytics platform to tie web activity directly to individual customers based on an IP address or login.
  4. Track purchases – some companies struggle to get the data they need because they’re not tracking the things they should be. All purchase behavior should be collected and stored with the customer data, including but not limited to the date, products purchased, amount spent, checkout method (in store, online, phone, etc.).

The key to knowing more about your customers is to identify what you know already, figure out what you want to know that you don’t already have, and then find the easiest way to get it. Often times, when you get to that point, you’ll find that the information you’re after is easier to get than you expected.

So stop waiting and start collecting.

What Do You Know About Your Customers?

The more you know about your customers, the better. We live in the era of big data. What that is and what it means changes depending on who you talk to and when. But most generally, it means that data is:

  • Easier to get, and
  • Easier to analyze

We can capture, store, sort, and analyze an almost infinite amount of information about our business and those who do business with us. And smart companies have been taking advantage of that knowledge to:

  • Increase ROI on marketing efforts
  • Enter new markets
  • Develop new products or services

So what do you know about your customers, and how can that help you grow your business?

Here are some things you might already know:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Birthday
  • Location
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • # of times they purchased from you
  • Purchase dates
  • Purchase amounts

And how can you use that information effectively? Here are a few basic ideas to help you get started.

  1. You could mail a special offer flyer to all your customers on their birthday offering them a discount on their next purchase.
  2. You could call or email customers who have not made a purchase in a while and offer them an incentive to return, or survey them to find out why they may have left.
  3. You can identify key locations with a large percentage of customers and target advertisements in that area.
  4. You can use the data about what people purchased to develop complementary products and offer them specifically to past customers based on their buying behavior.

Your turn. Think about all of the information you have available to you. Can you organize it in such a way that it helps you find new opportunities to grow your business?

How to Use Big Data on a Small Budget?

There is not bigger buzzword in the marketing atmosphere today than Big Data.

But when most of us hear “big data”, we think big budgets. Don’t let that association scare you off. Because there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the data trend without investing millions of dollars.

Firstly, what are we talking about when we say “big data”?

Big data refers to using the information at our disposal to make more informed business decisions. Over the last decade or so, our ability to collect and use data has exploded. More information is available for more people, and some really smart people have figured out how to organize and analyze that data to improve business processes and results.

Here are five ways your company can take advantage of big data on a small budget:

  1. Google Analytics – installing and utilizing a free tool like Google Analytics allows you to track all of your web activity and spot trends that you can use to make decisions about your website. You can learn more about who is visiting your site, how they are finding you, what they are looking for, and how they engage once on your site. Effective, data-centric marketers use website analytics to spot trends and make changes that will improve the usability and effectiveness of their site.
  2. Remarketing – Companies like Google, Retargeter, and AdRoll all offer services that allow you to advertise to those most likely to turn into customers, the people who are already interacting with you online. Placing a simple tracking pixel on your site, and targeting those people that visit with ads, helps you advertise more effectively. And you can customize the messaging of each ad based on what the person is looking for or looking at on your site.
  3. Lookalike Audiences – Facebook now offers a great big data marketing tool in its ad platform. Lookalike audiences allows you to upload a list of your customers (assuming you know their email address) and it will identify other users on Facebook who “look like” those customers. You can then target only those people with advertising, people you know are a lot like your customers.
  4. Email Marketing – Implement an email marketing program where you collect information about your subscribers that allows you to segment your lists. Instead of delivering the same email at the same time to your entire list, you can use what you know about their interests, habits, demographics and geographic location to send them customized and personalized messages. This is a proven strategy to increase the effectiveness of your emails.
  5. Surveys and Focus Groups – Listen to your customers. They will tell you things you never knew. Basic surveys – whether they are done online, in person, over the phone, or through the mail – can help you further define who your customers are, what they like, who they buy from, and how you can help them better. Use that research to craft better messaging, improve your products and services, and find more people like them in the marketplace.