It's OK to Hate Data
A little secret about Target Marketing: Our data content gets less traffic than just about any other topic we regularly cover.
Clearly, that doesn't stop us from covering the data-driven side of marketing. In fact, I think some of our best contributors write about data. But there's a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers.
If you're the former, let me say one thing: It's OK to hate data.
I was at Ad:Tech New York last week and caught the session "Your Data Might Be Crap, But Is It Fertilizer?" Mark Donatelli from Ogilvy moderated a conversation with data-driven marketing experts from the NFL, Gap Inc., Domo and Beckon.
Aidan Lyons, VP of fan experience for the NFL, had a great line: "They're not users, they're fans."
What he meant was, they're not just users, they're not just data. Every one of those records is a real, breathing person. A fan of the NFL. Sift and sort what you know about them, and you begin to spot groups with things in common. These are niches in your market who you can target with messaging and experiences.
Most of our readers can get into that. Once you have people to talk to, you're back in the game most marketers signed up to play.
But not everyone can see those people in the numbers, the data, even at a persona level.
And that's OK, because not everyone has to. There are a multitude of tools, agencies, consultants and data scientists who can help boil the data down to something marketers can work with.
I don't need to read binary to use a computer to write this post. You don't need to read SQL to be able use the insights, segmentation and personas that come out of it. So long as you can use those tools and raw materials to achieve your goals, you'll be fine. But you do have to learn the value of those tools and materials, and understand how to use them to best advantage.
You can hate the data, but you can't hate the data-driven game and be successful at marketing today.
But what if you're on the other side? What if you're the data guru trying to communicate the possibilities of data? What if you offer a tool or service that creates those insights? How do you get marketers who don't want to hear about data to listen to what you can do?
Here are three tips I've picked up from working with our content and sources.
- Say It in Their Terms. Like in copywriting, you need to explain the benefits of data in "you" text, not "me" text. That means talking about what your users can do and what they can get out of that. Start by identifying the goals they need to reach, how data can help them get there, and the process of using the data to do that. Then skip down the steps of that process to where the data actually helps deliver the measurables. That's where the magic trick really happens, so those are the steps you want to talk about.
- Make It Easy. Package your deliverables as close to that magic step as possible. You already identified the part in the process where the data makes magic for your users; turn the process over to them as close to that point as possible. In short, skip them past this stuff:
- Declare Victory. Don't just hand the data over and hope for the best. Watch what happens, ask how they're implementing it and follow their metrics. Point out where the data deliverables have a positive impact. Identify where they're not and try to refine the deliverable until they do have a positive impact. Then talk about that success. Many wins become losses in the retelling. Make sure you're a part of that narrative and can show what worked.