Hoarders: Digital Data

Originally published on Medium in The StartUp, January 2018.

Having data isn’t the same as using data.

Every minute of every day, it piles up. Towering stacks, going back weeks, months, sometimes even years. It would take hours, days even to sort through it.

Better to just close the door, pretend it’s no there. 
Out of sight, out of mind right?

And the smell…well, it doesn’t smell thankfully. Data is wonderfully cheap and easy to store indefinitely. But much like that garage full of every printed copy of the New York Times since 1994, it’s only useful if it’s usable.

Nearly all of the businesses I work with know they need data. 
They know it’s valuable. They may even have installed analytics — or gone to the trouble of linking their websites to their CRM. ‘Sales data for the e-commerce site. Of course we have that!…right?’

‘Great, can I see your recent analysis? See what the numbers are telling us?’
Silence. 
Awkward glance. 
‘We don’t really do anything with, but we have it.’

Having data isn’t the same as using data.

Digital marketing comes with a notable capability that most traditional print and physical marketing does not have — trackability.

I can’t tell you how many people drive past a billboard and then head to your store. I can guess, estimate — make an educated deduction.

I can tell you how many people saw your ad online, clicked the link, visited your site and spent the time to look around. Maybe they bought something. Or emailed you. Or called you about your services.

Where they’re from — we can tell down to the city. What if I told you your audience is a third Vancouver insomniacs with household incomes over $100k, who like Labradoodles and fly fishing? A quarter live in Dubai and only like things in navy or gold.

Information like that can change a strategy, flip creative and it can shift the very foundation that a company is built on. 

What you think about your audience and what you can know about your audience can be two vastly different and divergent things.

Like most Hoarders, we want to believe that all the data we store is worth it. But like the guestroom contents spread out on the front lawn — it all eventually sorts into a keep or trash pile. And the trash pile it usually bigger.

Don’t be a hoarder.
Collect the data you need, put that data in context. 
Then please, show it to the people who need it.

This post was inspired by a data review that included a massive buyer segment that was the complete opposite of the brands ‘target market’ profile.