Big Data – How much knowledge of your customers is enough? How much is too much?

  Well it appears that the last post we did on bad data was quite the hit.  With that, it dawned on me to categorize our posts by issues that our readers gravitate toward.  Welcome to the new Data Series from Print Tech!

  A recent read on the website Clickz.com presented a post that discussed “Big Data”.  In the article, the writer discussed how the buzz word “Relevance” has taken a back seat to this new term.  The truth is, it appears to me to be nothing more than semantics.  Relevance in marketing is the idea that you use your knowledge of clients and prospects to deliver messages that have meaning at the group or individual level.  Big data is the relevant data used to achieve those meaningful messages.

  So what’s the point?  Well none really, but it does apply in a sense to my next point.  What information should you capture and how much is enough?

  Since the dawn of sales and marketing, people have been seeking ways to learn more about their customers’ needs.  I myself will ask questions before a meeting in order to deliver a message that caters to their concerns, rather than boring them with big box presentations.  I learned this technique after a few meetings where participants nodded off.

  The availability of data in today’s world can be a blessing and a curse.  Knowing what makes your audience tick can be a powerful tool, but it can also be a massive turn-off with potential for backlash.  Let’s face it, the idea of being watched makes many people in a free society uncomfortable.  The greatest recent examples I can think of occurred at Target retailers.  Target is absolutely one of the best examples of a company that knows how to collect, analyze and leverage data.  What I will present to you is a positive and negative example of their practices.  Hopefully you can make the call on the enough/too much debate when we are done.

Positive – Target Retailers had long been keeping track of customers’ buying habits by tracking their purchases.  After a long period of analyzing data, Target was ready to launch what would become one of the most successful mail campaigns ever recorded.  They created a piece with 20 variable fields and pulled data to offer coupons by product category based on customers’ past purchases.  As the unique barcodes were scanned, Target was able to track exactly who had responded and what they had redeemed.  The result was a 50% lift in response rates over previous static campaigns, proving that proper targeting of your customers can deliver positive measurable results.

Negative – This same approach caused a bit of a backlash when Target started to analyze data perhaps a bit too much.  By looking at purchase histories, Target was actually able to determine pregnancy with certain combinations. (Scary, eh?) In this case, Target started sending coupons for baby clothes and the like to a Minneapolis woman whose buying habits indicated an impending birth.  The issue arose when the young woman’s father checked the mail and noticed this marketing tactic.  The problem?  The woman was actually a teenager and had not told her parents about the pregnancy.  The irate father stormed into their local Target and demanded to know what was going on, insisting Target was encouraging his daughter to get pregnant.  The store manager, having no idea what was happening at the corporate level, apologized profusely.  He called back a  few days later to again apologize and was informed that the teen actually was pregnant!  Now there is no way to prove this, but I’d bet that family didn’t shop at Target again anytime soon.  Good data can be a real asset to any company, but as you can see, a company can go too far.

  So what does this mean for other businesses out there?  It means that proper targeting can enhance your customer engagement and bring much needed revenue to your company.  Just be careful how much information you reveal back to them.  The best place to start for most companies is a good data append.  Scrub your list through a provider to get the basics.  Depending on whether you are B-to-B or B-to-C, those basics can be vastly different, but in a world where data is king, you won’t have any trouble locating someone to assist your business.  After that, engaging your audience with offers in exchange for information will help you get that relevant data to help you truly understand your customers.  And if they willingly give you data, you can avoid any of the unpleasantries that Target experienced.

As an integrated marketing company, Print Tech has been providing data services for over 10 years.
If your data is in need of some cleaning, give us a call and see what good data can do for you!
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