5 Creative Ways to Use Data (beyond measuring KPIs)

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“My Favorite Murder was the favorite podcast of 327,676 people on Spotify in 2018. Careful, one of them might be behind you.”

That is one of the many eye-catching, social sharing, earned-media nuggets that Spotify gleaned from its listener data and shared as part of its 2018 “Wrapped” campaign that included digital, social, and out-of-home billboards.

Do you want to use your data for something other than an eye chart in the monthly board report?

Do that.

Big data is awesome, we get that, but no one really loves reading a bunch of KPI charts on a slide deck except for the folks in finance. Instead, here are five creative ways to use your data to make some more money.

“Wrapped” it up

Spotify first rolled out its Wrapped campaign in 2016 and it has been an annual favorite since.

  • From 2016: “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?”
  • From 2017: “2018 Goals: Deliver burns as well as the person who streamed “Bad Liar” 86 times the day Sean Spicer resigned.”
  • From 2018: “God is a man” vs. “God is a woman,” according to fan-made playlists: Man – 9 playlists; Woman – 28,802 playlists

Now that is a creative use of the data you already have. Spotify isn’t the only brand that’s done this.

Procter & Gamble’s Pepto-Bismol back in 2010 found people talking on Facebook about needing Pepto-Bismol on weekend mornings. So they created their “Celebrating Life” campaigns ads that indirectly reminded folks that taking Pepto-Bismol ahead of time can help prevent hangovers. The result was an 11 percent increase in market share.

“Data is leading a lot of the creative process right now. Budgets are tighter, there’s more competition than ever and people don’t have the luxury to make mistakes and fail forward,” said Brent Poer, president and executive creative director for Zenith in New York in an AdWeek article about how marketers were using customer data to drive faster, smarter and more creative storytelling.

What stories can you tell with your data? Think like these brands, as well as others, to see what quirky opportunities exist to build brand awareness and drive sales.

The Fundamental Three

In 2017, Act-On’s customer support team wanted to find out what were the commonalities of our most successful customers. Unfortunately, this isn’t yet a report you can generate in Salesforce.

“We collected data on just about every customer that we have,” said Phil Bosley, CEO of Tactical MA and formerly lead marketing strategist at Act-On. “We began to look for patterns. We used frequency tables, and histograms, we used ANOVA comparative studies with IBM’s SPSS software. We really took this to a scientific level to understand at its core what was it that made an Act-On customer successful, what was it that made an Act-On customer love their experience, and ultimately what were the determining factors that somebody would love Act-On so much that after the first year they renewed for a second year, after the second year they renewed for a third year, so that we could see that longevity in relationship.”

The result was what we call the Fundamental Three:

  1. Installing the Act-On tracking beacon to their websites and begin tracking who specifically was visiting their website, even the anonymous visitors
  2. Integrating Act-On forms and begin gating your valuable content and converting those anonymous visitors into known leads
  3. Regularly emailing at least 20 percent of your marketing list and nurturing those leads along their journeys until they were ready to buy (and then continue nurturing those customer relationships)

And if they didn’t do these three? Those businesses were more than likely to not renew their contracts. Want to guess what we did next? Yep, started educating our customers on the importance of the Fundamental Three, including customer nurture email campaigns, tutorials on Act-On University and more.

Can you identify the why your customers are successful when using your product or service? Use your NPS or other customer feedback data to help you identify which customers will be your champions, which customers may need a little help to becoming your champions, and which customers are going to churn.

You can also use that data to help identify any roadblocks your customers may be experiencing that prevent their success? Could those be addressed with a product update or a simple video tutorial?

Ask yourself “So what?” and “What to do next?”

A lot of marketers can tell you what the most popular pages and blog posts are on their site. They can tell you how long someone is on the site, or how many pages a visitor checks out each session.

But, no offense, so what? What should I do next?

Make a list of those most popular pages and posts and see what ones are driving conversions to leads — meaning someone went from that page to another where they requested a phone call or exchanged their information for a whitepaper, eBook, or on-demand webinar.

If your most popular pages and posts are not driving conversions. Ask yourself why not? And can you change that? We have one blog post that is reliably the 800lb gorilla in terms of driving visitor traffic to the website. But with the exception of a CTA at the bottom of the post, we never really optimized the post for conversions.

That’s changed. It now has relevant CTAs, including on-demand webinars, throughout the post. And we’ve made sure to send share some of that post’s SEO value to other relevant pages via internal linking.

That couple of hours of work, and asking the questions “so what” and “what should I do next” is generating leads on a monthly basis.

Besides optimizing your best performing blog posts, you can also go back and see how you can improve or leverage your best performing eBooks, videos and other gated content. You can also see whether you can rescue your poorly performing content, or whether it just needs to be dropped.

Simplify & Visualize

I got this quote from Richard Branson by way of Avinash Kaushik’s Occam’s Razor blog: “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.”

I admit I am guilty of sending a manager a spreadsheet with rows of numbers. Is there a way I could have presented the data visually, and more simply?

Kaushik offers six tips to convert complex data into simple, logical stories. I love #5, “Sometimes you don’t have a choice, but whenever you have a choice use a visualization — even a simple one created in PowerPoint — and not a table.”

Consider the screenshot below from the Equal Justice Initiative about lynchings in America.

1% performance improvements

Netflix was still the mail-in DVD king and Big Data wasn’t yet a thing in 2006 when the first offered its $1 million Netflix Prize to see if anyone could improve their recommendation algorithm, which was introduced in 2000 and internal efforts to improve it had hit a wall. Computer science geeks everywhere went gaga and 13 years later, we now have binge watching. The algorithms help Netflix save $1 billion a year in value from customer retention.

Are hitting a wall on how to creatively use data? Consider applying the theory of marginal gains to your project. Typically, this is applied to seeking 1 percent continuous improvements with the aggregate resulting in awesomeness. That’s what the British Cycling did beginning in 2002 and they’ve dominated the sport since.  

So, today, gather some folks together over beers or coffee and brainstorm what data-driven stories you would ideally like to tell. Then identify the data points you would need to tell those stories.

Do you have them? Probably not, but you can begin collecting them. You could do that with a one question survey given each month. It could be holding focus groups at your roadshows and events. It could be working with a consultant to develop an original research project for your company. And in three, six or 12 months, you may have enough of a data set to tell that story. And it may just be the thing that anchors your marketing activities for all of 2020.

Or it could be something small, like tracking when an Act-On blog post results in a lead, contact and opportunity.

Summary

Why do we care? Well, with between 65 percent to 90 percent of buyers doing their own online research before ever contacting a vendor, marketing professionals must find new ways to get in front of prospects before they’ve made their purchasing decisions.

Leveraging data in marketing helps us decide where to focus our marketing spend. Moreover, it allows us to understand our prospects better and speak to them in a direct, personalized way.

But with data everywhere, it difficult to decipher which data we should be focusing on. After all, data is utterly useless to us if we don’t know how to properly analyze it and creatively share it with our team and our customers. 



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