Data for dummies: Four places to get started

It may be imperative to any marketing strategy, but collecting data is daunting to all the digital dilettantes out there. Here are four tactics to start off with.

Everyone knows what an important role data plays in marketing. From American Apparel creating custom audiences to Amazon somehow knowing everything about everyone, you constantly hear about brands using data in innovative ways.

But on the flip side, a Millward Brown Digital survey from the summer found that nearly half of marketers consider big data to be their biggest obstacle. According to that same research, only 14 percent are confident when it comes to utilizing data themselves.

We get it. Some marketers are data pros. But plenty aren’t. If you fall into the second category, here are four places for you to get started.

1. Determine

Part of why data is so daunting is because there’s so much of it. According to IBM, we as a society create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day.

That’s such a big number that when we tried to figure out how many bytes that translates to each second, even the calculator was like, “What the hell?”


To make it all slightly less intimidating, ask yourself one question before you start collecting data: What is your plan? Once your intentions are clear, you’ll have a better sense of where to begin.

But Ben Hookway, chief executive (CEO) of Relative Insight, points out the danger of being too inflexibly married to your plan.

“Quite often, you see people so obsessed with one specific thing. They’re looking so hard at that, that they miss other important, significant things,” he says.

2. Start small

Granularity is important. But there’s a fine line between knowing your audience and knowing your audience so well that you’ve freaked it out.

Brands like Google, Facebook and Amazon have become such a part of people’s lives that their creepiness is a bit more tolerated. If you’re not quite on their level, you won’t be let off the hook so easily.

If you’re at this, it’s best to start with simpler data sets, like location – weather dictates fashion, after all. Limit your behavioral marketing to things people have actually done on your site, not things you’ve gleaned about them elsewhere.

Don’t get too far into the weeds, lest you make someone feel like they’re being stalked.


“For a media company, asking your shoe size has no relevance to what your favorite radio station is. Asking for information that’d be appropriate based on what your business is and what your users expect from you is a good place to start,” said Fisher Fisher, technical product manager of Cox Media Group during ClickZ‘s most recent webinar.

3. Diversify

This ties in with point number one. Once your plan is in place and you’re collecting data, don’t just go for what’s the most accessible. Social listening is a perfect example of why you need to look at more than just the low-hanging fruit.

“There’s so much data on Facebook and Twitter that you’re bound to find whatever you think to look for,” says Hookway. “Just because it’s easy to get doesn’t mean it’s the right data to analyze.”

4. Unite

As you start collecting data, you’ll want to create profiles. Once you’re able to connect this person to this computer and that smartphone, you’ll be better at gauging individual customer journeys.



One pitfall during this stage is being 100 percent certain that you’re targeting the person you mean to. While social listening can be a lot of empty calories, social logins are a totally different story. Jamie Beckland, vice president of product at Janrain, points out that whatever you learn about someone from Facebook or LinkedIn is likely to be quality and accurate.

“There’s a lot of social pressure for those identities to be a real aspect of who that person is. It’s not going to tell you the depths of their soul, but there’s a high degree of confidence that someone is not going to lie to their friends and family about their age, their birthday and if they graduated from college,” he says. “If [social media] is something you can have the user opt into sharing with you, you have a higher confidence than you would with a disposable email address.”

Aim here for more information on ClickZ’s webinars

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