When Data Fails You

Data is not the Holy Grail. Data does not trump solid strategic thinking and planning. Data is not the magic cure for all your marketing woes. Data is, however, a tool that, when used properly, can help provide insights to drive marketing performance, reduce guesswork and assumptions, and provide an advantage over your competitors.

So when does data fail you?

When it’s ignored

When you’ve collected the wrong data

When you coerce it into telling the story you want to hear, rather than the story it wants to tell

When you seek the path of least resistance

When you’re content with the status quo

When you make too many assumptions

When you stop seeking answers to difficult questions

When you’re afraid of the answers



When you don’t challenge yourself

When you think data can solve all of your problems

None of the above are data problems. These are cultural and process issues. Data fails you when you fail yourself.  As the debate regarding the math-and-sciencification of marketing rages on, remember: Marketing is both an art and a science.

Innovation around data management and marketing automation are certainly exciting. But there’s nothing that beats the ingenuity, passion, creativity, and strategic thinking that have been, and continue to be, the driving forces behind the evolving digital marketing industry today.

Has data failed you?  Add a comment or hit me on Twitter @jasonheller.

3 comments about "When Data Fails You".
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  1. Mary Rainer from NYU, October 11, 2011 at 6:23 p.m.

    Data is absolutely golden. You just need to know enough about experimental design and testing to collect the RIGHT data (and that includes clean within an elegant experimental design). Then you need to wring all the insight possible out of that data, and then and only then let the wisdom of experience and insight let you extrapolate with significant added value from that extrapolation and probabilistic inference. But never doubt that it all starts with sound fundamentals of experimental design and data collection!

  2. Jason Heller from AGILITi, October 12, 2011 at 7:06 p.m.

    Thanks for chiming in Mary!

    I'd argue that it all starts with a clear understanding of business and marketing objectives and marketing questions that need to be answered. I think your comment actually states this indirectly.

    Data in and of itself is neither beneficial nor detrimental. It just is. Without the proper planning and strategy data doesn't add value in a vacuum.

  3. John Bottom from Base One, October 21, 2011 at 7:18 a.m.

    Jason - you've hit the nail on the head. Data doesn't do what you want it to, and too many people think it is something you can use to support what you're doing. Other way around: data shows you a way to do things - if you understand it.

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