Commentary

The Data You're Not Using

As marketers, we generate and consume tremendous amounts of data – whether it’s reporting from our own programs and campaigns, third-party research from trusted industry experts, or other sources. Unfortunately, though, there’s a massive amount of readily available (and very important) data that many of us aren’t taking into consideration when we build out our marketing strategies. The good news is that it doesn’t require Herculean efforts by IT and multiple partners to gather. The bad news? We can’t control it – but with the right outlook and planning, we can take advantage of it (or at least minimize its impact). 

So what are these other data sources hiding out in the open? Let’s call them Really Big Data. (Yes, I know – not very creative, but you may have heard that “big data” was already taken. Ping me if you have other ideas.) What does Really Big Data include? 

  • Macroeconomic data. According to Investopedia, macroeconomic includes “economy-wide phenomena such as changes in unemployment, national income, rate of growth, gross domestic product, inflation and price levels.”
  • Popular media. Social listening is one component (via tools such as Radian6), but more “traditional” news sources (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and so on) and public opinion polls are important resources for tracking opinions as well. 
  • Meteorology. Yes, the weather. It has a greater impact on many sales and revenue factors than you might think. 

This article in The New York Times reminded me of the importance of looking at Really Big Data. It describes how a shrinking middle class is affecting business and driving new approaches. In the Travel sector in particular, it explains how high-end hotel chains like St. Regis are growing at almost double the rate of mid-market competitors like Best Western, and how high-end Vegas casinos are booming while mid-range casinos founder. It goes on to illustrate how companies in other industries have changed their strategies to compete (and how others haven’t changed and failed). 

This is incredibly important information for building a marketing strategy. If you attract a high-end traveler, you’ll have more competition. How are you going to stand out among the more affluent travelers? If you’re mid-market, do you double-down on your current strategy or change tactics to reach customers who are either more affluent or more price-conscious? If you’re lower-end, you’re going to have a lot of competition as well (low-end providers are also thriving). How will you adapt? 

Of course, the Times article is just one resource among many you can use to drive your strategy. Here are a few other real world examples to consider: 

  • One company we work with was in the news quite a bit during the most recent recession. Using a variety of sources, we pinpointed key dates when they were prominently mentioned in the national media and mapped those dates to peaks and dips in email and site engagement. The results helped us anticipate (and prepare for) changes in engagement during subsequent news events. 
  • Another client knew that sales were often significantly impacted by weather events. As a result, they started including hurricane forecasting and other weather predictions into their annual planning and budgeting to ensure that they were taking the potential impact into consideration (and minimizing variables). 

Taking the clicks, sessions, downloads, and other data you gather on a regular basis and viewing it against the backdrop of Really Big Data will help you identify opportunities and pitfalls that might otherwise go unnoticed. It may also help you identify the causes of unexpected peaks and slumps in past performance. By combining these two data sources together, you can create better forecasts and smarter strategies – and stay competitive, no matter how the world (or the weather) turns.

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