Big data is a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately. Businesses of all sizes are increasingly collecting colossal amounts of information on their interactions with customers and then storing it in the hope that they’ll be able to find out something they didn’t know before. After all, why invest money into a tool like marketing automation if there are no chance you’ll uncover anything new?
Unfortunately, big data is broken. It doesn’t provide any insights that marketers don’t already know. This may seem counterintuitive but stick with me—I’m going to explain exactly how this works (and why).
The Problem with Marketing Data…
Marketing data doesn’t contain “unforeseen” or “hidden” insights because marketers aren’t dumb. We’re too busy to be stupid, in fact. Marketing data reveals what marketers are already thinking—and these thoughts have been collected and synthesized by the time they reach the marketer’s desk.
To see how this works, let’s take a look at an example of how marketing automation helps businesses collect their customers’ data through interactions with web forms, email campaigns, salespeople, call centers, etc.:
Is Broken When it Comes to Insight Collection
Interacting with any customer touch point makes it possible for companies to collect more granular information about that contact’s past behaviors. Remember that each interaction generates another segmentation of your contacts into groups (“Customers who viewed product XYZ,” “Customers who viewed product ABC,” “Customers who requested a quote”)—and if you have to make a decision, it’s important to know which groups are relevant.
So while marketers might think they’re collecting new insights about their customers, they’re actually just buying themselves another layer of segmentation. That is, the data collected by marketing automation only creates more targetable segments—segments that are already deduced from existing customer records!
Think about it this way: there are only three reasons why someone interacts with your business at all:
1) They’re an existing customer who wants to do business with you again.
2) They’ve heard of you before and want to buy your product or service for the first time.
3) Your business has nothing to do with them, but they’re curious about what you have to say or offer—and that’s why they interact.
See, this is where the secret comes out: all of these contacts already know about your product and service offerings! I mean, even if someone just found your website by accident and wants to see how much it costs, they’ve still done some research on your company before interacting with you. This isn’t new behavior.
The Secret of Marketing Data Collection
So everyone knows who the potential customers are and what they want right? Once we segment our database properly we can identify which groups respond well to certain triggers…right? What’s wrong here?
This might be ridiculous, but people don’t usually research products or make buying decisions on the Internet. If they did, marketers would have a ton of insight into their customers’ needs and want before ever contacting them—but this isn’t the case! Instead, people only come to the Internet looking for help after they’ve made up their minds about something.
This is how it actually works:
- Someone decides to plan a trip so they go online to find some travel information. They search over 4 million websites over 6 months until one day…they decide on where they want to go.
- A college student is sick of cooking so she decides to download some recipes from Pinterest. She downloads free recipes every day for 2 weeks until one day she finds one that she likes enough to cook every day.
- A guy has back pain but he doesn’t think too much of it, then one morning his girlfriend says “you need to do something about that because I can’t sleep on this couch for another night!” So he launches into Google and finds out what kind of chair will provide him with the most support.
You get the idea…I could keep going with these examples all day! People who are already looking for something don’t need marketers to tell them about their solutions—they already know everything they need to know!
So What Do Marketers Do?
Marketers act like detectives in situations where they’re really just wasting time. Take our travel example from earlier: after research is done, people typically visit three or four websites before they make a decision. Some of these most visited sites are online travel agencies, but not all! You can see why most marketers don’t care about the other 95% of sites that their customers actually do visit during their buying cycle.
Instead, marketers need to focus on identifying purchase triggers—these are the reasons that someone is ready to buy at any given time. By far, the top purchase trigger is price sensitivity. That means that people will only start looking for solutions when they’ve decided on a destination and know what it costs…but they won’t book anything until the last minute because prices always drop as you get closer to your trip—that’s just how airlines work!
We Don’t Need to Gather Marketing Data…We Need to Gather Purchase Data!
It doesn’t matter what people do before they make contact with your business. The only thing that matters is what they want when they’re finally ready to buy or take action. Once you begin collecting purchase data, you can identify which types of people are looking for your solution and how often. More importantly, marketers won’t be wasting their time chasing leads that just aren’t ready to talk! Also, read about the top 5 mistakes in data science you should Avoid.