A Simple Process for Tackling Disparate Data Sets

Posted on by Josh Knauer

data-technology-starsMarketers face big questions every single day. Where should we open a new location? Is cross-promotion with another brand a good idea? What subsection of my existing client base will be most receptive to these product changes? Who is going to love the new packaging? Who is going to hate it?

The rise of big data has transformed the modern marketer’s ability to answer such questions, particularly when it comes to pre-campaign planning. With the expansion of big data’s availability has also come the possibilities of its use. And while endless data sets can be a marketer’s dream, it can also become a marketer’s worst nightmare. Analyzing one data set, yet alone multiple, can feel overwhelming, tedious and draining. But in diverse, unrelated data sets often lies the most powerful insights to drive a campaign strategy. Discovering them does not have to be an arduous task.

Rather than hide from disparate data sets, they should be embraced. Unleashing the knowledge hidden in these sets is an invaluable, driving force behind any marketing campaign. And it doesn’t have to be so difficult to use. There are simple strategies to implement and steps to take that can ease the process of using disparate data sets:

  1.            Make sure you have the right mix of data.

From the start, it’s vital to collect the proper mix of data sets. Many industries rely heavily on certain data sets, and some companies use one or two data sets exclusively. Whether a company relies solely on IRI or exclusively on their own focus group data, both strategies are incomplete. There’s incredible data available from industry heavyweights, like IRI, GFK, Nielsen, Experian, etc. But there’s also niche data available for lots of smaller sources. Why limit yourself to just one or two?

Developing the right mix will include internal information, which will vary by brand, but typically identifies best customers and key information on engaged audiences. Internal data should always be supplemented with syndicated sources, with at least one representing a national or international survey panel. Surveys provide metrics on a high-level (national or global) as well as granular (zip code), making it essential for any geo-targeted campaign.

Industry-specific data should also have a place in the mix. This information provides insight not just into a particular brand, but an entire industry vertical. Including this data will help paint a better picture of the market landscape that the brand is functioning in.

Compiling the right mix of data is only half of the equation. It’s equally important to make sure you have both historical data and a consistent stream of updated information to source.

  1.            Bring all your data sets together.

Once the right data mix is identified, the information must be seamlessly integrated into one place. This includes internal data plus all syndicated data sources. Compiling it into one place will provide a more holistic view of the available information. It also makes the analyzing process much simpler. Data as one cohesive set, as opposed to separate entities, better fuels the exploration and identification of important insights.

  1.            Know what questions you want to ask.

Once you have your data compiled, it’s important to identify your objectives before digging in. Identifying this upfront will create a roadmap for your data analysis, and will make the process more focused and less overwhelming. Consider what information is necessary to drive the targeted campaign. Who are you trying to target and what are their specific characteristics and behavior patterns? Comprehension of the target audience and main campaign objectives is key in order to avoid getting lost in the endless correlations that can be constructed. Consider these questions your “bumpers” for your exploration process.

  1.            Tell a story.

Using your questions as a guide, try and craft a story from the insights you uncover. A luxury watch retailer, with interest in identifying behavior patterns of their key audience, finds that there is a high-correlation with audiences that purchase luxury automobiles. How does this insight fit into a larger narrative about this audience? In this case, it might be that this audience is younger, higher-income individuals who have interest in purchasing statement pieces. By crafting a story, the data becomes more than just an insight and transforms into actionable, meaningful information that can drastically improve the ROI of any campaign.

There was once a time when data lived in Excel files and was accessed, manipulated and analyzed by a dedicated team. That is no longer the case today. Your data should be accessible and used by people throughout your marketing team, not just your agency and research teams. The process doesn’t have to be defeating. Following a few simple steps can make using data much more fluid and integrated into everyday tasks. If you’re not there yet you should aspire to realize this goal in 2015.

Josh Knauer is CEO and president of  Rhiza, a SaaS platform for marketing analytics.

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