Data is Bulls**t

First of all, let me begin this by saying I don’t condemn the use of data. In fact, I utilize it daily to make informed decisions about the direction of my strategy. But the truth of the matter is, we are simply in a glut of too many numbers. Numbers that can be leveraged to sway board opinions about whether or not something works or can/should be used. Numbers that can show us people’s habits and behaviors, dive into their engagement patterns (in real time, no less), and know details about our customers with stalker-like accuracy.

But that’s where it ends – the how and what. Because data isn’t human – it can’t ever show me how someone is feeling when those numbers are being recorded. As marketers, we know that emotion is the driving force behind purchaser decisions and, for that reason, we would be smart to heed the limitations of what data can tell us.

Data is Unemotional

It doesn't understand what the person is feeling when the decisions are made to go with A over B. It can tell me all of the rich patterns that emerge from internet searches, location, body temperature, and more, but it simply can't tell me WHY someone makes a decision.

In order to understand our customers on a human level like that, we must make efforts to trigger their emotions with what we are doing.

We need to test in front of them in a focus group, and then again in different regional groups to understand the nuances of geography. And, while we have a captive audience, we need to ask them what is going on in their minds while looking at the product, site, or new messaging.

If you were to only look at the numbers, you would walk away thinking today’s consumers are an unpredictable lot (and sometimes, they are), but if you simply ask them for an opinion, they are often willing to share a most logical reason for behaving a certain way. This may be grounded in a past experience, personal norm or family tradition that has nothing to do with your brand, and might be lost on you if you were to only analyze the quantitative side of things.

Data is obsolete

The fact about data (see what I did there?) is that it's old the minute it's recorded. Data has excellent short and long-term memory, telling you SO much about the trends that you need to know, but it's simply a part of the past.

Using numbers to report on the success of a particular tactic and make an educated guess for future plans is smart and resourceful. However, with everything going on in the world, both "the world" and people's lives, data doesn't know what will be important based on what is happening right now. Life on earth is a rollercoaster for people and, as marketers, we need to be entrenched in the needs of people here and now, using our intuition to be one step ahead of their demand.

Then and only then, can you combine it with data to make relevant and intentional plans for the future of your company.

Data is Blind

Causation isn’t correlation. I know you know that. But, if we only look at numbers, we close our eyes to the reasons WHY people do what they do.

Yes, part of this is asking the right questions of your analytics team. Frequently, you may even come to a smart conclusion by piecing together large amounts of data from a lot of different places.…or you could just ask your source. (Especially if your analytics team isn’t in your marketing house. They aren’t marketers. They don’t understand your goals for pinpointing customer behavior).

A customer could have simply not engaged because they had a bad day, not because your product is bad. Research is great, but it doesn’t have the cognitive knowledge of the person on the other side of the number.

Call this micro-moments, needs design or journey mapping. The bottom line is that you need to understand what it’s like to live a day in your customers’ lives.

So, where do we go from here?

Because, after all, I did say that I use data daily…

Well, first of all, I allow data to set the stage – to be the control in the marketing experiment. On that stage, people can make both predictable and unpredictable choices on how to engage with our brand, but I can always back up those results with customer-driven qualitative insights.

Brand excitement still grows from those four traditional P’s of business, but it’s the fifth one – ‘People’ – that really drives your name and purpose into the heart of consumers. With the oversaturation of information and media that most people get, it’s even more important to have a succinct strategy and message. I have two that I always come back to:

1. Be Truthful
2. Be Ruthless

Channel Babe Ruthless

Customers can smell BS from a mile away. Yet they also want something that gets their attention. Having a truthful, simple message will draw people TO your brand rather than requiring you to PUSH the brand at them.

For my team, inbound marketing has been a go-to here. Social conversations and meme-based content are where we spend a majority of our thinking. It’s the key tenants rather than traditional methods. The conversion is in the conversation.

We look at micro-moments and needs based design to have the information they need at their fingertips (literally). The key is that we strive to KNOW our customers and know what it's like to live their daily lives via this engagement.

Conversation is the opposite of data. It’s human. It’s honest, and it cuts to the chase.