November 15, 2012

This past Sunday (Nov 11) Fareed Zakaria (“Fareed Zakaria GPS” television show) interviewed New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg on the power of “big data” in the recent election. For a researcher like me and a political observer it was fascinating. Duhigg’s view was that the in the old political world the only data you had was from public voter records – a voter’s name, where they lived, party affiliation, and if they voted before. But today, like all major big businesses, campaigns have “big data” and know almost everything about you.

“Now, each campaign has literally thousands of data points on you,” stated Duhigg. “They know what magazines you subscribe to. They know if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or gone into foreclosure. They know how many kids you have. They know if you ever bought a boat, what type of insurance you own, where you send your kids to school. Thousands and thousands of data points they collect, to try and create an image of you. And at the center of that is the same question, how can I push your button to vote for my guy or gal?”

While big data is a fact of life for big businesses, many small businesses live in a world of almost no data. When I do marketing audits and I ask a business to tell me about their customers and show me their current market research, they usually share website Goggle Analytics and… well, that’s about it.  Although customer research has never been easier to conduct, most small businesses simply don’t appreciate or understand that spending money on research makes their media buys and marketing far more cost-effective (more bang for your buck). Even if they have data, they often don’t know how to use it to develop marketing strategies.

Staff discussion for this coming week: What information do you need to know more about your market and customer base to do a better marketing job in 2013? Research could be the best investment you make in making next year better than this year.

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