Marketing industry media, and more recently mainstream media have latched on to the term “Big Data” as the next big thing due to the huge impact all the computer communications and digital signal data can have via tracking internet traffic. It has reached the point that you can’t open a blog, a magazine or newspaper without seeing it mentioned in a headline, often in conjunction with subject only thinly related to marketing. Some are related to privacy and identity data, which is a legitimate concern when all your personal information is digital and flying around through the air every time you take a phone call or text your friends. But the use of transactional and biographical and search data to custom craft messages and actively serve digital ads online has been around for the last five years, or more depending on how you qualify the description, (remember AOL, and their MyAOL product that showed you ads from places you’d visited in the last week? 1998!)
But unfortunately, big data is here to stay, not just the next big, shiny thing on the marketers tactical menu. Our personal, transactional, and biographical data, (medical, too, if you dig nefariously) is available for the taking, asking, renting, or hacking, and can and will be used against you in a court of law . . . Everything you text, tweet, post, share, like, friend, check-in and play is held on a server somewhere, virtually forever, and if mankind invented a way to store and secure it, man can find a way to get at it for other purposes. Certainly adds food for thought as you’re browsing those facebook posts that lead who-knows-where, killing time on the phone waiting to pick up your kids or in the doctor’s waiting room.
Used properly, ethically, and strategically, the use of big data to mine and prospect for customers should be nearly invisible, and indeed will create welcome and well-timed information that is relevant to you and that you will actually use and enjoy. It’s when corporate marketers use these sophisticated tools with less-than-complete understanding, and don’t want to put the safeguards in place, to put in the effort and human intelligence to remove the obvious mismatches any such algorithm will inevitably create. That’s when the problems start and people get in trouble.
If your company has a a sizable database, a well-trafficked website, and a social media and web presence of any size, you have or can gather a vast treasure trove of data on your visitors, casual and otherwise. The question then becomes not “How do I get this data,” but “Now what do I do with it.” The real task here is to use groups, sets, trends and responses in that data to build an outreach or nurturing program that will provide your customers and prospects with a positive, relevant, valued experience. Such a program will allow you to engage them in a positive way that puts your brand in the best light and make them feel comfortable and engendered to your products and services, to the point where they buy them over and over again.
Call it trust, call it security, call it safe harbor, to whatever degree your customers feel they need to feel comfortable buying from you, you need to show them that you will provide it, including how you use their data – mistrust of data use leads to mistrust of transactional security, which leads to avoidance, in a strange death-spiral of aversion that makes it hard to retrieve a customer who’s been caught in this web of misappropriation of your personal information. You play that card 100,000 times a month, and see how many customers you have left . . .
One of the best safeguards against this, for the marketer, is to start slowly, put the relevant safeguards in place, play them up, in fact, compared to your competitors – you want to own it, especially in the beginning of your big data journey. You want to highlight your security in a way that shows you care about and for your customers. People will endure unimaginable, tedious routines and log-in scripts to avoid having their data end up somewhere unintended – anyone who’s flown on an airplane in the last decade instinctively knows this.
Build up your data use slowly, carefully, cautiously, so that it makes sense to achieve the outcome you want – happy, engaged customers in growing numbers, recommending your products and services to their “friends” and families, because they are secure in the knowledge that buying from you won’t lead to any surprises later. Trust is a fragile thing, handle it with care . . .
If you like this train of thought and want to jump on board, or if you think I’m full of it, let me know, I’d like to hear from you in the comment box below.