A Meditation on a Day of Scary Numbers

IF YOU’RE NOT TESTING, YOU’RE GUESSING. And that’s not doing your business any favours. Or so went the message from Yona Shtern, CEO of Beyond the Rack at CMA's Analytics Conference in Toronto last week. And that emotion was seconded by all 14 speakers of the day.

Shtern made a great case for data. He and his team have based every business decision on data since launching three years ago. His success, he credits, entirely to an unwavering commitment to collecting and storing data, even before knowing how to analyze or leverage it. Now, worth over a hundred million dollars, Beyond the Rack sends more than 280,000 customized versions of an email roughly 1.8 million times a day. Each version tailored to their different customers based on data.

Feeling overwhelmed? Stay with me.

Truth is, not everyone has the resources to digest data like these guys. But the idea is not to “boil the sea” explained Jill Dyché, VP of Thought Leadership with SAS – a business analytics company. Dyché, who gave the closing talk, happens also to be the preeminent authority on Customer Relationship Management (CRM), having penned a best-selling book on the subject The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management. Rather, the idea is to get in front of the problem–overwhelming amounts of data being the problem–before the problem gets in front of you.

It’s all about starting somewhere. Prioritizing, as it were.

Michael Scissons, founder and CEO at Syncapse – a social media marketing company–encouraged us to focus our efforts in a few places. There’s simply too much tech in the eco-system, he argues, than marketers are able to apply. So the question becomes, which platforms are working hardest for you?

If it’s the social media heavy-hitters like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, then using tools to track that data is a great place to start. From there, you can develop data driven creative. Forward-thinkers like the folks at Entrinsic – a digital culture and communications agency–are all about this and what they like to call Social Content Optimization or SCO. Eli Singer, the Founder and President, showed us the Sobeys example. With just five months of no non-sense SCO, the big box grocer became “the most engaged grocery community” in the country based as measured by social media. And we got a peek at what it looked like when Sobeys leveraged that data to produce truly data driven creative. This stuff has heart:

Still not sure data’s your friend?

Consider the last Presidential election. The Obama camp was an early proponent of analytics, using them even during his first campaign. But according to pundits, and broken down for us yesterday by Farhana Alarakhiya, the Director of Industry Solutions and Marketing for IBM, his most recent victory is thanks in large part to an incredibly savvy team who knew just how to leverage the data. They went after those in the swing states who didn’t come out to vote in previous elections. So while the popular vote was not overwhelmingly weighted in the President’s favour, he still won by a landslide based on his ability to target and turn the majority of the swing states red.

So if Obama can tackle this oh-so-scary data stuff, then guess what?

Yes, we can. Too.

Anna Duckworth

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