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Making the Case for Small Data in a Big Data World

Date: September, 2013 --


Big Data is all the buzz within the marketing universe these days, but, while we count ourselves among those detailing how properly leveraged Big Data can pay terrific dividends, it’s important to recognize that not all data is created equal, and that sometimes it’s the “Small Data” within your file that’s the most important when it comes to informing your ongoing customer/donor/member/prospect communications, regardless of the size and complexity of your database.

So the obvious question here is ‘what is Small Data?’ As you’d expect, the answer can be a simple one with far-reaching implications. For almost every organization the most important piece of Small Data that absolutely must be understood is a data-oriented definition of your target market; i.e. those most likely to end up on your customer/donor/member database. This may be as simple as a B2C men’s apparel retailer who markets primarily to males, 18 – 35, with a given household income in proportion to the price point of the products they offer, or a B2B marketer who provides services to business within certain industrial verticals, or SIC designations, within a specific range of sales volumes and to specific job titles within those organizations.

These examples are fairly straightforward but for many marketers this type of information is not as intuitive as it may seem or it requires a bit more complexity in order to full articulate. The best way to derive this information is to start with your existing customer database. Crunching the numbers on your existing database may reveal previously unknown factors that those on your existing house file share. If you’re missing the necessary information required to perform this type of analysis, you should seriously consider appending basic demographic information, such as gender, age, income, marital status, etc., onto your file(s) as a good starting point. Additional behavioral and lifestyle data is also available and should be considered based on your specific goals. Important to remember that, depending on where you market, international privacy laws may affect the type of data available to append.

Another tactic is to work with a service provider, such as Data Services, who is able to take your customer database and create a customer profile or a more complex database model from your data that will deliver back to you a comprehensive view of your customer-base. These reports and corresponding data-points can then be used to not only get an informative view of exactly who your customers are, but will also allow you to more effectively target future prospecting campaigns to those who resemble those already on your customer/house file.

If you work with list managers/brokers to rent outside lists for your acquisition campaigns via direct mail, telemarketing or email, these data-points that define your target market are essential in order to effectively select the best, most targeted list segment for your brand out of the available data universe, keeping in mind that your best prospects are more than likely those that “look” like your existing customers.   

Reach out to your Data Services, Inc. representative to discuss how to better purpose, maintain and qualify the contents within your domestic and international customer and acquisition databases.