I bought tickets to see Bob Seger last week. The concert is still a few months away but I’m a fan of his music and this might be the last time he tours. One of my favorite Bob Seger songs is “Feel Like A Number.” It was written in 1978 and yet it is incredibly prescient about how things are today.
What prompted that thought is this statement from a piece of research issued by the CMO Council:
One issue plaguing many organizations is a sense that in the race to master data and harness the power of the marketing technology stack, the customer, and perhaps an understanding of human relationships, has been lost. In fact, 41 percent of respondents admit that focusing on the relationship being built instead of the campaign being deployed, has been a key challenge. Nearly one-third admit that they sometimes forget that their “targets” are human beings.
It’s part of a study called Bringing a Human Voice to Customer Choice. It really should be called “The Root Of The Problem” since it strikes me that forgetting we’re dealing with humans is really the primary cause of so many issues businesses have. They’re customers, not accounts. They’re not phone calls to be cleared as quickly as possible but consumers with a problem that needs to be solved. They’re not employees, they’re co-workers and humans who go home to their families each night just as you do.
Business is all about data today but when was the last time you had a relationship with a database? It’s easy to be seduced by data but it’s also easy to miss the nuances that focusing on individuals can yield. Do you really understand what problem people are trying to solve by using your product or service or are you relying on “the numbers” to show you something that number can’t really show?
Sing Seger’s couplet to yourself every once in a while:
I’m not a number
Dammit I’m a man
It’s an important reminder and gets to the root of the problem, don’t you think?
Foodie Friday at last! I went out for breakfast this morning and as I watched my server typing my order into the Point Of Sale system, I wondered what was coming out the other end. No, not if my order had been captured correctly or if the ticket would print out correctly. I wondered if the owners of the place actually used the data that had just been gathered. Restaurants generate a phenomenal amount of data although I’d be willing to wager that a minority of them actually look at, analyze, and employ it to improve their business. Then again, I’d be willing to bet that many non-food businesses suffer from the same omission.
Think about it. A restaurant gets information from their POS system – what’s selling and how much does it cost. They see if something is more popular at lunch than at dinner. They can look at their reservation system to know when they’ll be busy and their seating record to know how many covers they’re selling. Smart ones look at how many parties of which size were kept waiting (maybe we should turn the 6-top into a 4- and a 2?). They know what drinks have been ordered. Their suppliers have data for them – what’s available and what does it cost? Then they have their own internal accounting – labor costs, etc. Each of those things relates to the other. But there’s more.
What’s posted on social media? Whats the most-photographed dish? What’s liked and shared? How many reviews and are they positive? What are they about? There’s a lot of data to collect from a multitude of sources – OpenTable, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Urbanspoon or Instagram. All of the former data is very structured and it tells you “what.” The social stuff, along with any loyalty data you might have is unstructured and it can help you to understand “why”.
Maybe if you overlay the daily weather during service hours you can infer a causal effect on any of the above. You can adjust what’s displaying on your drive-thru board when it’s busy to show the menu items that may be lower-margin but quicker to prepare in order to speed the line. If you collect emails (your reservation system does!), you can use Facebook or some other data provider to build out profiles so you can know your customer and better target your marketing.
My point is that every business has a similar capability these days. We might not have reservation systems but we do have online commerce or websites or apps. We need to be less intimidated by big data and more proactive with respect to learning about our customers and how they interact with our offerings. Does that make sense?
I’m going to start the week by running the risk of bumming you out. At least we’ll have the rest of the week to recover, right? I was looking at some analytics data this morning and as I looked at it, I realized that much of it is wrong. So is a lot of the other information this client is using to make decisions. Yours is too, by the way. I’ll explain why but along with the realization came an insight that I think will be helpful to your business.
When I began in digital we used server logs to track traffic. They were pretty accurate although pretty limited as well. Web analytics came along and the quantity and quality of the information we got about who was coming to our web sites, how they got there, and what they were doing improved quite a bit. As business people, we were able to make content and marketing decisions based on the data we were getting.
Things have grown quite a bit more complex over the last 20 years and that complexity has obscured much of the good, useful information. Anyone who knows analytics will tell you that much of the referral data you see (where traffic comes from) is wrong. “Direct” traffic is way overstated. “Referred” traffic is encumbered by referrer spam. A lot of so called direct traffic is really dark social traffic (I send you a link). Transfers from HTTPS to HTTP sites report as direct as well. Keyword data is “not available.”
I’m not trying to make your head hurt nor to get really wonky. The point is that if you’re relying on that data to make decisions, you’re really just guessing. It’s the same with much of your ad data. I’ve written before about the lack of transparency in the programmatic ad markets and that opaqueness obscures the validity of the data as well.
I can add search data, email data, and more to the list of what probably isn’t what you think it is, but all of this fostered a thought: what do we really know that’s truly actionable?
I can answer that. We can know how our products and services are really differentiated and how much better we are at solving peoples’ problems. We can know (yay review sites!) how good our customer service is. We can know how our revenues and costs and changing and we can ask why.
I’m the last guy to say we should ignore that large and growing amount of data every business gets each minute. But maybe the time has come to act on what we KNOW and less on what we really don’t. What do you think?