Big data: Information is NOT knowledge

Say that you have a log file of every contact to your website. Or that you are a cell phone company with a multi–billion record log file of every call made from every location to every number dialed using your network.  You can accurately state that you have big data at your fingertips.  But it is useless in this raw, usually unstructured form.

Adding context to data takes this information and creates actionable knowledge. There’s even a new term for this – thick data.  That’s data dense with information that is useful

binary data

Big data without context is useless.

and can be mined with available tools to create actionable strategies.  Google analytics provides this information at no cost for websites and pages viewed.  Google uses proprietary tools to do this quickly, with resultant information available within a day.  But once you find a similar need for other types of logged information, you find yourself in the need for a data scientist or data engineer, and the costs climb accordingly.

[Email readers, continue here…]  Such knowledge can be amazingly invasive in the wrong hands or if used without consideration for the result.  For example: What if American Express offered credit card details about purchases by competitors to a big box retailer?  Could Sam’s Club find which households were shopping at Target and even know the annual spend amount by family?  Would that be invasive – or just a great targeted marketing resource?  Would you be happy to receive coupons from Sam’s Club knowing that they found you and your shopping habits from your credit card company?

And yet, there are times when strategic marketing demands information that is readily available in files owned and controlled by you.  There are tools and a new generation of experienced data engineers ready to unlock this treasure chest of big data and turn it into actionable knowledge.  You’d be remiss to ignore the opportunity; one that even recent generations of management could not dream of gaining access.

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Email open rates: Your best marketing test

No–one needs to tell you that mobile readers now outnumber desktop readers for your message.  A recent Experian marketing survey revealed that 52% of all email opens are from mobile devices, and that 38% of all clicks are from mobile devices.  Experian looked at three hundred brands and 21 billion emails – a few more than you or I have as a resource for our marketing intelligence.

So the very first thing to be sure you cover is that all of your communications are responsive – able to display text, photos and video clips equally well on smartphones, tablets and desktops.   If you have not done so, let Google tell you whether your web site is responsive. Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile–friendly/ and enter your web address for a quick, free, analysis.  And treat the result seriously.

How about your emails? Same thing.  How many times do you have to open an email just to read the right side of the text or see the content, but delete the email instead

Smiling Girl Pointing To Notebook Computer Screen - For Adding Own Message

Make your emails readable on all forms of devices.

just to avoid the “work” of that extra click?  Responsive emails allow any viewer pane to display the whole message in readable form.

[Email readers, continue here…]   Now the big question:  If you have a readable format and excellent messaging, how is your open rate and more importantly your click rate?  Although both metrics vary widely between types of audience, you should work to exceed a six percent open rate and two percent click rate for your emails containing sales or marketing information.  Always, force a click to another web site to obtain the full information, in order to measure whether the reader engages or dismisses your message in short order.

If these several tips interest you, it is time to delve much more deeply into the world of detailed email marketing – through one or several of the excellent books on the subject.  Don’t waste your email budget with ineffective communication or hidden offers.

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Mailing lists, email marketing, errors, oh my!

Using old email lists for the first time is like eating really stale doughnuts.  The taste is pretty bad, and the side effects could be disastrous.

Email companies like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and many others all have strict rules they follow to avoid being caught in spam hell, with their servers blacklisted and worse.  Each has automated software watching over your uploads of new lists.  And each will block the use of any list they detect may be suspicious.

If you have 4,000 names and add 12,000 more, that’s a red flag. Most services will automatically block you until you fill out a form and even speak to a representative.  They will ask where you got the list, and was it single or double opt–in?  Did you get the list from any third party? Is the list tested with opt–ins less than one–year old?

[Email readers, continue here…] Now the last question is a daunting one for any of us.  Which one of us has run any of our lists through the opt–in process each year with a special email to everyone on the list essentially telling them that they must opt–in (again)

Online Marketing Signpost Shows Blogs Websites Social Media And Email Lists

Email marketing –  special warnings regarding lists from BERKONOMICS

to continue receiving material from us?  I’ll bet the answer is “none of us.”  Yet that is what some of the mailing houses insist upon if they suspect a list is not generated by you directly through opt–in sign–ups.

How about a list you have that is over a year old that hasn’t been used lately?  You can pay about a penny per name with a usual minimum of $100 to clean the list, which is quite effective. The list cleaning service will separate your list into five groups: verified (good name and not a trap), unknown (may be good but careful), undeliverable (bounced), unreachable (invalid domain), and illegitimate (known trap, monitoring domain, or black hole.)  The first group is the only safe one to trust.  Many of the common portals like AOL, Yahoo and MSN do not return a response to an email ping, leading all of those addresses to be classed as “unknown.”  And that’s a large part of anyone’s list.

Your mailing list company must protect themselves, and in doing so, protect you.  A large number of bounces or many unsubscribes in a single mailing are red flags that will be caught by the mailing company system.  Depending upon the size of the list in relation to the total size of all of your lists with that mailing company, your account may be placed on hold while you complete a form with detailed answers about where you got the names, if you got them yourself, and if you have verified them with an opt–in during the last year.

So how do you grow a list if you purchase names from a service?  The first answer is in the form of a question.  Does the service guarantee that the names have been run through their verification filter in the last month or two?  If not, the bounce rate will be as much as one percent higher for each month the list has not been trimmed.  That amounts to big numbers in a short time.

The second answer is to divide the list into small bites that are less than a third the size of your present lists in sum, and feed those in slowly into the system.

Another protection with an incremental benefit is to register your domain with emailreg.org, which will verify that your domain for mass emails is legitimate and not spam, then provide a whitelist of legitimate email servers with their domains – to reduce the chance of false positives while spam filtering.  Many ISP spam filters check the legitimacy of domains as one test before tossing your email into their spam filter.  The cost is a minimal annual fee, and may be worth it, especially if you use your “regular” email address for mass mailings and do not want to have normal email traffic challenged as spam.

The days of spam mailings to spam lists are gone, and we have all benefited by the enforcement of laws in many countries, especially in the United States.  Follow the rules and suggestions above, and your doughnuts will not be stale.  And you’ll not suffer a stomach ache or worse.

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Harvest your social media contacts

You may not know that you have access to many “free” sources of social media contacts to help you in your marketing effort.

The first semi–secret source is your LinkedIn contact list.  You probably thought it was proprietary to LinkedIn, or at worst, available only when sending messages through LinkedIn to your list.  I have thousands of LinkedIn contacts and am willing to assume you vector-social-media-concept_M1uBCnrO_Lhave a large number as well.  Go to https://www.linkedin.com/people/export–settings and select “CVS.file” or any appropriate format, and your entire email contact list with names and more will be available to you.

Here – from “Two Minute Drill” – is how to download your Twitter follower list: https://www.fullcontact.com/blog/how–to–export–twitter–followers/

 [Email readers, continue here…]  So you begin to get the idea.  Your lists are yours to use for marketing, and depending upon your mailing list server provider, duplicates can be identified and removed immediately.

These are all verified contacts, in each case having accepted your invitation, and resolving the issue from the mass mailing companies such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp as to their opt–in status.

Next week, I’ll cover purchased lists, which are much trickier and subject to challenge by the mass mail companies, looking to eliminate the possibility of their servers being identified as spam sources.  It is enough to say here that you must be very careful with purchased lists.

Many new sites with content to offer now cover over their content after a few seconds with an opt–in “Sign up or sign in” message that can be over–ridden but will come up each time you visit the site as a very effective nag to obtain your reader’s email address and opt–in.  This is more than fair in exchange for the free content underneath, and a tool for you to consider if you offer any valuable content to your readers, even if specific to your industry or company.

 

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Have you set your social media listening posts?

There is so much information being shot at us daily via social media streams that we should monitor and control that which pertains to our business – and do so with some level of expertise.

There are tools to inform you when your company name or personal name is mentioned.  Google Alerts can be set for any parameter and then be set to deliver your results daily or more often using Google.com/alerts.

You can do the same for the various social media and streaming sites at Mention.com or by subscribing to a tool like Tweetdeck.com.    You will be able to control (to a degree) the placement of your name in the rankings with a little work one step beyond search engine optimization.  Try a subscription with Brandyourself.com, where the monthly subscription is quite inexpensive and worth the price.  You might consider a special page on your vector-social-media-concept_G1FLRhHd_Lwebsite just for links to positive press and mentions.  Those links will improve your search results as well.   Measure your relative success with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and LinkedIn by registering with KLOUT.com, a service that ranks your social media outreach against the universe of those doing so.  Try registering in NAYMZ.com and work to increase your “rep score” to a maximum of 99 with a combination of testimonials, media postings, customer up–votes and more.

[Email readers, continue here…]  Listening posts are all about your brand – personal or corporate.  You need to know what people are saying and how often you are mentioned.  Your aim is to control the bad information, reinforce the good postings, and react to suggestions while you engage with your fans.

None of this information about listening posts is available in classic marketing texts; it was not dreamed of even a few years ago.  You and your staff need to learn about these tools and engage aggressively with your fans in as many ways as possible.  More and more, this form of engagement will define your marketing success.

There is still a great place for traditional advertising.  But you will find that this new generation of digital natives communicates and reacts to buying opportunities using social media, recommendations, reviews and comments from influential sources.

Be where they are.

Posted in Growth!, Positioning | 2 Comments

Four ways to find new business in the new year

We think of media advertising as either paid or free – placed by paying a fee or by a PR firm or by you at no placement cost, especially when you provide editorial content beneficial to the publisher.

But this new era of Internet advertising has given rise to two more forms you should know and use in addition to the two traditional types above.

Owned media comes from the databases you own, such as your company’s web site, email

business hand reaching virtual images streaming from the deep

Happy New Year from Dave and BERKONOMICS

newsletters, profiles in social media, or apps you have created requiring registration or download.

And perhaps the most recent, most misunderstood and most powerful media is that which is “earned” using social media ambassadors, bloggers or influencers with massive followings.  These third parties have built a trusted following sometimes into the millions.  They are not generally paid directly for their posts, but earn reputation points and sometimes free goods for their efforts when including brand information in their postings.

[Email readers, continue here…]  One of the companies I am involved with is expert at throwing expensive parties at events, giving free access to those influencers with massive numbers of followers, and showering these celebrity posters with free gifts, free food and even free rooms.  It’s a great business that didn’t exist a few years ago; and many national advertisers are redirecting funds into these “earned” resources as they find new ways to reach this generation of digital native customers, those who don’t generally respond to traditional advertising.

Expand your definition of advertising to include four, not just two methods of finding your potential customers.

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Which of the three types of advertising is right for you?

If we never advertised, we’d never sell anything.  Right?

Perhaps right, but there are three major types of advertising, some requiring large outlays of cash, some not.

First, you can advertise your brand so that people recognize it when they see it in later materials.  Second, you can make a call to action, using an ad to bring people to your place of offer, buy your services or product, or take advantage of a special incentive.   And third,

Advertising

Happy Holidays from Dave & BERKONOMICS!

you can invest in direct response advertising.  Here you make a pitch with a price attached and ask the target to respond immediately to take advantage of the offer.

There is a vast difference in the way we can measure the results of our advertising. For example, direct response ads yield precise statistics, and the pay–off is easily measurable.  Yes, you might have made a more attractive offer with better results; but you can test direct response ads with various offers and price points to determine that optimum level.

[Email readers, continue here…]  With a call to action ad, you have a more complex measurement problem, since people can come to an event or buy the merchandise by finding out through any of several sources other than the specific ad.

And with brand (or lifestyle) advertising, there is no way to directly measure success.  It is this kind of ad which must have prompted John Wanamaker to state, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

We angel and venture investors look to build brand and enterprise value, sometimes at the direct expense of profitability or even revenue.  A good manager of a business should work to create value the old fashioned way, by working IN the business, not ON the business (as investors are prone to do.)

You should not succumb to the investor’s prodding unless there is plenty of money in the bank and an agreed upon time to seek a sale.  Advertise to build the business’s revenue and profits whenever possible.

 

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Sometimes your gut is the best you’ve got.

Years ago I led a deal and invested in a company that looked like it had lots of promise to disrupt the women’s clothing industry with special algorithms and an online store.  But something had bothered me from the very start – unsalable inventory.

You see, women’s clothing is subject to fashion changes so frequently that inventory becomes obsolete quickly.  Add to that knowing that there are three distinct buying seasons each year, and that this site was offering to mix and match sizes to fit, leaving orphan matching skirts and pants – and you can see why my concern.  The entrepreneur–gut reactionfounder explained this problem away by stating that the designers and manufacturers would ship direct after we’d grown to a large enough size.  I had my doubts, but led the deal anyway.

We raised six million from angel investors for this otherwise brilliant concept, and several first tier VCs followed with another thirty–two million over time.

[Email readers, continue here…]  And the company ultimately died a painful death.  It never got its corporate arms around the inventory problem, first among other issues.  And designers or manufacturers never did offer to ship direct.

Looking back at that complete financial loss, I keep thinking of my gut response to the brush–off about inventory being a problem.  To my gut response.

How many times have you had this nagging feeling that an answer to your question just didn’t seem right, but that you accepted the answer because the person offering it was closer to the problem than you were?  It is human nature to do so, deferring to the person more expert or more knowledgeable.

Over the course of these insights here and in my BERKONOMICS series of books and blogs, we explore the use of tools to help overcome this natural tendency.  Perhaps the greatest of these is use of the “what if” or “why” question streams.  I admit that I should have taken my own advice for that one and continue much further down the chain of “what if” or “why” questions, let alone doing more due diligence with a handful of designers and manufacturers.

Yes, sometimes your gut is the best you’ve got.  Listen to it!

Posted in Growth!, Hedging against downturns, Protecting the business | 4 Comments

Are you an old school customer marketer?

“Broadcast the message and they will come!”  “Segment my broadcast and I will have better response.”  Both of these time–honored methods of reaching our customers have worked for as long as there was print and radio–TV to get the message out.

And both have become increasingly obsolete as new channels of reach have evolved, allowing direct and personal contact with our potential customers, and better yet, free and near–free forms of marketing just for the asking.

Today, if you are not targeting your marketing effort with predictive analysis and retro-icons-megaphone_MkCCxV_d_Lsegment–focused communications, you are way behind others who do.   Big data analytics enable us to find and target just the right audience at the right time, something we could not do even a few years ago.  If you feel overwhelmed by this, there are experts waiting to serve you with new tools, ideas and channels you have never used, and which will open your eyes to powers that may shock you.

But the leaders of this new school practice customer–driven communication, personalized to the point of basing communication upon individual customer behavior.

[Email readers, continue here…]  My spouse just visited a website for women’s clothing, then followed it with a search for a service using a browser.  Immediately, seconds after her shopping effort, ads for that same online retailer surrounded her on the other site.  Those ads could have been for a competing online retailer looking to take business from the first. But either way, targeted marketing worked with her that day.  She bought again.

But the pinnacle of direct new–age marketing comes in the form of interactive conversations between company and customer, progressing from the contact through purchase through follow–up offer. Surely you’ve experienced this in your own online shopping efforts and perhaps have used that time–limited 15% discount to purchase something you may or may not have needed.

Old school or new school. Spend lots and not be sure of the return on investment; or spend much less and offer some of the savings to the customer.  Hmm.  Which is the win–win here?

Now, if you had a choice and the inclination to do something about it, which would you want to be?  Old school?  New school?

Posted in General, Positioning | 3 Comments

Whoa. Wow! Hmmm. Yes! (How Steve Jobs got it right.)

Credit Dr. Mark Goulston with this headline.  Mark teaches that there is a process to innovation that can be summed up with these four words.  In fact, he states, that’s exactly how Steve Jobs described his “aha moment.”  So let’s paraphrase Mr. Jobs as we describe this process.

Jobs was invited to Xerox Parc research facility and – against the better judgment of the research coordinator – shown three projects the engineers were working on.  The first of Wowthe three was a rough cobbling together of a graphic user interface, complete with a crude “mouse.”  Jobs hardly remembered the other two.

“Whoa,” he must have thought when seeing that GUI for the first time. “Wow!” he states in later recounts was his intense impression.  “Hmmm” – that could be the future of computing everywhere, he says he thought immediately.  “Yes!” he must have said to his colleagues as soon as he was away from the facility.  His vision for the Macintosh and later for all that followed came from that “Yes!” moment, defining what would become one of the most valuable companies on earth with a single “aha” moment.

[Email readers, continue here…]  This is a process that you and I can use.  Think for a moment.  Have you ever had such a game–changing “aha” moment in your business life?  And if not, could you recognize it as a defining experience as Jobs did?

There are many examples of great advances in technology or industry from such aha moments.  But it is as much a skill to be developed as an accident of fate.   Discipline yourself to notice things that not only interest you, but draw deeply into your emotional self as you see them for the first time.  And when you do spot such an anomaly, “whoa.”  Slow down to absorb what you’ve seen and how you are reacting to it.

Your “wow!” moment follows if you can identify why you stopped to look, and connect that with your reason for excitement.  “Hmmm.”  This could be important and lead to something big for us. “Yes!”  I know what we can do to change the world with this.

It’s a process that is repeatable, even if the time this happens is rare, perhaps as in Jobs’ case, once in a lifetime.  But isn’t it worth making this a skill in your inventory of skills?  Perhaps the result is not a game–changer, just a great lift for the business.  Or perhaps it is the beginning of everything grand to follow.

Posted in Finding your ideal niche, Positioning | 3 Comments