Wishing You a Data-Driven New Year: 6 Steps To An Organized Data “Closet”

As the calendar flips over to the new year, it signals the time to make plans, get organized, and explore new pursuits. Not only is the new year a great time for personal assessments like wardrobe needs or a new exercise plan, but in the world of marketing, it is ideal for reorganizing your data approach.

Several industry studies have estimated the cost and business impact of low data quality. A 2016 IBM study found that poor data cost the US economy $3.1 trillion which is more than the entire GDP of most countries. Poor quality and inconsistent data continues to be a major problem for marketers. So, where do we go from here? In my work, I’ve enjoyed helping clients and partners from Fortune 1000 companies who are at the top of their game; and I’ve also enjoyed working with the most disorganized data “closets” you can imagine. And believe me, most organizations—like people—are quite messy (as far as their data goes).

Every organization, including yours, is on a journey toward excellent data management in order to fuel superior customer experience. Forrester Research estimates that less than 0.5% of all data is analyzed and used. According to Senior Analyst, Richard Joyce, “just a 10% increase in data accessibility will result in more than $65 million additional net income for a typical Fortune 1000 company.”

Can you make your data more accessible? More organized? I’d like to help you drag those items out from the back of your data “closet” and put them toward good use and monetization. Will you join the savvy organizations who have become more data-driven in the new year and reap the rewards? Here are six steps you can take to organize that “closet.”

Keep Your Eye On Data Quality

So what does data quality mean? And how can you move your organization toward achieving it? According to Forrester Research, data quality exhibits the following three attributes:

  1. Accurate: Is my data accurate?
  2. Complete: Does my data provide 360-degree customer view?
  3. Consistent: Is my data consistent across platforms?

Keep that definition of data quality in mind. Then, just as you would organize your closet by color or occasion, begin to organize data residing in your marketing applications and systems (e.g., Marketing Clouds, DMPs, CRM system, and other places where customer data is stored):

Categorize your data according to:  Origin, Use, and Performance (think of the acronym OUP if it helps you remember).

Step 1: Note the Origin of Your Data

What is the source of the data? Internal (CRM system, digital analytics tool, etc.) or external (partner organization, data vendor, etc.). Based on the origin, the method of leveraging the various data assets can change.

Adding a date or some type of indicator for timing of the data like a “first seen date” or “date of entry” is especially helpful when the data represents a marketing signal. Marketing signals are typically time sensitive and only relevant for a short time. Since origin also relates to use, adding tags indicating origin are especially helpful for complying with consumer expectations and contractual provisions.

Where should you make these notes? Ideally, where the data resides. However, I’ve worked with marketers and been a data geek long enough to know that marketers are not known for their documentation skills and may store information in a variety of spreadsheets that may (or may not) be kept for the long haul. Don’t do this.

Develop a process where you make systematic (consistent, rules-based, clearly-defined) notes as close to the data source as possible. As a marketer, you need to become a data geek, too. The game has changed, and you need to change with it.

First Party Data

Using your first party data is always the preference as history, compliance, and costs are internally controlled with this type of data. Additionally, you are perhaps beginning to discover that there are marketplaces for your data. In other words: there are a myriad of ways for you to monetize your data, but if you don’t know how you sourced the data internally, this will limit what you can do with it next.

“First party data has always been the most powerful and predictive for a brand, and many companies are now establishing partnerships to combine their unique data assets.” – Acxiom’s Top Mega Trends in Data-Driven Marketing, 2018

Second and Third Party Data

External data can originate from two different sources:

  • A second party relationship with a partner organization, or
  • A third party data vendor where you license consumer data including demographics, lifestyle and behavioral information.

Noting the origin of your external data should be done with as much detail as possible.

Step 2: Note the Uses of Your Data

When data is acquired, it should be stored and noted with appropriate uses (which relate to the origin and method of acquisition). For internally sourced, first party data, the brand or advertiser’s disclosures or privacy policy should be considered for immediate as well as downstream monetization opportunities.

With GDPR standards going into effect May 2018, organizations will need to take even better care of their data practices and procedures. Acxiom has created, among other strategies, a short guide for data governance in the new year and so should you:

“We are using GDPR as an opportunity to strengthen our data governance program, and we recommend that our clients and partners do the same.” – Sheila Colclasure, Acxiom

In general, most organizations practice great care in adhering to their internal data privacy policies, but do you exercise caution about who you source data from? Do you know if they have an appropriate privacy policy in place? etc. Now, more than ever, you must ensure that your partners (e.g., the brand acquiring the data, even if it’s their own) have strong, ethical guidelines and policy in place for how they use the data.

For example, you may be wondering: Can we combine data sets? This gets tricky as you weave in the legal guidelines, regulatory requirements, etc. and even more complicated if your data origins are unclear or messy.

Second and Third Party Data and Marketing Opportunities

When utilizing second party data for marketing opportunities, the permissions and disclosures should be negotiated up front and can be key to making the arrangement worthwhile. When applying third party data (demographics, lifestyle and behaviors) those uses are typically broad but can have licensing limits related to the licensing period or sharing limitations. Third party data is especially helpful for filling consumer persona gaps and for expanding reach and descriptive targets for messaging, modeling, segmentation, and measurement.

With both second party and third party data origins, ownership is rarely extended but the data use terms can be broad. Knowing those limitations and applying the relevant flags can be helpful to insure proper use.

That’s it for today. In my next blog, I will describe four additional steps to help you organize your data closet in the new year.

To learn more about Acxiom’s consumer data, please click here.

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