With the abundance of information on the web, anyone can go out and learn a thing or two about Big Data and marketing. I love facts and statistics, and use them to make a lot of educated decisions for my clients. I take data from reputable sources, and give it great consideration — but only to guide my own research.

In the marketing industry, infographics spread like wildfire, and it worries me that many businesses might be putting too much faith in information acquired like that. Isn’t there a better way to make business decisions? 

“If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.”  – Sandy Thompson

A lot of these statistics are generated by marketing research studies. They’ll sit a customer down, and ask them all sorts of questions about a product or idea to get feedback. I think this is a great start. But what customers tell us in a controlled setting, might be a whole lot different then how they respond to a product on a shelf, or an interface for a website. There just isn’t enough information for a customer to give unquestionably reliable feedback.

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs

When critiquing product packaging, in a research setting a customer might think a design looks odd. However, put that very same customer in a grocery store with his or her 3 kids, and a work deadline to meet — it might be the first thing they grab because it sticks out. Preliminary research is great, but sometimes it’s best to trust our instinct and evaluate the results.

Observing the customer in their natural habitat:

I always encourage my web design clients to opt-in to have me use analytics on their sites, so we can generate our own data and watch for trends as they happen. There are mountains of research available to start us off, but as I said before, I only use it as a guide.

Let’s say I am marketing gym memberships, and my target age group is 35 and up. Pew Research, a very reliable source, tells me smartphone use is most prevalent in the younger crowd, so a mobile app might be a waste of money for my customers. If a local bank decided to give free phones to customers 35+ on sign up, I might be missing out on a big market that the internet told me didn’t exist.

Had I been collecting my own data, I would see the increase of mobile traffic in that age group on our site and be able to respond. New smartphone? We’ve got a new app.

Your own data source is worth it’s weight in gold:

It’s not that I don’t trust the data or advice I can find on the web, it’s just that it’s out of context. Primarily all of my web design and marketing customers live in or around Rhode Island, and a marketing study that happened in Texas might not be relevant to my market. I suggest that everyone go out and find their own data to base their business on. This could be as simple as sending out surveys to customers along with some coupons every couple of months. You could also take it to the next level and hire a marketing specialist to setup Analytics on your site and manage your campaigns. If you go that route, I know a guy. 🙂

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(Photo Credit: Soldatnytt from Oslo, Norway)