Never mind big data, make it good data!

There’s been a lot of hype around big data in the last 12 months, and realistically it’s something which is only really within reach of about 1% of the biggest businesses.

Having your basic data in good order, lays the right foundation for your marketing strategies. Without it, it would simply fall down around your ears. It sounds really basic, but it’s important to store your data cleanly and simply.

Take a look at this data table:

Now think about an email you’ve sent recently where you’ve wanted to merge in a customer’s name for example:

You’ve taken the decision to approach your customers in a relaxed and friendly tone, use their first name, make it feel personal; this is why you’ve chosen to say “Hi” instead of “Dear”. Here’s how your email will look once the data is merged in:

You’d like to have, and were expecting to see, “Hi John,” weren’t you? But nope, your data is stored in such a way that your merged data was pulled through as “Hi Mr John Smith,” Now that doesn’t quite fit in with your marketing strategy. How did it all go so horribly wrong? You can see it now can’t you; it’s how you’ve stored your data.

So how do you fix the problem? Think about the basics, look at how this simple information is stored at a customer level, and get your data in order. By holding your data more appropriately it will give you more. Here’s how you could think about storing your customers name:

It seems like a really simple thing, but unfortunately there are a lot of data tables out there in such a sorry state. And it’s not usually spotted until you start to embark on the big exciting stuff like CRO or web personalisation, hot topics of the here and now, which will simply fail without the basics in place.

I’m sure the eagle eyed of you will have noticed that the data stored in Address and Phone_number on these data tables isn’t all that great either. Here’s a suggestion on a better way to store this data.

Now you’ve got your data storage in order, it’s time to start thinking about how you collect your data. Take a look at your website, if your data capture page doesn’t collect Firstname, then your data won’t populate correctly and you could end up with emails reading “Hi ,”

Don’t just stop at your website; think about all the places you capture data such as your call centres, in store or on social media. Everything has to tie together. You may end up with 4 data tables if you collect via each of these methods, that’s pretty standard, but if all of these aren’t stored in an identical way, you’re going to quickly undo all the good work you’ve done. It sounds simple but don’t forget to collect the same information across all channels and make sure you use the same field headers. Don’t suddenly ask for Lastname on Facebook instead of Surname, it will cause you a world of (unnecessary) headaches!

So, you’ve now got your data capture methods asking for the same information, in the same way, and your data tables are all set up consistently and in a usable format. You’ve now got all the good data available to you at your fingertips, the world is your oyster! You could even start thinking about that ever desired big data.

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