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TECHNOLOGY

Leverage Big Data in Your Small Business: 5 Tips
 

Giant corporations use data analysis to fine-tune their marketing. So can you.

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You can't open a newspaper or turn on NPR these days without encountering the word data. Data is the new oil. With data, Target can tell when a woman is pregnant, even before she's told her own family. Data will drive everything in marketing from now on.

Frequently, though, the word "data" is preceded by the word "big." Mega-corporations with billions of "data points" can clearly turn data to their advantage, but can you? Can a small company use big data techniques to make its own marketing more effective?

Yes, according to Jesse Pujji, co-founder and president of Ampush Media, which helps brands like Walgreen's, State Farm, and Milky Way optimize their advertising on Facebook and other online venues. (The other two founders are Chris Amos and Nick Shah; "Ampush" combines the first two letters of its three founders' names.) You may not have a statistician on hand, but you can still draw value from the data from your online advertising. Here's how:

1. Measure everything.

Many marketers don't take their analysis far enough, Pujji says. They'll measure how many people clicked on a link, but not what they were doing before they did. Or they'll measure how long potential customers stay on a site, but not how long they looked at each page.

In one case, he says, Ampush analyzed a mortgage site. Visitors had to input information in several steps in order to be connected to a mortgage counselor. "We started to look at the time between steps," Pujji says. "We noticed that for more than 5% of visitors, if they hesitated more than two to three milliseconds at a step, we would lose them. We set up the site so that whenever there was that kind of hesitation, it would deliver an inspirational message, such as "Low rates are just a few clicks away." That improved conversion rates by 30 to 40%."

2. Make sure to consider outcome.

In online advertising, much of the attention goes to when and whether a user clicks on an ad. For one thing, that's what triggers payment in a pay-per-click system. But you don't truly benefit, Pujji points out, until someone actually buys something. "There's click, then action--such as signing up for a newsletter or requesting more information--and outcome, when a transaction actually takes place," Pujji says. It's important to measure all three.

3. Focus on good customers.

Even beyond outcome, ask whether the customer you acquired with your ad is a good one or a bad one. "A lot of platforms tie together different parts of data, but they don't differentiate among customers," he says. "People buying keywords on Google might say, 'I had this many clicks, and this many conversions.' But did they go on to become good customers? And is there a keyword that drove high-value customers to your site, versus low-value ones?"

4. Start small.

Although measuring everything is sound advice, don't expect to do it on the first day, Pujji says. "It's OK to start slow and get it right at a small level rather than a big one. Get successful with a handful of ads, perhaps five, before you start to do any kind of scaling. People look at these platforms and either get super intimidated or else they try to go too far too soon."

5. Be an early adopter.

One natural advantage for a small company is that it can try out new markets and new social media more quickly than a slow-moving mega-corporation. So consider making use of that advantage whenever new marketing opportunities come along.

"I would advise people to explore the new platforms as they emerge," Pujji says. "Facebook has been really interesting because of the ability to really target age, interests and demographics. Twitter will launch an advertising platform soon; Tumblr is just starting to do it." [Tumblr founder David Karp announced Tumblr would start featuring sponsored posts on May 2.] "A year from now, Pinterest will have launched something. Try to be on the bleeding edge, if you can."

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Apr 30, 2012

MINDA ZETLIN is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
@MindaZetlin




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