An interesting thing is happening in data. More and more companies (and nonprofits) have more and more data on their customers (and donors). Thanks to technology and systems for tracking consumer behavior, we have loads of information. This could make us incredibly effective. But it’s not yet.
One reason is our data is in disorder. We may have data in siloes or different platforms, which makes it hard to get a clear view into individual consumers so we can actually use the data to work smarter. Another reason is we have so much data, it’s hard to handle. There’s a lot of talk of “big data” these days — data sets so massive that they can’t be handled by the same old tools. It’s hard to capture, store, search, share, analyze and visualize that much information. Too bad because there’s so much to gain – a view into key trends and patterns and insights that can do everything from increase sales to prevent disease to defeat crime. (Source for big data definition: Wikipedia. It was there that I learned every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created and 90% of the data in the world today was created within the past two years. That last fact is mind-blowing.)
The good news is there are tools to deal with this. I’m going to spend 2012 dealing with my data, and I encourage you to do the same. You can’t do a great job as a marketer if you don’t have a clear grasp of your audience. And you can’t have that without data that gives you one view into people: when they’re giving, how they’re giving, how much they’re giving. Having a database of online donors vs. direct mail donors vs. major donors doesn’t give us the view we need. We need our information in one place, with the tools that can help us analyze the information. It’s like investing in glasses when your vision is blurry: it’s a wise investment to allow yourself to see.