As marketers and business owners, can we ever, with absolute certainty, predict what the magic mix of marketing strategies and tactics will be in order to establish solid, sustainable growth?
We live in a complex and ever-changing world full of unpredictability and emotion-driven behavior. In a world such as ours, certainty in anything is unlikely.
However, the ever-increasing amount of data available for us to harness increases the probability that we -- as marketers and entrepreneurs -- will get it right.
Nate Silver’s keynote presentation at Inbound 2013, The Signal And The Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t, provided thought-provoking insights into how data is best used to guide our actions, both on a societal level and as inbound marketers.
Silver, one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2009, has built his statistical and forecasting reputation on the coattails of correctly predicting the 2008 election (he correctly predicted the outcomes of 49 states). Since then, he’s been an influential force in the world of politics and sports. The following are key takeaways I gleaned from Silver’s presentation:
1. Data doesn’t lie.
This is true, but it doesn’t necessarily give a full version of the truth either. For data to be truly enlightening, context needs to exist.
In Silver’s presentation, context was described as the existence of ample historical data to provide a base of trends, connections and outcomes. In the world of inbound marketing, we often get caught up in the day-to-day view of data.
While this is an essential part of any inbound marketing strategy, we should be taking a step back from time to time to look at the bigger picture, and ask ourselves:
- What have the trends been over time?
- Does seasonality exist?
- Do groups of similar keywords/topics consistently peak interest?
- If not, what else is going on in the environment when keywords/topics do well vs. when they don’t pique much interest?
Consistently culling insight from the big-picture, long-term perspective provides powerful data to strategically guide your business in the right direction.
2. Data is only as beneficial as your biggest company naysayer allows it to be.
Having a culture that embraces data, as an integral and guiding force to marketing and business development, is essential.
The human element -- or context -- is still a very important element. Context provides a frame of reference from our experiences. However, leveraging data opens new doors, presents different perspectives and creates more informed thoughts… if you let it.
If the culture of your organization is stuck in the old world of decision-making based on gut feelings and personal experiences, then it is time to take a hard look before your competitors’ leverage the power that is at their fingertips. And, speaking of competitors…
3. Without competition, there’s no urgency to improve products and services.
While we all dream of a world without competitors, they’re an essential part of Silver’s formula for maximizing the power of data.
Without the drive to keep ahead of our competitors, we’re not as likely to spend time diving into data to uncover that key nugget of truth unlocking our competitive advantage, make our product the best there is or provide an innovative service. A healthy dose of competition may be just what the doctor ordered!
While Nate Silver’s presentation focused on the great and positive impact data has on our society as a whole, it also applies to inbound marketing. When context, the right culture and a healthy dose of competition exist, the opportunities are many.
Start Today Tip: Take a step back and then dive into the historical data at your fingertips. Set aside some time to play with this data by segmenting and asking “if this… then what?” questions. By building different views of your data you gradually start to see a clear and comprehensive picture of the world around you.