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Are you using data to connect with customers?

I live in the New York City area, and among baseball fans of a certain age, there is a touchstone event that they remember: New York Yankees baseball player Thurman Munson dying in a plane crash during the baseball season in 1979. My friend Charles related to me that he was recently among a group of Yankee fans who, each in turn, were asked that question: “Where were you when Thurman Munson died?”

Each gave their answer, until it was Charles’ turn. He said that he vividly remembered where he was: “I was right here. Who the hell is Thurman Munson?”

That’s the problem with touchstones. They are quite powerful among those who share them. But they are puzzling to anyone outside that circle. It is striking how easy it is to assume that your touchstone also resonates with others, and it is those assumptions that are killers in marketing.

Some of you know that last year, my wife and I sold our house and moved to an apartment in a large city. We also sold our cars. Since then, we notice a constant barrage of new car commercials that do not at all resonate with us anymore. We are especially amused at the raft of ads showing new cars with big red bows on them, because giving your spouse a new car seems to be a touchstone for a significant part of the population.

In the past, we’ve had to resign ourselves to guessing what ideas might pique our customers’ interests. We had to take a shot at what might work. But we now have many ways to learn more about what customers want:

  • Digital ad data around which topics your clients engage with
  • Social data that shows their sentiment around certain topics
  • Web analytics data around what content they view on your site
  • A/B testing data that shows which messages they prefer

And there is plenty where that came from — more data online and offline. The question is whether you are using it. What data are you collecting? What messages are you testing? How do you know what is working? Are you still guessing the way everyone once did, or have you stepped up to become data-driven?

You can keep guessing your touchstones. Or you can use your data to look like a customer genius. It’s up to you.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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