The New Consumer Demand: I Want My MDV *

December 2, 2011

*MDV (def.) Massive Data Visualization

It’s my data.  Give it to me.  Oh, and help me leverage it, too.

This demand is customary in the business world, but increasingly it comes from the mouths of consumers.

How Did We Get Here?One way: be your own landing page link!

The consumerization of data analysis is not new. You could put your finger on any point in the timeline of humanity, as far back as the invention of the printing press.

A key inflection point in the 1980’s occurred when the widespread adoption of personal computers made us all publishers.  Later we got networked and could share our documents and spreadsheets.  It continued in the 90’s with email, and the advent of the Worldwide Web for searching and sifting, managing virtual folders, bookmarking, saving, copying, sharing etc.  In recent decade,  we built a habit of  tapping data stores for making decisions – in online shopping with its price comparison engines.  For most of us, a Google search is our first resort.

Today our social media tools help us to sort and manage our relationships, connections, conversations, and the statistics about those sorting processes, into visual and mental maps about our lives.   Hmmm….Is your organization generating customer data that’s worth sharing with your customers?

As Clay Shirky remarked in his book “Here Comes Everybody“, the problem is “not information overload, it’s filter failure”. We really can only care about the most meaningful data.  Which data is that? How do we decide? What tools are available?  I mention a few cool ones below.

The Tyranny of Time

That issue is inflated by the tyranny of time.  We each only have so many waking hours in each day.  Joke alert: I booked a couple of hours this Saturday afternoon for some spontaneity, but I may have to time shift it to Sunday. Hmm, I’ll just mark it as Tentative on both days. We’ll see.

We depend on data, and love when it is presented visually.  If you have used your smartphone to scan the merchandise QR code, or compare prices with a Google search while “showrooming” in a store, you get the value of massive data visualization on a small scale.  If you use a free GPS app on your phone to navigate to a new destination, you get it.  If you filter your Twitter feeds using Lists, you get it.

Who’s Doing It?

InMaps sample

Visualize and zoom in on your LinkedIn connections via InMaps

The new mantra is: Gimme my data, in a way that helps me gain insight to make better decisions faster.

One problem:  detecting the useful faint signals in all that data is often a daunting task, but usually yields a few “Aha!” moments if you know how to leverage tools, whether you are a consumer, producer or business.  A few people are making progress in this area, like Coloci and LinkedIn Labs’ InMaps (visit http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com ) which gives you a new way to visualize your connections and discover new relationships – an absolute must for any sales prospector.  In the enterprise space, new entrants like Qliktech are invigorating the space long dominated by established players like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Microstrategy.  In the catalog retailer space, we now have Pluris Marketing.  Have you tried them?  Have you found others you’d recommend?  Are you onto the “Quantified Self” movement?  Have you synced your FitBit fitness tracking device today?

What are you doing to give people transparent access to their data?  Whatever you decide to to, it just might make you their hero.


Inbound Marketing, PR and Web Analytics: It’s Cool at School

March 9, 2010

I was fortunate to meet Yanique Shaw, a Marketing student at Salem State College, at a recent Boston Media Leaders event, and she invited me to meet with her PRSSA chapter at her school, led by Professor of Communications Robert Brown, Ph.D.   Here is what we discussed at our meeting on-campus this week.  I think you’ll find it uplifting.

Content, Community, Commerce… in that order

First, we discussed the linkages between Content and Community, then Community to Commerce.  Anybody drinking the HubSpot koolaid (like me) recognizes and endorses that mantra.  (The folks at HubSpot are, if nothing else, infectious and clear in their branding and engagement model).  Proof: some members of this PRSSA chapter recognize the HubSpot brand.

Each member of the group was able to come up pretty quickly with examples of how content builds community, and how absence of content makes it difficult to build community.

Example: One student who works at a nearby coffee shop remarked that she is able to better serve those customers whom she sees more frequently.  Becoming familiar with customer preferences enables her to make appealing suggestions.  She even came up with a unique beverage recipe for one particular client by combining available store ingredients.  How cool is that?  Now her loyal customer will only let her serve him and his kids.   Can you pick out the content and community – and subsequent commerce – elements here?   How likely would you accept an experimental recipe sample – let alone buy it – if you were in a new coffee shop with a barista you’d never met?  Granted, some like me might take that gamble, but can we agree that this student’s trust relationship with a loyal customer increased that likelihood?

Just as our one-hour campus meeting raced by much too quickly, I too have to abbreviate here.  If time permits later, I’ll update this blog entry with more discussion examples.   Everybody had examples to contribute.  Alex, Luis, Ashley, Karrina, thanks!

Obsessing About Data

Joseph Wanamaker, the department store magnate, is credited with commenting that he always knew half of his advertising dollars were being wasted, but he never knew which half.   Like the buggy whip, that bromide has had its day.  Every mouse click is data, available for analysis.  The PRSSA group confessed lack of MS Excel chops.  My advice: get some.  You may not like the drudgery, but every job has it, and if you re-frame it as sleuthing for clues, you’ll appreciate how your discoveries help your organization improve.

The PRSSA group readily volunteered knowledge about tools like Google Analytics.  We also went on to discuss tools like Grader.com, useful for comparing your business site’s performace to empirical measures as well as competitors’ performance – both extremely useful business guidance, and very helpful when making the business case for improving your online customer experience.   We also looked at ways to use inbound marketing technology like Eloqua to more precisely guide the buyer’s journey through a considered purchase while continuing to cultivate relationships with early stage evaluators of your product or service.

This behind-the-scenes experience management practice all came across as a bit spooky and manipulative to a few folks, but we quickly turned the corner and recognized that obsessing over your data is indispensable in helping you focus your organization’s resources on improving customer service.

In parting, the group invited me to join their online Wiggio collaboration community, so we could keep in touch about relevant matters.  Done!  To my new friends at SSC PRSSA: good luck with your Bellringer Award entry!

Upshot: there is hope for the future, and it thrives at Salem State College.  Thanks a bunch, Dr. Brown et. al., for your hospitality.

How has your college experience prepared you (or not) for the challenges of a Marketing or Public Relations career?   What new realities do you face?  Love to hear your comments.

~Ed

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