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Big Data Barnacles

Barnacles … over time they can attach themselves to your marketing ship. They impact speed, performance, and direction. If you continue to let them build, they could even stall and sink your ship! In the explosion of the overused term - “Big Data,” I have observed many companies addressing the big data world by continually adding more data sources to their marketing programs. “I’ll take 25K names from source A, 20K names from source B, and 50K names from source C and on and on.” This strategy of continually adding data sources with a lack of evaluation just adds more and more barnacles to the marketing ship leading to a stale inefficient contact strategy.

One of our key nonprofit clients was intimately aware of these barnacles. Their acquisition mail plan included over 1,000 disparate lists from compiled, response, co-op and house-file data sources. They used these 1,000 lists to define the universe to mail 220 million membership applications annually that targeted 4 different audience segments. If they wanted to test new niche data sources, or increase usage of other data sources they would just add the new data sources into the mail plan. Barnacles were building over time; response rates were declining and costs were increasing, and they realized the marketing ship was getting harder and harder to steer.

The client recognized the growth of these barnacles and asked us for assistance.  Using a detailed, individual-level analysis of historical campaign performance, we developed a data sourcing and optimization strategy.  Our initial analysis showed redundancy and inefficiencies in the data sources they were utilizing for their marketing campaigns.  We gave them a tool to scrape off the barnacles, and intelligence on which data sources they needed to mail more of, less of, and remove all together.  

Our engagement launched in March 2011. Early into our optimization project, we had already found success in the ability to source fewer lists and reduce overlap between them, without sacrificing the marketable universe or program results. By dramatically reducing the  use of more  expensive response data,  and focusing a larger  portion  of their  direct  mail efforts  on their  own  base file, the client began to quickly realize substantial savings. In fact, we exceeded the organization’s New Member goal by 10% and reduced data spend by 49% of prior year.  With the barnacles removed and a tool to address any new ones, the marketing ship now sails straight toward their strategic objectives.

So let me ask you, what are you doing with the constant buildup of barnacles on your ship?  How do you know you are making the right decision with your data purchases?  Don’t let those compounding small decisions overtime impact your future direction! 

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