How to Leverage ‘Grey Data’ for Better Marketing
Without Google, where would I store my digital files? How would I navigate to the nearest Taco Bell? How would I search for who has the most rebounds in NBA history?
Google has a suite of products that are all free to use, powerful, and extremely useful in everyday life.
And while we blissfully use all of those solutions, we are consequently helping Google construct a digital avatar of all of our interests, hobbies, purchasing behavior, etc.
Target acquired: launching ad
Anytime you see a banner ad for a new pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses on a sports website, you just fell victim to Google serving you a targeted display advertisement based on your recent search history and interests.
Google is not reading your mind. Neither is any other advertising platform that shows you an ad you were just thinking about or talking about with your dog the other day.
This may not be anything new to many readers but the truth is, Google’s business plan has always been to gather data. The suite of products they provide are simply mediums in which to utilize us (the users) as data gatherers for their use in other ways.
The key takeaway from this, however, is that data is gold. Companies spend an arm and a leg to gather audience insights, and the best companies are consistently spending money for this very purpose. Every failed advertising attempt is an opportunity to gather additional insights.
Grey data: all data is good data
I like to call these opportunities grey data. Grey data is essentially the starting point. The baseline data from which you can manipulate and begin drawing conclusions.
Let’s say you create a product advertisement on facebook. You create a graphic with corresponding ad copy and have an audience narrowed down to serve it to. You run the ad and make zero sales in a week.
Congratulations, you have just gathered your first pool of grey data. This data is telling you something isn’t working. It’s now your job to find out what those conclusions are by testing different variables. And with each incremental change to your original ad set, your grey data will start to look more and more green.
Turning grey data into growth
In the realm of incremental changes, it can be anywhere from changing the audience, altering your bid amounts, your graphics, the text, etc. Most campaigns revolve around testing multiple variations of an ad around a particular product or service.
The best campaigns revolve around gathering data along the way and optimizing those ads until you reach a metric you are happy with.
Depending on your business sector, your key performance metric could be sales, cost per conversion (the amount of money you spent to obtain each sale), or engagement rates (for companies looking to generate buzz and awareness).
Knowing what your key stat is for that particular campaign will dictate whether the specific changes you are making have an impact.
After split testing ad sets, audiences, and making incremental improvements, you should have a winning advertisement that is hopefully cost-effective and scalable. Pump more money into that ad group and watch the sales increase.
Trading value for data
What have we learned from all of this? Google has a business model that all marketers and advertisers can learn from. Google provides you with nice gift-wrapped products that you simply can’t live without. In return, you are giving Google all of the essential data they are seeking.
In your business, think of your audience as yourself. You first need to learn about their behavior and interests before you can sell to them.
How can you do this?
Thanks for asking! You give your users (customers) value. Provide an incentive for your users to return you with valuable insights into their behavior or desire.
You can do this in the form of free webinars, additional exclusive offers, discounts, demos, consulting, etc. This asset should be valuable and the user should have difficulty finding it elsewhere. It should complement your products as well.
The way in which they interact with your assets and with your website — assuming you have proper analytics integrations and event tracking — you will be able to hone in on crafting a perfect avatar of your ideal customer.
That grey data is the foundation of all good marketing analytics and insights. It gives you a great base for which to build upon. So go out there and start collecting.
You can check out my other piece here on how to construct an ideal buyer persona with actual steps and workshops for your business. You can find the story here on medium, published by The Startup.
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