Marketers: Big data is making you lazy (VB Live)

Marketers: Big data is making you lazy (VB Live)

For growth-minded companies, collecting customer data for the sake of collecting data is more risk than the rewards can usually justify. Because our collection tools create expensive overhead and risks that are impacting the trust of our customers in a negative way. In the last year alone, the number of companies selling software products that collect, parse, and help marketers take action on data has increased from around 2,000 to nearly 3,700 companies. What if we’re buying these marketing tools, because we think they will help us achieve growth where there isn’t a viable product market fit? What if we don’t need customer data beyond what’s explicitly been given to us by the customers already? And for most startup and growth-stage companies, the age of Big Data is a confusing mess without the added risks of collecting, storing, and protecting sensitive data. You might say, “Look, I’m a growth marketer, and these are the tools of the trade. We care about something different.” Our customers said they cared about the purpose that we have as an organization, and by extension they said they cared about being informed and in control about what we do with their information. People want to buy from companies they trust. More importantly, lean data practices teach us marketers to think carefully about trust.

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Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff will be joining our upcoming VB Live event, “Lean data for marketers: How your org can stand out among lazy competitors.” Join the roundtable to

Today’s marketing has a dirty secret: it’s gotten lazy. During the past decade the number of marketing technology tools has exploded to well over 3,000. Overwhelmingly, those tools have focused on collecting, organizing, and finding insights from data. In response, marketers have defined growth as a mathematical exercise of collecting bigger and bigger datasets. Get all the data you can, goes the conventional wisdom, and software will find the magic bullet buried within the numbers.

True, software can create leverage for your marketing efforts. Data can help inform. But as an industry and as a practice, marketing departments are replacing the sound business fundamentals it once practiced with the procedural tasks of buying and leasing data using tools devoted to collecting as much customer data as possible.

In this rush to accumulate and sell data for its own sake, we’re jumping past using data to validate a strong product market fit, creating solid positioning, and developing customer trust.

After two decades in marketing, my thinking has come full circle. For growth-minded companies, collecting customer data for the sake of collecting data is more risk than the rewards can usually justify. Instead, we should be looking for ways to collect less data and go lean. Why? Because our collection tools create expensive overhead and risks that are impacting the trust of our customers in a negative way.

Consider the fallout from the Ashley Madison security breach in 2015, which affected 33 million users and cost the company an estimated $850M in damages — all for a company for which discretion and security is a critical brand value. Or JPMorgan Chase’s cyberattack in 2014, affecting 76 million customers and 7 million small businesses with estimates of total damage around $1B, despite the bank spending $250M per year on data security.

In the last year alone, the number of companies selling software products that collect, parse, and help marketers take action on data has increased from around 2,000 to nearly 3,700 companies. That’s about 80 percent growth. It should be a fantastic golden age for marketers right now, but it’s not, because there are a few fundamental problems.

  • What if we’re buying these marketing tools, because we think they will help us achieve growth where there isn’t a viable product market fit?
  • What if it’s easier to continue…

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