May20

Bringing Sexy Back…to Science

disease managementThank God for The Big Bang Theory. They’ve made it cool to be a nerd again.

While traditional brand attributes (efficacy, safety, dosing, etc) will always be of key importance, the last few years have seen a renaissance of scientific enlightenment as physicians across disciplines take a closer look at not only how well a drug works, but why it works.

With the advent of new targeted agents in oncology and virology, mechanism of action quickly went from a dirty little secret buried in the PI to front page news. There are now numerous products that have built their entire value proposition on mechanism of action.

In oncology in particular, where clinical improvement between new and old drugs is often measured in teaspoons, the science behind the brand can often stand as a key differentiator. Avastin—one of the most successful drugs in oncology—created a simple scientific rationale for its use: stop cancer cells from creating new blood vessels and “starve the tumor.” With three simple words they took a complex process of tumor growth and development and created a unique opportunity in oncology that they have effectively owned since its launch in 2004.

Science Sells

The ongoing race toward “scientific innovation” is redefining how we market specialty brands.

  • Have a good pick-up line: In specialty marketing an entirely new nomenclature has spawned, significantly impacting our ability to change physicians’ perceptions of our brand. Simple terms to describe the science have now become synonymous with clinical attributes we could otherwise never say in a branded way. “Targeted” or “selective” now means safe and well-tolerated, “multi-functional” equals efficacious. Understanding how one simple word can affect how physicians view your brand is now key, requiring comprehensive research and knowledge of the market.
  • Be yourself and if that doesn’t work be someone better: No longer content to be classified under traditional terms, products have been using science to create entire “new” drug classes. Avastin rebranded themselves from a VEGF inhibitor to an “anti-angiogenic,” and DDP-4 was redefined as an “incretin degradation inhibitor” in type 2 diabetes.
  • Dress to impress: Where once MOA materials were simply required to be informative, now visually dynamic and digitally distinct tactical initiatives have quickly become a cost of entry for products seeking to separate themselves from the competition.

And while I can say with absolute certainty that an in-depth knowledge of molecular drivers of cancer will not help you talk to girls at parties, understanding the science behind the brands and their competitors is now crucial to opening up new doors for creative exploration, messaging and differentiation in specialty marketing.

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Also posted in behavior change, copywriting, Creativity, Data, Efficacy, Healthcare Communications, Learning, Marketing, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Physician Communications, positioning, Science, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
May14

Social Media for Pharma?

stethoscope social mediaHave you been looking for a way for your brand to engage in social media? Are you unsure of what the draft FDA guidance on social media means? Looking for some tips to help get you started? If so, you’re in the right place.

Social media has been an integral part of the digital marketer’s toolbox for several years. It is especially useful for driving brand awareness and generating site traffic. Unfortunately, due to the tightly regulated nature of the pharmaceutical industry, many have been reluctant to implement social media campaigns. Brand marketers have avoided them due to a lack of clear guidance from the FDA, and medical/regulatory review teams have refused to approve social campaigns due to the fear of receiving a dreaded FDA letter.

With the release of draft guidelines by the FDA in January, our industry has been provided with long-awaited parameters. Final guidelines have yet to be issued, but this is a step in the right direction. Slowly, pharmaceutical marketers are dipping their toes in the water. Here is a quick overview of the FDA’s guidance:

  • Brands are responsible for monitoring the content they publish. Content that is repurposed, posted, or used in an inappropriate way is not the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company (as long as the individual repurposing the content is not employed by the pharmaceutical company).
  • Pharmaceutical companies are not responsible for content published by associations and other partners that it provides with financial support (eg, unrestricted educational grants). Content and assets provided are the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company and must still go through typical FDA sampling.
  • Pharmaceutical companies and their representatives must clearly identify their association with brands when participating in conversations.
  • Fair balance is still in full effect. As with any other promotional medium, claims must be counterbalanced with the risks of the drug.
  • FDA submissions of interactions do not have to be submitted in real-time. Conversations that take place can be sampled after the fact to keep brands in compliance.

You can access the full document here.

Feeling more comfortable with the guidelines? Are you ready to deploy a social media campaign? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with a strategy. As obvious as this seems, people are so anxious to implement a social media campaign, they dive in headfirst. Ensure you identify the goal of your campaign so you can measure the results of your efforts.
  • Engage in conversations with your audience. People use social media to connect with people, rarely with brands. Talk to them about topics that matter to them and are appropriately linked to your brand (eg, an antidepressant sponsoring a support forum providing tips to patients and caregivers on ways to remain positive and the importance of adherence).

According to a 2012 channel preferences research report published by ExactTarget, Facebook and Twitter rank at the bottom (4% and 1%, respectively) of channels participants want used for promotional messaging. This accentuates the importance of finding a healthy balance between brand promotion and human interaction. You can access the research here.

  • Messages must be relevant and fresh. They must take into account the context, location and intention of your audience. Not every opportunity that arises to share your marketing message should be taken. Selectivity is part of the secret to success.
  • Be flexible. The future is unpredictable. For brands to thrive in social media, they must be ready to act in the blink of an eye. Editorial calendars should not be set in stone.
  • Listen closely to the feedback of your audience and take action. The most insignificant of posts can take on a life of its own, leaving marketers scrambling to control the fallout.
  • Always have a social media crisis plan in place. Sitting idly by and not taking action is tantamount to brand suicide. Does anyone remember #mcdstories, #askJPM or #myNYPD? If not, hop on Twitter and search for the aforementioned hashtags. All are examples of hashtags that turned into “bashtags” and left their respective marketing agencies scratching their heads and scrambling to minimize the damage.

Although the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated, social media is an opportunity to connect with your audience and should not be overlooked. With the draft FDA guidelines in hand and a sound strategy, you can now connect with consumers through social media.

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May9

How to Personalize Non-Personal Promotion—From a Medical Education Perspective

doc conferenceBy Sean Hartigan and Eileen Gutschmidt

When you think of Personal Promotion (PP) and Non-Personal Promotion (NPP), traditional channels likely come to mind such as Reps carrying iPads, online and offline media advertising, and marketing campaigns populated with a mix of branded tactics that can include print, digital, telephony, and convention booth engagement. Medical education, on the other, probably isn’t something you would automatically think of.

Yes, there are notable differences in execution between medical marketing and medical education, but the channels used in the former can also be applied to the latter—via unbranded, disease state awareness programs designed to underscore unmet needs in a category, while priming the market for a launch and all of the “traditional” branded promotion mentioned above.

NPP, as expressed through integrated multichannel, is even more critical today for both medical marketing AND medical education. Especially when you consider that it is becoming harder and harder to engage with healthcare provider audiences given evolving market conditions. Many institutions won’t permit Reps or Medical Science Liaisons the opportunity to meet with the physicians in their network for face-to-face dialogue. Fewer physicians have time to attend local and regional meetings, and national congresses. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act requires physicians to invest more time collaborating with each other and their patients to achieve improved outcomes. And many physicians would rather get their information from non-pharma sources and can easily do so online, and on their own time through their mobile devices.

Distill all of this down and it hopefully becomes clear that NPP should play a major role in medical education. But that’s not enough. NPP needs to be informed by customer needs and preferences. It needs to be all about the end user. Not us. Not our clients. Not their brands. The only way to truly connect with busy audiences is to be relevant—and personalized NPP can help!

It all comes down to a few simple steps:

  1. Know your audience: who they are, what they need, what they want, and where they go to get it (ie, research and segmentation)
  2. Provide content  that fits the bill (Content Strategy: aka, audit and assess what you have, make more based on customer interest, need, and where they are in their learning continuum)
  3. Come up with a channel plan (Integrated MCM/Digital and Media Strategy) based on your audiences’ attitudes and behaviors
  4. Launch your program, measure it, share out response data to interested stakeholders (that’s analytics and closed-loop marketing)
  5. Revise and refresh based on response (customer-centric content and channel optimization)

Of course this is a highly simplified broad brushstroke of the approach. But it can be applied to any traditional medical education initiative. And you should tap into our experts at OCHWW in these attendant disciplines to help you. A lot of effort and expertise goes into developing a smart program that drives the kinds of results you and your clients are looking for.

Let’s use an example: Think about your activities at medical congresses. Are you conducting a symposium there? A product theatre? If so, how are you driving targeted audiences to your event?

This is where NPP can help. Build out an ecosystem around your congress engagement, populated with appropriate drivers such as email, direct mail, door drops at local hotels, onsite posters at the congress that trigger augmented reality video clips, onsite geo-fencing alerts that remind congress visitors about your symposia, and so on. You should also consider pull-through tactics post engagement, such as emails that can speak to attendees and non-attendees differently: “Here’s a summary of your congress experience,”  or, “Sorry you missed the symposia—here’s a synopsis of the event.”

Obviously, your event  content and activities should be informed by customer need and feedback. To make the symposium a success it should be about something that healthcare audiences would find useful and want to hear about. And, you should use your ability to connect with audiences at congresses to encourage opt-in for CRM. That is, registration for ongoing and improved customized service based on user needs and wants.

Can you use a KOL to help you get their attention in driver tactics and at the symposia? Do it. Thought-leader driven programs achieve a better success metric. Can you package your one congress meeting into a larger “umbrella program” to help frame an improved value prop and keep their interest over time? Of course you can. It all depends on whether it makes sense for your audience, your brand, and your customer (and maybe your budget).

Interested in learning more? Visit your friendly neighborhood Medical Education staffer and we’d be glad to spend time to understand your brand and customer needs to come up with a plan that works for you. Remember, we’re personalizing NPP, so this isn’t a cut and paste. But we, and our partners in the Relationship Marketing Center of Excellence, can be your glue that brings it all together!

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Also posted in content marketing, CRM, Customer Relationship Marketing, Healthcare Communications, Marketing, Medical Education, Multi Channel Marketing, Non-personal Promotion, positioning, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Apr17

Multi-Screen Is the New “Mobile First”

screensFor the past few years, “Mobile first!” has been the rally cry of marketers. The idea was to design websites and ads to work on mobile devices first to account for the growing smartphone- and tablet-using audience. But mobile first is already obsolete; if your strategy doesn’t have multiple screens in mind, then your strategy is out-of-date.

Time spent on mobile devices is steadily increasing. Throughout the day, consumers are moving seamlessly back and forth between many devices, from laptops to smartphones to tablets to TVs. In fact, 90% of consumers start a task on one device and finish it on another. Oftentimes consumers are using more than one device at a time, fluidly flipping back and forth between screens.

This complexity in user behavior makes it imperative for marketers to embrace a multi-device strategy, not just a mobile-first one.

You must now develop ads that work across these multiple devices. The ads should seamlessly leverage the characteristics of each device for optimal user experience. Additionally, where consumers used to be focused on one device at a time, now they are on multiple devices simultaneously, so messaging needs to adapt to the multi-device paradigm as well.

Consumer search trends support the need for multi-screen advertising. According to eMarketer, U.S. mobile search ad spending grew 120.8% in 2013, contributing to an overall gain of 122.0% for all mobile ads. Meanwhile, overall desktop ad spending increased just 2.3% last year. Marketers should not only develop ads for multiple platforms, they should optimize their spending across platforms as well.

Ad targeting also becomes paramount in the multi-screen world. Targeting ads to specific devices and operating systems is the most basic method of mobile ad targeting. But much like the desktop environment, user insights can be culled from the type of content consumed on tablets and smartphones. These insights can then be used to further target mobile audiences.

As consumers continue to access content across multiple devices, marketers must continue to grow and change with them to meet their needs no matter which device(s) they are using.

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Also posted in advertising, content marketing, Creativity, Data, Digital, Digital Advertising, Healthcare Communications, Media, Multi Channel Marketing, Strategy, Technology | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response
Mar27

What the WWE Taught Me About Persona Development

I grew up watching WWF (now WWE) wrestling. Every Saturday morning I would rush through my morning breakfast with excitement to see all of my larger-than-life heroes. The sights of Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat enthralled me to a point where I was lost in appearance and personality.

Years later the characters are still there—I’m still a fan, and the audience of young kids appears to be stronger than ever. But how did the WWE keep me interested for the last 20 years? I take this thought and apply it to one of my everyday on-the-job questions: why do our targets—doctors—stop engaging with us after years of product loyalty, and what can we do about it?

With the WWE, it started with there being a 1-900 number that I called. I was overly excited as a kid to dial that number and think that Hulk Hogan was actually talking to me. The data/marketing method of the 1-900 number was very simple: associate numeric to selections on your phone to what you prefer and continue marketing to the contact in the way they want to be marketed to.

For example:  the 1-900 number asked me my age group, I choose #1 for 10-15 years old (type of message to give me); for favorite wrestler, I choose #3 for Hulk Hogan (message specific to my needs); and for the key question—if I would allow them to follow up with me via phone with updates—I choose #1 for yes (continued CRM communication).

Just like that, the 1-900 number captured all my information and knew exactly how to speak to me. To the present day, the WWE still sends me information. The below text is a screen shot of my present day phone and is proof that they remember me and my likes. This was a text sent to me just this past Sunday:

AngeloCampano_WWE
They still know I like the Hulk and they know what appeals to the 30-something me.

Clearly they created a digital persona of me and through all the years of technology used what they learned from me 20 years ago to keep my interests (especially the Hulkster).

The hypothesis that is commonly thought of is that we tend to try looking at our targets in the same way, capture what they like and what they know. We as pharma marketers spend a lot of time chasing the doctor when the doctor doesn’t respond to messages we give him or her.

Looking at a standard CRM program (delivered through multi-channel), those who spend some time targeting the office staff for the first communication have 52% more success reaching the doctor in the second and third communication than those who don’t. Much like the WWE did, we need to take the time to understand our audience, who is REALLY making us money, and how.

As marketing continues to evolve, so do the exercises marketers have been doing for decades. Persona development is not exempt from this trend. Traditional persona development is still a powerful tool for marketers to use. However, targeting these personas with traditional means will prove less and less effective and profitable over time. In order to create and leverage digital persona profiles, marketers must rely on technology to both capture Big Data and use it effectively. The goal of which is to get as close to one-to-one marketing as possible by delivering the right content to the correct person at the best time with the channel they prefer.

As a result, tracking and understanding a person’s digital qualities, digital movement, click data, sales funnel and preferences are important considerations for effectively identifying and building outlying digital personas. The WWE was way ahead of its time for this process.

Marketers who can best leverage digital persona development, content personalization, context marketing and Big Data will be best suited to thrive in the near future. The newer the generation, the greater the expectation is for one-on-one marketing. We can all learn a thing or two from the WWE; their model works and isn’t hard to duplicate (we have already come close to mastering it).

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Feb18

Taking the Pulse…Tuning In to the New Patient Network

1741356 sA guest blog post from Craig Martin – Chief Executive Officer of Feinstein Kean Healthcare, an Ogilvy & Mather Company

Most of us are far too young to remember the early days of television. What I do recall from my childhood is that three networks owned the airwaves, large numbers of people followed a small number of notable programs, and the screen turned to fuzz at midnight. You made note of the TV Guide schedule, and you adjusted your schedule to the TV shows that interested you. The networks and the stars were in charge.

A lot has changed since then, obviously. There are now countless networks, and seemingly limitless numbers of shows. Reality television has made stars of “ordinary” people. And the digital age has made scheduled programming obsolete—the content follows you and adjusts to your life and device of choice, not the other way around.

Why wax nostalgic about the evolution of broadcast television? Because I believe a similarly dramatic transformation is under way in our field. The old channels and choices are fading to fuzz. A new era is dawning.

For years, healthcare PR relied on a few channels and reliable choices to reach, inform, and market to patients. On behalf of our clients, we used traditional media (earned and paid), events, celebrities and big disease education programs to build awareness and get patients to “talk to their doctors about…”

Today—as more of the burden of choice, comparison, and cost gets shifted to patients, as diseases become more and more categorized via genomic analysis and molecular diagnostics, as medical practice and health become more universally digitized, and physicians and pharma become more responsible for outcomes vs. treatments—the traditional big, broad-channel approaches are becoming less relevant and effective as a means of reaching more and more narrowly defined populations of patients.

These trends are leading to the establishment of entirely new channels and networks, made of up patients identified and aggregated virtually through the sharing of personal medical information and data. In other words, the audience is creating the network, and continually informing the programming through the data they share. Now, rather than casting a wide net via mass media and hoping a narrow audience will be watching, we will have ready-made networks, open 24/7, waiting if not demanding to be engaged. This opens up new frontiers for micro-targeted, real-time communication and measurable engagement, based almost exclusively on digital content and social influence.

Not long before the holidays we learned that Feinstein Kean Healthcare (FKH) and a select group of partners won a million-dollar government grant to develop a “patient-powered research network” for the multiple sclerosis community. This is an exciting development, but not because of the money. This new kind of network represents the leading edge of the transformation I’ve described, and we’re now right at the forefront as well.

In the days and months ahead, we’ll continue to evaluate the pace and progress of change, and work to assure that our thinking and services are aligned with where the world is headed. Naturally, we don’t want to get too far out ahead of the trend, but we must be informed and equipped to lead when the market is ready.

I believe, as this new era unfolds, we will find there are many exciting opportunities ahead for us to engage differently and far more meaningfully with patients.

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Also posted in adherence, advertising, behavior change, Customer Relationship Marketing, Digital, Digital Advertising, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Patient Communications, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology | Tagged , , , , | 1 Response
May28

How to Sip From an Information Fire Hose: Taking Stock of the Therapeutic Marketplace

Fire Hose ThumbnailIn an effort to describe the intellectual environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), former MIT President Jerome Wiesner once remarked that “getting an education at MIT is like taking a sip from a fire hose.”

For those of us working in the field of medicine, this perspective is far from a pithy witticism. The scope of the informational fire hose in science is truly staggering. For example, according to summaries posted by the National Library of Medicine, new “In Progress” records expand daily by 3,000 to 12,000 citations. While not broken down by scientific discipline, these data underscore the scope of the challenge to understand a rapidly changing clinical marketplace. Additionally, these data don’t begin to address the broad expanse of observations by the media, blogosphere, and social media.

So how do we at Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Education (OCHME) sip from an informational fire hose? Our scientific team takes a multidisciplinary approach:

  • Manage the scientific literature – The National Library of Medicine’s search engine allows a user to program keywords into daily automated searches that are emailed to us each morning
  • Leverage capabilities of Internet search engines – Many search engines will alert a user to a particular word string “as it happens.” So the moment a keyword is used on the Internet, we are made aware and can act on it
  • Build close intellectual relationships with clients and clinicians – At every opportunity, OCHME shares our perspectives on recent developments in a therapeutic area with our clients and clinicians. As the relationship matures, the exchange of information becomes a two-way street. Before long, this becomes a key source of new information for us
  • Embrace nontraditional sources – We routinely monitor blogs and conduct Twitter searches for perspectives that support our projects
  • Continue to rely on traditional information channels: Sources such as eMarketer, Forrester, or Kantar Sources & Interactions continue to offer high intrinsic value, allowing OCHME to construct insightful snapshots of a therapeutic marketplace

Using the above techniques, OCHME is frequently the first source of timely strategic information that is shared with our clients. In addition, this comprehensive approach allows OCHME to identify novel data and cutting-edge perspectives that keep our medical content topical, insightful, and exciting.

Still thirsty? The next round is on OCHME. Cheers!

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Mar28

What Health Marketers Need to Know About Google’s Knowledge Graph

Tiger_ADDo you know Tiger Woods’ real first name? It’s Eldrick. How about his middle name? No, it’s not Serial Philanderer, it’s Tont. As a weekend hacker and golf enthusiast, I knew about Eldrick, but I had never heard Tont before.

I came across this little nugget when I did a Google search on “Tiger Woods.” In fact, if you do a search on any celebrity, historical figure, artist, movie title, geographic location, etc., the right side of Google’s page will likely display a mini bio of facts, images and links to related information.

Lipiator_AD

Google implemented this feature, which it calls the Knowledge Graph (KG), in May of last year, and it has slowly been evolving to include other verticals. At the end of November, Google got the attention of healthcare marketers when it began including brand and generic drug information into the KG, or what some in the industry have relabeled as the Medication Knowledge Graph (MKG).

MKG results are populated from three primary sources—the FDA, the National Library of Medicine, and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs—and any brand whose drug label information is sent by the manufacturer to the FDA is eligible for inclusion.

The info you’re likely to find will be:

  • Indication
  • Side Effects
  • Warnings
  • Drug Class
  • Related Medications or Related User Searches

Interestingly, there is currently no option for removal or exclusion from the MKG. And while the implications to marketers may at first seem negative—having side effects, warnings and competitor information positioned prominently against your brand—there may be positives as well. For example: the indication, which is always a challenge to present against a brand name because of fair balance requirements, is now being displayed for you. Your brand may show in the MKG of a competitive brand. Some MKG listings have a “May Treat” result, containing potential off-label uses for that drug.

As I mentioned, the format is evolving.  As users become more familiar with the MKG format, and more trusting of the info being provided, the greater the SEM/SEO challenge becomes to gain visibility in the all-important search space. Creative pharma marketers will find ways to complement or feed off of the MKG results. Those who ignore this new format will likely miss out on qualified website traffic.

And no, while we don’t yet know all there is to know about the impact of the Knowledge Graph, we do know that we need to stay in the know—know what I mean? So keep on it, I gotta run—my wife just called and said she got a provocative text message from some guy named Eldrick. Yikes!

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Mar26

SXSW 2013: Empty Information Calories

Cloud Image“We are drowning in information and starving for knowledge.”

– Rutherford D. Rogers, Deputy Librarian of Congress

I recently presented at SXSW, and while there attended a number of other talks and presentations. One, given by a Buddhist nun, made me think in a new way about what it is we do as healthcare communicators. We create a lot of materials and services for people to consume, in essence “feeding” them healthcare information—but are we feeding them well?

The presenter used the concept of cheap nutrition as a metaphor for the modern habit of consuming low-value, high-turnover products and services without ever feeling full or knowing why. Everything, according to her, has the potential to become fast food, easily consumed and without real nutritional value:  the things we own, the entertainment we watch, the achievements we rank and catalogue…all of it can be had in a low-cost, transactional way, and it is all empty calories, taken on board without consideration and without satisfaction. The more you eat, the hungrier you get. To be fulfilled, we need to do more than consume—we need to connect, and to engage. I’m not a Buddhist and I like fast food as much as the next person, but as a metaphor for information available on the Internet, especially healthcare information, “empty calories” is as good as any.

Patients and caregivers seeking knowledge find a sea of information, often without context or a frame of reference to know if it is good information or bad, relevant or irrelevant, connected to their immediate need or concern or not. The information is readily available, it is designed to be easily digested, and rarely if ever does it leave us feeling that we know all that we need to know about whatever it is that ails us or a loved one: we sit at a keyboard, finding bite-sized information nuggets, and eat and eat, and remain hungry nonetheless.

The nun was right. Gorging on information will never truly make us full; what we need is information we can use, that can guide our actions in a meaningful way. Knowledge requires that we pay attention in a way that consuming information does not. Knowledge comes through deep interaction, through a relationship between the knower and the thing known.

We are healthcare communicators—what sort of food are we creating? Do we push ourselves to ensure that information is more than just digestible, and even correct, but is also presented so that people want to, have to engage? Do we truly think about the end user and her needs or experiences? Do we create “disposable interactions” that just help feed a need for consumption rather than a need for usable knowledge? Helping people acquire knowledge is our job, not just giving them access to information. I challenge us all, then, to create more than the next informational Twinkie.

Check out OCHWW’s other SXSW 2013 blog posts:

SXSW 2013: Small Data in a World of Big Data

SXSW 2013: How Zombies Are Helping Us Get Fit

SXSW 2013: BIG Data and Personal Technology at SXSW

SXSW 2013: The Mobile Healthcare Revolution

SXSW 2013: Bad Behavior – the Saga of SXSW
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Mar8

SXSW 2013: Small Data in a World of Big Data

KPI-originalMore than ever, modern marketers are using data to drive decisions about strategies and tactics. Clients are asking us to back up “what we think” with real numbers about “what we know.”

The rise of “big data” is a hot topic at this year’s SXSW conference. Thought leaders are sharing their insights on how to interpret and act upon this growing pool of information. Pay attention, since this stuff matters.

But at the same time, we run the risk of ignoring “small data.” That is, if the numbers we have do not hit a certain threshold of massiveness, should we throw it away? Of course not; let’s discuss why.

Aggregate Shmaggregate

A few years ago, economist Steven D. Levitt and writer Stephen J. Dubner released an important book called Freakonomics. This book addressed some interesting ways data can lead to improper and unfortunate conclusions. Specifically, big data can make you think that 1 + 1 = 3. (Note: It doesn’t. I checked.)

Freakonomics revealed that sometimes big data, when combined with unrelated external events, can confuse even the smartest, most experienced researchers. Add to that the idea of “unintended consequences” and things can get downright confusing for people who put all of their faith in big data.

There’s nothing technically wrong with big data. I love big data. Send it over and I will have my big-data brains dissect it. Big data = good.

The problem is twofold:

1. Big data is overwhelming to many people. They draw incomplete conclusions based on their limited view of the numbers. It takes a well-trained, experienced data professional to extract smart marketing insights from gigantic data sets. When a well-intentioned but inexperienced person analyzes data, he or she can easily misinterpret the insights.

For example, if tons of people are landing on a particular page on your website and then leaving immediately, you might conclude they are “bouncing.” We hear this a lot.

But what if they simply found what they needed and left? What if this bounce was really a conversion?

This leads directly to the second problem…

2. Weak KPI mapping. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are designed to help you understand the relationship between your content and the target user. Specifically, how well your content satisfies their needs and moves them along your relationship continuum.

All the data you collect means nothing until you set KPIs and other goals. KPIs give you context to the data. Without this context, you will get data for data’s sake. And really, who wants that?

KPIs need to be an agreed-upon measurement that guides content creation, traffic drivers, and analysis. (That’s it. Please reread that sentence aloud to the whole class.)

And Now, Small Data

So, what’s the takeaway? Well, it’s about how you should be interpreting your data, both big and small. It’s a new mindset that you need to bring to your team, who are probably building a bonfire and chanting, “big data, big data, big data” the week after SXSW.

Big data matters. I completely agree. It’s just not as simple as it seems. You can’t just look at a giant bucket of data and make a snap conclusion (e.g., kittens are popular, hence we need kitties on our website to sell our product).

But small data matters too. Yes, you can learn a lot about the time of day your site is visited. And yes, it can be extremely significant to chart this over a two-year period.

Small data, however, can tell you different things about your target. It can tell you if the user is getting information that influences their decision or engages them  in your resources. Small data can tell you if your content is properly linked within your website and expanded brand footprint.

For example, a “thank you” page at the end of a transaction page may be a KPI. If you’re only looking at the big-data picture, you may not really understand what people are doing to reach this page.

You may not even know how they got to your site to get to this KPI. Search? Banner? Email? Sure, you know how they got to your website, but do you know which channel delivered the user who converted? In too many cases, the answer is “no.”

Everyone from the copywriters to the designers need to know your KPIs. Your SEO team and your media-buying team, too. Everyone needs to know your KPIs, most of which are not part of your “big data.” KPIs are often part of your “small data.”

Looking forward, make this year the one that everyone is measuring data consistently. Understand and optimize your website—and every other tactic in your campaign—according to big data AND small data.

And skip the kittens.

Check out OCHWW’s other SXSW 2013 blog posts:

SXSW 2013: How Zombies Are Helping Us Get Fit

SXSW 2013: BIG Data and Personal Technology at SXSW

SXSW 2013: The Mobile Healthcare Revolution

SXSW 2013: Bad Behavior – the Saga of SXSW

SXSW 2013: Empty Information Calories

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