Can You Ever Have Too Much Data?

Racepoint Global

Can you ever have too much data?

Listening to the speakers at MITX’s 2017 Data Summit, the answer is a resounding no. At some point during the day-long conference, I formed a mental image of marketing data as a long river. It might be overwhelming white water in places, and at certain times, and in others it might be a quiet, wide bend that’s perfect for a morning of fly fishing. Our job as marketing professionals is to make the most of what the data offers.

The first step is to listen. I was fascinated by a panel of individuals speaking on the role of data in sports. They discussed biometrics, naturally, as well as statistical analysis as it applies to both individual and team performance. One panelist, WHOOP (client) founder Will Ahmed, sparked a discussion on athlete’s intuition. Athletes tend to see themselves as having highly-tuned awareness of their bodies and their level of preparation. They greatly value their own intuition. For generations that was all they had –  panelist Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic hockey player, remembered her primary training technology was a pen and a notebook. But the data tells another story. It turns out that athlete’s vaunted intuition is often dead wrong. Athletes are physically ready when they feel like they’re not. (Most often in the morning… Sound familiar?) They also might think they’re ready when they really need some time on the bench. Once they learn to trust the data, performance improves.

We learned that this is true in the marketing game as well. Marketers might have a feel for their customers. They might even have an impressive track record based on that intuition. But in a world where the competition is increasingly using the equivalent of Fibits and Humon monitors, intuition is insufficient at best and dead wrong at worst. Learn to listen to data and develop insights, as Forrester’s Cinny Little pointed out, or the competitors who do will ‘eat your lunch.’

As a technologist, I tend to focus more on the gear and tackle of marketing data. I perk up when people use words like ‘hadoop’. For me, the MITX Data Summit was a welcome window into the world of people who look for – and find – valuable stories in the data we technologists assemble and dissect.