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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter


September 15, 2014

The Truth About Data-Driven Marketing

September 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

Uncovering the truth about data-driven marketingInteresting data out of PricewaterhouseCoopers, (H/T to Marketing Charts), that shows many large businesses depend more on intuition than data when making key decisions about their marketing and strategy and that highlights a core truth about data-driven marketing: When it comes to using data in their decision-making, most companies don’t practice what they preach. Money quote:

“According to the study, 49% of respondents agree that “data analysis is undermining the credibility of intuition or experience,” while just 21% disagree. At the same time, when asked which of a selection of inputs they placed the most reliance on for their last big decision, 30% of respondents pointed to their own intuition or experience, while 29% relied most on data and analysis and 28% on the advice or experience of others internally. In other words, a majority relied most on experience, whether their own or someone else’s.”

There’s similar data in the latest CMO Survey [link to PDF] results showing that fewer than 40% of respondents can “prove the impact [of marketing spending] quantitatively” (see page 65 of the report).

This reminds me a lot of the book (and film) Moneyball, where “sabremetricians” (the data analytics folks), and scouts (the qualitative/intuition-based/gut-feel people), battled for control of their teams’ future. Yet, when you fast-forward to today, you’ll see that the real winner of those battles are the teams themselves. The data analytics wizards provide insight and information to the intuitive, experienced veterans and together make the right decision for the team as a whole. The operative approach here isn’t about using data or experience, it’s about using data and experience.

It’s become popular among data-driven types to say, “Beware the HiPPO” (which stands for “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion”). I frequently say it myself. I’ve also added an important corollary to that maxim: “Especially beware the HiPPO if it’s you,” because the higher you go, the harder it can be to get high-quality, honest feedback and information from the people in your organization. That’s not to say your team is lying to you; it’s simply that they’re often incentivized to present information about themselves in the most favorable light or, whether you intend it or not, feel pressure to tell you what they think you want to hear.

And that’s why I preach “data-driven marketing” with my clients and practice it in my own business. But the truth is, “data-driven” isn’t limited to quantitative data. You want to augment your quantitative data with observation and insights from your front-line customer service folks, too. Or, better yet, get out and see for yourself.

Here’s why.

As the PricewaterhouseCoopers data shows, you may not always have the data you need when you want it: Only 52% of respondents in that study rated timeliness of data as “Excellent.” It’s an unfortunate reality that you won’t always have the data you need when you want it.

Sometimes you’ll have the ability to defer your decisions until you get more data; but far more often you’ll have to make the best decision you can based on the data that’s available.

That’s life.

And that’s why I usually recommend you collect data about your customers and observe their behaviors first-hand. Your marketing and web analytics tell part of the story, but that doesn’t mean it’s the whole story. For online, A/B tests, usability tests, discussions with call center agents and ghosting on customer service/sales calls, and the odd bit of heuristic or ethnographic research can help fill in the blanks about your customers’ behaviors. And, offline, it’s even easier. Just take some time to walk your showroom (and your competitors’), watch customers in the checkout lines, and, talk to customers to add a wealth of insights to the information you’re gathering. And effective use of surveys can help you gain key insights about customers both in-store and online.

The plain truth about data-driven marketing is this: All data is good data. It doesn’t matter whether that data comes from analytics tools, customer surveys, or just plain old conversations. The companies using data-driven marketing most effectively take all of that information — the analytics and the intuition — and use them to produce true insights that drive their businesses forward. Don’t be like the guys in Moneyball, fighting to see who wins. Instead, get those groups working together so that the whole organization wins.

FYI, this is your last chance to register for my latest webinar, Digital Marketing Directions: Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year, that I’m presenting tomorrow, Tuesday, September 16, 2014. You can read all the details here.

And since we’re talking about observing your customers, let’s talk about a channel that offers a wealth of data about customer behavior: Email. This look at growing your email list can help you gain additional insights and information about what matters to your customers. You can also review the slides from a talk I gave all about email marketing in an age of mobile:

(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter


December 9, 2013

How to Use Data for Marketing (Even if You Can't Do Big Data Yet)

December 9, 2013 | By | No Comments

Building on your dataRichi Jennings of NetApp has (@richi on Twitter) a great look about the role of Big Data for retail over on Forbes today, stating the future of retail is all in Big Data.

I agree. Well mostly, anyway.

Big Data will play an enormous role in how companies across an array of industries help their customers — and help their businesses.

However, while speaking at a conference last week, I talked with a number of business executives and thought leaders struggling to make Big Data work for their companies. And part way through these conversations, it hit me why so many struggle with putting Big Data to work: They’re trying to boil the ocean. The challenges present by Big Data have, in a few cases, stopped them cold.

Why? Well, Big Data creates a number of difficult questions for marketers and their businesses, such as:

  • How can we collect the information we’re looking for?
  • How do we store this much information?
  • How do we provide access to the information to the right people and avoid exposing customers’ private information to the wrong people?
  • Where do we get sufficient computing power to crunch the data (without violating customer privacy or proprietary information)?
  • How do we interpret what the information tells us? Are we really able to understand what the data says?
  • How can we communicate what we’re learning in an effective enough way across the organization?

All of these questions represent valid concerns and relatively thorny problems. Many companies lack the people, processes, knowledge, and infrastructure to address these in a significant way without equally significant (read: unwelcome or unavailable) investment. The common assumption suggests the only way forward is to dive in head-first, with multi-year, multi-million dollar commitments.

That commitment may well be necessary.

However, the scale of those efforts shouldn’t stop you from using the data you already have to improve what you already know about your customers. A number of businesses I’m working with have seen dramatic improvement in their business results by conducting smaller, more targeted experiments using existing tools in parallel with their Big Data investment.

These insights have been used to lower customer acquisition costs, increase conversion rates across channels, and improve product development for businesses across a variety of industries. Techniques like A/B testing, web analytics modeling, and holdout tests use existing data to suggest answers to key questions. None replace necessary investment in the deep strategic insights these clients expect Big Data to deliver.

But they produce results in the near-term while brands work towards their long-term solution.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter


October 15, 2013

How Do You Know Your Social or Mobile Marketing is Working? (Travel Tuesday)

October 15, 2013 | By | No Comments

Watching customers not analyticsI’m amazed when businesses tell me their social or mobile marketing activities aren’t generating any value for their business. In an era when guests read and post reviews or compare prices from their mobile phones while in your hotel, restaurant, or store, doesn’t it seem odd that more businesses are unable to engage with these guests in a meaningful way? (And by meaningful, I mean revenue-generating).

Maybe the problem isn’t that your social and mobile marketing isn’t working. Instead, is it possible you’re not asking the right questions?

For instance, Smart Insights profiles a number of service companies using mobile and social effectively, highlighting the following case:

“Using Google Analytics, Thompson Hotels found that guests who were also ‘fans’ on social media spend about 35% more during their stays than guests who were not.  These visitors also booked directly through the hotel website, circumventing fees charged by 3rd party booking companies.”

That sounds an awful lot like a win, no?

Frequently when I talk to hotels, restaurants and retail locations, they’ve got plenty of good ideas for driving business and engaging customers. What they often lack is a clear picture of what’s working. Sure, you’ve got Google Analytics (or Adobe Site Catalyst, Coremetrics, KISSmetrics, etc.). But do you have the people and processes to get real value out of it? Are your analytics tools helping you answer your business questions?

Figuring out where to spend your time and money isn’t that difficult if you can clearly see what produces results. Are you putting enough energy into solving that problem?

As you put your marketing budget together for next year, make sure that you’re not just budgeting for social and mobile tactics, but also planning for how you’ll measure success in those areas, the questions you’ll ask about your customers, and the resources necessary to find the answers.

And if you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter


May 29, 2013

4 Amazing Global Internet Trends

May 29, 2013 | By | 3 Comments

Mary Meeker’s semi-annual report on the state of the Internet is out. And, wow, are there some serious takeaways worth reviewing. Here are the highlights:

Mobile’s on fire

Mobile now represents 15% of all Internet traffic — and its market penetration at only 21% globally. It’s at 31% annual growth and its trend line continues to accelerate. I’ve been bullish on mobile for a while. This is why:

15% mobile traffic growth and accelerating

And “wearables,” “drivables,” “flyables,” and “scannables” may change the game further — each generation of technology, historically, increases the number of users by a factor of 10:

Technology shifts drive 10x increase in use

Tablet growth is sick

I don’t know any other word for it. Check out the orange trend line:

Tablet growth is ridiculous

Obviously, not all tablet usage is mobile. I’ve said many times that mobile is a situation, not a device. But your customers’ experience will continue to rely on “touch” and voice experiences at the expense of the keyboard-and-mouse world we’ve taken for granted over the years.

Sharing is big and getting bigger

There’s big growth in consumer sharing, both in terms of percentages and in terms of the channels your customers use. As I noted yesterday, this trend will likely increase the number of places your customers shop and push conversion rates lower. The positive, though, is that it increases opportunities to reach customers and gets your existing audience to tell your story. So, there is that:

Sharing is big, getting bigger

The visual web

I’ve talked about how the web is increasingly visual before. But the numbers boggle my mind, with more than 500 million photos uploaded daily and more than 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute:

Daily photo uploads

100 hours of YouTube video uploaded each minute

There’s tons of good stuff I’m leaving out here, of course, including the importance of global growth (especially China), the changing market for entrepreneurs, and lots more. You can (and should) review the whole presentation here:

Interested in learning more? Register to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals. And, if that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web, including:

Tim Peter


February 1, 2013

Tim Peter


January 28, 2013

Finding and Following Your Customer's Digital Footprint

January 28, 2013 | By | 3 Comments

4 ps of marketingI had the great privilege to guest host @IBMBigData’s weekly CXO Chat on Twitter focused on Customer Experience Optimization. The session was called Finding & Tracking Your Customer’s Digital Footprint and looked at your customers’ digital footprint and how you can leverage consumer behavior in your marketing and customer service efforts. It was an incredibly lively discussion and I learned as much as I shared.

Since it was on Twitter, my answers were limited to 140 characters or fewer. But I think that really focused the discussion clearly on the best things you can do to improve your customers’ experience using the data available to you. In the sections below, I’ve tried to capture the spirit of the session while adding some context (e.g., tweets/questions/etc. from other participants) where appropriate.

Anyway, check out the Q&A for yourself:

Can you follow your customers’ digital footprint?

  • It is possible. But first think about what you’re collecting and why.
  • Customer relationships depend on trust. Make sure you have treat customer data with care.
  • Have a clear sense of what’s your data (aggregate usage information, opens, clicks, shares, retweets, etc). vs. customers’.
  • All personally identifiable information (PII) belongs to customers, always. Handle with care.
  • If you’re uncomfortable telling customers how you plan to use their data, ask yourself whether you should collect it at all.
  • RT @IBMbigdata @Marco_Saito “Capture” probably wrong verb. “Access” better. Footprint doesn’t need to be in your database…
  • Finally, remember you don’t need to know everything to know enough to help customers achieve their goals.

How can businesses track the digital footprints to profile their customer base?

  • Don’t be afraid to start small. Gather the data that will help you help your customer.
  • Exactly: RT @DnBUS: Businesses need to rethink marketing segmentation. It’s more dynamic & individualized than trad. demos.
  • Focus on your customers’ behaviors first. They’re a better predictor of future behavior than anything else.
  • Great point. RT @Marcio_Saito Most times, more important to know which venues customer are (context) than what they said (data).
  • Ask customers permission and to volunteer additional information in exchange for content, services, utility.
  • Then (where appropriate) join those disparate data together to create a clearer picture of customers wants, needs, dreams
  • RT @ValaAfshar: Mature service orgs are using prior contact history and predictive analytics to deliver proactive services.
  • One participant on Twitter (@marksalke) asked: “But do customers/consumers care to be ‘analyzed’?”
  • My reply: @marksalke It’s an important question. Depends on how you’re going to use it. Customers want help. If if helps, then yes. If not…
  • But don’t ask customers for the things you should already know (past contact, repeated discussions, etc.)

How far back should we trace the digital footprint? Why?

  • Only go back as far as necessary to help your customers accomplish their goals. Remember trust matters more than anything.
  • Exactly right: RT @stevemassi: customer will ID themselves when theres value in it for them
  • Whenever you’re gathering customer information, ask “how does my having this help my customer?”
  • It’s very easy to slip past “helpful” and towards “creepy.” Don’t go looking for data you can’t use to help your customer.
  • @SJAbbott Seeing those trends is fine. Data in the aggregate is cool if you exclude PII. Just don’t try to mine individuals that way.

How do you use the digital footprint to personalize the customer experience?

  • Focus on behaviors first. What do your customers do? How can you enhance the experience based on what you already know.
  • Tough to give examples in 140 chars, but consider the following scenarios…
  • We already know so much that we could use better. On website, what browser, referrer, geolocation, search query, etc.
  • How can you use that data to offer more relevant responses, content, experiences?
  • On social channels, activity, friends, followers, fans, etc. What do these tell us about customer wants, needs, dreams?
  • @tmustacchio It’s one approach. Though instead of “all available” data, focus on most meaningful data first.
  • Definitely. RT @IBMbigdata Use digital insight to fill in gaps in customer story to then personalize the exp
  • Great! RT @adamtoporek Blend internal data with social/public footprint for total picture. Then take WIIFM approach to cust

How do you bridge the gap between digital and physical footprints?

  • Carefully. ;) Again easy to slip into “creepy” territory. Instead ask, “How do my customers use these channels together?”
  • Pay attention to transitions. Are customers shifting between physical/digital based on choice or frustration?
  • For many businesses mobile will be key. RT @DnBUS A5: One way to integrate physical & digital footprints: mobile.
  • Keep messages consistent across channels as people move. Help keep them from getting lost.
  • 60% of consumers between 18-34 sleep with their phone due to FOMO (fear of missing out). Offline no longer exists.
  • @SMSJOE That’s right. Customers don’t think “channel.” They think “company.” If you do it bad in one channel, it can follow you.
  • Mobile will drive much of the transition between offline and online. See here:
  • RT DnBUS @stevemassi Good point. We must also get permission to observe mobile use & offer guidance. Understand context of use 1st
  • @marksalke @stevemassi Many already are today. Mobile doesn’t just mean your app. It’s a truly “personal” computer now.

How can businesses take advantage of digital footprints to innovate, differentiate and grow?

  • Again, think first about how it helps your customer. Use data to improve service.
  • With rise of consumer review, photo and social sharing sites, your brand is what your customer says it is.
  • Exactly! RT DnBUS A6: Digital footprints can fuel innovation by revealing what customers need & want & what they expect from you.
  • Customers who have great experiences tell their friends. Customers with bad experience tell everyone they know.
  • Listening to what your customers real needs then applying those lessons will help you improve products and quality of service.
  • Yep. RT @ValaAfshar The art of building trust is to use the information *not* to manipulate, but rather to personalize and inspire.

What best practices should companies employ in leveraging and cross pollinating digital footprints?

  • Protect your customers’ private data first, last, and always. You don’t own it but it’s entrusted to your care.
  • @OBI_Creative I basically agree. But remember you have to listen deeply for what they really want, not just what they say they want.
  • @OBI_Creative Think Henry Ford’s (apocryphal) “faster horse” quote:
  • Establish and maintain cross-functional teams representing different aspects of customer journey. Avoid silos at all costs.
  • Each member of team needs to reflect context as well as content of digital footprint. How/why it matters to customer interaction.
  • @thecxguy asked: “but the question remains. What is “private”?”
  • I responded: Tricky question. Consumers will differ on where the line is, but I still believe PII is (mostly) private.
  • RT @DnBUS: Remember that each “touch”/interaction–regardless of communicating team–is a brand experience.

Should customers disguise their digital prints from businesses? Why or why not?

  • Whether they should or not, they will. Especially from companies that haven’t earned their trust.
  • Customers will increasingly protect their footprint when companies misstep. Don’t misuse what isn’t yours.
  • Customers should share their footprint but only if they receive value in exchange. Data is currency.
  • RT @thecxguy exactly. progressive biz will show their cust what data they collect, what they use it for and give option 2 opt out

It was a great session and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with this group. You should check them out, too.

Interested in more?
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Tim Peter


January 11, 2013

E-commerce Still Has Lots of Room to Grow (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest)

January 11, 2013 | By | 3 Comments

Shopping cart image smallDespite being around for almost twenty years (!), e-commerce has lots of life left in it, with tons of room to grow. Here are a bunch of examples that illustrate how and why:

And don’t forget, there’s still time to register for my Biznology webinar: “It’s all E-commerce: How the Social, Local, Mobile Web Affects Sales Online and Offline”.

Have a great weekend, Big Thinkers. We’ll see you back here next week.

If you can help those dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, please visit the American Red Cross.

Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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And while you’re at it, don’t forget to follow Tim on Twitter.

Tim Peter & Associates helps companies from startups to the Fortune 500 use the web to reach more customers, more effectively every day. Take a look and see how we can help you.

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Tim Peter


December 20, 2012

Thinks Out Loud Episode 11: Does Podcasting Make Sense? A Digital Marketing Case Study

December 20, 2012 | By | One Comment

Where does podcasting fit

Podcasting Case Study

Web Analytics Ideas

Biznology Post and Webinar

HSMAI Roundtable Interview

Contact information for the podcast:

Technical details: Recorded using a Shure SM57 microphone
through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 13m 13s (How appropriate heading into 2013)

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed or download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter


November 7, 2012

What You Can Learn About Marketing from Nate Silver

November 7, 2012 | By | One Comment

Predicting the futureHere’s an interesting bit of information from last night’s election coverage:

“The New York Times election statistician, Nate Silver, perfectly predicted all 50 states last night for President Obama, while every single major pundit was wrong–some comically wrong.”

Silver uses the same techniques highlighted in the book Moneyball (and to a lesser degree, the film). Silver’s results underscore why I’m such a fan.

Your ability to manage your business depends in large part on how effectively you measure your business. So, with that in mind, here are four past tips on how to measure more effectively:

Finally, I’ve written a whitepaper on Best Practices for Website Analytics for the hotel industry, though the lessons apply across many industries. Contact me if you’d like a copy.

Normally, I use this space to talk about what we do here at Tim Peter & Associates. But with so many suffering the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, please visit the American Red Cross and help any way you can.

Tim Peter


September 27, 2012

Thinks Out Loud Episode 3: What Do Your Customers Need?

September 27, 2012 | By | 3 Comments

In this week’s Thinks Out Loud episode, I look at selling on social networks, how to make it easy for your customers to do what you want them to do, how to measure your effectiveness, and do a quick review of DJ Waldow and Jason Falls’ wonderful book, The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win. Here are the show notes:

Selling in social media:

Making things easy for your customers:

Measuring Marketing Effectiveness:

Book Review:

Previous podcasts:

Contact information for the podcast:

Technical details: Recorded using a Shure SM57 microphone
through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac. I’ve added a standard SM57 pop filter to the mic this week, instead of the “pantyhose and wire hanger” version I used to use. It was too hard to see past the old filter. It seems to roll off the highs a little bit, but I think it works OK. As ever, let me know if you see a difference (or care at all about the tech notes).

Running time: 10m 54s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed or download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

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