Congratulations! You are finally tracking the effectiveness of your content and are starting to gain real insights into how people interact with you on your website, social media outlets, and across all of your digital efforts. The data is really starting to pour in, revealing trends that are helping you plan for the next step of your evolving marketing strategy.
As the data piles up, you may start to notice little things. Reports are taking longer to run. Your IT staff is spending more time on performance tuning. You realize that determining the ideal audience for a campaign is requiring as many exclusions as inclusions. Meanwhile, your email bounce-back rate and unsubscribe requests continue to climb.
What is happening is info-glut. Over time, the data piles up and a growing percentage becomes inaccurate, unreliable, or both. While a simple answer is to throw a little more power at the problem and adjust expectations, there are questions that are begging to be asked.
- Do we care who downloaded a whitepaper three years ago?
- Is it still relevant that someone visited the site actively nine months ago and then disappeared?
- How accurate is all that personal information that has been collecting since tracking was started?
- When you move to a new system, how much of the data do you transform and bring over?
This is where a little Information Governance can streamline your activities from the beginning. Like you would when applying the Principles of Holistic Information Governance to content, you need to assess the data, determine its useful life, and plan accordingly.
Defining the Business Value
The first question to ask yourself is how long so we care about any individual action? One year? Two years? While this answer may vary depending on the action, downloading a whitepaper versus reading a blog post, think about it from your buying cycle. How long does it typically take from first touch to final decision for 80-90% of your clients?
You need to consider if you want to treat isolated actions differently than from active participants. If someone visited six months ago but hasn’t returned since, how valuable it that information? If they visited six months ago and have been a regular visitor, that clearly has more value.
Another consideration is the perspective of an individual versus a company. If someone visited six months ago and disappeared, it may not seem important. If they have had colleagues visiting in the interim, then maybe that action is part of a bigger picture that you should make sure you track.
Finally, what if the content or events attended are part of something no longer offered or have been supplanted? That whitepaper published one year ago that you have since removed; how long do you care about who downloaded it? Are you adjusting your metrics accordingly?
All of this needs to be looked in a holistic way and determined what the lifespan of each interaction is over time. There are a lot of variables involved above and beyond those listed above. The goal is to find a simple plan for retaining data that take into account the most likely, and important, answers. Asking all the questions insures that you set the best lifespan for your data to make your efforts effective without risking losing anything prematurely.
This all applies to moving people from discovery to the client stage. What about tracking the effectiveness of your marketing efforts over time? That requires a second concept, anonymization.
Reducing Clutter, and Risk
All of that personal data becomes increasingly unreliable over time. People change emails, phones, roles, and companies. I still get calls on my mobile number trying to talk to me about buying things from two jobs ago.
Even if the personal data has expired, all of that behavioral data is still necessary to track trends. If blog hits rise year over year but whitepaper downloads drop, maybe that indicates a changing preference in your target market. If some publications keep getting attention years after their release, that may indicate that more related content could be beneficial.
Your marketing information has value for years as it can reveal behaviors and trends. This allows you to adjust your efforts over time as the nature of your market changes.
The analysis effort does not require knowing who performed any action, just that the actions that have been performed. Knowing who downloaded a whitepaper two years ago may not matter now, how many downloads every whitepaper has had, and what channel they came from to your site, does matter. This is where anonymization comes into play.
The removal of the personal information is more than no longer needing the information. Removing that information before a new campaign can streamline efforts. The removal protects the privacy of those with whom you have interacted as the marketing team can delve into the data without exposing personal data unnecessarily. Risk is also reduced in the case of a data breach as less personal information would be compromised than if you collected and kept all data for 10 years.
Anonymizing your data does typically require expert advice. In order to keep the actions without tracking the actors, some informed data work is needed. Some marketing systems will not let you do this easily. This means a plan that can be readily implemented needs to be created.
It may sound like extra work, but the combined benefits from cleaner data, better market analysis, and the reduced risk from a data breach is well worth it.