If you could learn, in detail, the nitty-gritty about your potential customers, from what they like and what they purchase to where they shop and how they’re similar to your current customer base, would you ignore that information? Or would you demand to have that insight?

I demand to have it. In 2015, you have to have it.

There are data sources out there, right now, ready to provide you with key information about your target demographics – if, in fact, you know who your target demo is. If you don’t, then that same data can help you define that demographic and grow your potentials, ensuring you’re going after the correct people. The ones that want what you’re selling. The ones that are willing to pay for it. The ones that will stick around as customers and refer you to others.

That information is accessible to everyone, not just to the big brands with the bigger budgets. Small businesses, all businesses, can benefit from data marketing with low investment and high return. As a business owner, this excites me. It excites me for our own business, and as a partner to clients who come to us with definitions of their target demo that we can help refine – and reach. I worked with a company that did psychographic analyzation years ago, and I’ve been interested in using data to define proper markets to target ever since. Now, we have the opportunity to let data educate every step of the marketing process.

It’s great stuff. Why?

It’s Accessible to Businesses of All Industries, On All Budgets

In the olden days (like, just a couple years ago), we might have a client that would have a large budget to do focus groups, polling or other efforts that could help us measure a large group’s reaction to whatever we were considering. These things still occur. But for lower-budget clients, these options were out of reach. They had no way to know if they were reaching the right audience or using the right message.

But that’s all changed.

Data-informed marketing is now possible for small- and medium-sized businesses, and getting that information is fast-tracked. We have new options to help us make educated decisions. We’re able to collect information and understand truly who a company’s clients or customers are, who the target audience is, what those individuals’ interaction with brands like our clients looks like and what their buying decisions are, for much lower investment, because the data is so easily attainable. So easy…

You Probably Already Have the Data You Need

And if not, you can quickly get it.

Where should you be looking for data?

Your website analytics. Set up Google Analytics if you haven’t already. GA provides tons of information about who is on your site, what they’re doing and why they’re there.

Your social analytics. Facebook Insights, especially, provides you with tons of details about the people you’re reaching. Likes, comments and shares aren’t the only stats you should be looking at.

Your sales records. Even if your website doesn’t have analytics or you’re not active on social media, you have your own records. If you’ve been making sales over a number of months or years, you have data. Use it!

Your customer base. What information have you already collected about your consumers? Do you know their ages, gender, home address or income level? Do you know what customers spend the most money? What about the customers that make purchases the most frequently? What other information have you gathered that educates you about your customers – and your potential customers?

Data Points Out Trends

I love data because it points out obvious things we’ve missed or assumed incorrectly.

Use data to identify:

Historical Trends: Data can help you learn that your B2B website is visited most during the weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. while your clients are working as well, while providing hundreds of data points to give you a clear understanding of your visitors and their behavior. Or that your B2C site is visited most after kids go to bed, when your target audience parents are on their iPads while watching TV. This may affect when you publish social media and blog posts, or when you staff your team to respond to customer service inquiries.

Data compared year-to-year could tell you that the middle of summer – right around July – is a really cruddy time for your company, and it has been for a while. This may affect your marketing efforts during the summer – will you ramp up efforts to stir up interest in your business that hasn’t previously been provoked? Or will you schedule that time to deal with internal business matters that you can’t accommodate the rest of the year?

Conversion Trends: Data might tell you that mobile users are more likely to fill out your contact form for more information, while desktop users are more likely to download ebooks and other resources. Or, while visitors are willing to spend a few minutes looking at your site on their laptop, mobile users aren’t spending any time on your bad mobile site (that is, if your mobile site is even showing up in search).

Buyer Trends: Data could tell you that people led to your site from PPC ads buy one product but they don’t turn into loyal customers. Or that people who read your blog begin to trust you, take longer to make their first purchase, but return throughout the year. It might tell you that buyers from an urban area prefer a specific product shipped in bulk, while suburban residents make smaller purchases in-store.

Looking at the buyers themselves is where you get into the really fun data, and it can get pretty in-depth. Use your own data (and augment it with third party big data sources for 1000 more details, if you want to get crazy) to explore user spending habits, household incomes, marital status, travel patterns, preferred stores, credit card status… the list goes on. It’s amazing how much detail you can access, and it makes you smarter about who you’re reaching out to.

Data Helps Us Shape User Personas

Once you’ve gotten to dig into the data, you’re able to start shaping the personas – the types of buyers who are going to be most receptive to your marketing efforts and interested in your product or service. Maybe you identify that your best customer is a mother of two who’s physically active, buys organic products, has a gym membership and drives a hybrid vehicle. On-the-go, she does most of her Internet browsing with her phone. You can market directly to women who fit that persona. Or maybe you identify your most loyal customers are young men 18-25 with modest incomes who respond best to emails with large imagery at home on their laptop after work hours. You can market directly to men who fit that persona.

Identifying three to five personas is a good starting point. As you market to these specific audiences, you’ll see what works and identify what’s ineffective. Your marketing strategy should always, always, be a work in progress.

Data Leads to Better User Experiences

This is absolutely a fact.

Understanding audiences leads to good user experiences. It’s that simple. You have to know who you’re trying to reach and how they’re reached.

Don’t go crazy, your decisions can’t be entirely data-driven. There’s information that data isn’t going to provide. But you’re the expert in your business. You’ve had the human interactions with your customers, and the human interactions with the people who declined to do business with you. Take the data and match it with the experiences of your executives, your sales people – what are the prime areas that stand out? The trends?

We used to be able to see how users moved through websites and what they were doing. Now we’re understanding who is moving through these sites and why they are, and we’re identifying how we can get them to return. That’s the goal. The more targeted or finite you can get with your user experience, personalizing it for the individual, the better it will be, since you’re giving people what they want. It will be appealing to to the individuals you’re driving toward your goal.

What do I want in the future? I’m a big Yankees fan. I like sports. I like video. There are a dozen other things about me that could customize what happens when I go to the Yankee’s website. If the site knows I am a big Derek Jeter fan, then maybe I see more information on Jeter vs. someone who is a big A-Rod fan. Maybe it shows available tickets and how my drive will be from my location. It could alter the options available to me dependent on my likes, dislikes history, location and so on. And that’s where we’re headed with data marketing. Customized digital experiences for people appealing to their interests.

Data Makes Our Marketing Better

Data makes you smarter. It makes your decisions smarter. And it can be embraced by every business. That’s why we enjoy it. Our clients are all different. It’s cool to see what trends we can dig up. We enjoy that process, because we know it will make our marketing more effective.

And the people we’re marketing to? It makes them happier.