The brave new world of marketing runs largely on data. It was, therefore, alarming to read about a global ‘sexist data crisis’
The BBC recently reported that ‘there is a black hole in our knowledge of women and girls around the world. They are often missing from official statistics, and areas of their lives are ignored completely.’
The claim is that the surveys that governments traditionally use to gather data are not fit for purpose. Women often have complicated lives where they may be a mother, carer, employee and/or entrepreneur. This multi-tasking is even more common in less developed areas of the world – and it is often in such regions that data collection techniques are inadequate. Surveys that lack sophistication may fail to capture the economic and social contribution of half the population.
Data is critical to modern marketing efforts too. And while the efforts of content marketers should not be compared with the struggle against global poverty, the issue of black holes and deficient data is one we should all consider.
Data can be a dangerous thing. It’s an objective way to make decisions, but it’s all too easy to use the wrong data to make the wrong decisions. Perhaps you conduct a survey of your own or take usage data from your website to develop your next campaign. But what if the people who answered the questions were not the people who you really want to talk to? Do the decision makers you need to attract really have time to answer surveys? Are the eyeballs that currently land on your website the same ones you want to influence in this new campaign? Were the leads that didn’t click on your last email shot the ones you most want to attract?
Picking holes in your own data is a painful process and can leave you with little to base your decisions on. If so, you may need to find new ways to gather data from the audience you’re looking to attract. And remember that the data is sometimes just a route to the insight required to make decisions. It may be that you can find that insight elsewhere – perhaps from a consultant with the knowledge you need.
Your data may be free from black holes, but you need to know that this is the case. That may mean slicing and dicing it in new ways to check your assumptions, or it may mean collecting different types of data.
And how about gender itself? There is an assumption that B2B marketing should be gender neutral, but why? B2C marketers often start from the point of gender when devising a campaign – should their business brethren (and sisterhood) do the same? Are female customers and prospects likely to behave differently?
Creating content that is aimed specifically at women in the B2B arena feels wrong (unless the product is somehow gender specific). However working out the needs, motivations and pain points of your audience is fundamental to creating content that will be valued. Perhaps gender should be one factor in such analysis. Perhaps.
We should constantly be on the hunt for black holes in the data we use – just as we need to watch out for blind spots in the way we think about the people who consume our content.