Smooth Sailing in the Sea of Ed Data: A Q&A with Anne Goto
26 May 2015
→ Anne Goto, Data Products Manager, MDR
These days we’re surrounded by data. Where we go or what we buy, our digital lives leave a trail that tells a story. Marketers are eager to learn from that story to better connect with customers, identify prospects, and understand the best strategic direction for their businesses. We spoke with Anne Goto, MDR’s Data Products Manager, about the opportunities and challenges for education marketers navigating through a sea of data.
How did you get into the data field?
Early in my career, I worked as a computer programmer. Through this I found that I really enjoyed working with the data. I found that my passion grew for understanding what the data means rather than writing programs to process it, so I transitioned to the data management side of business and started focusing more on data acquisition, analytics, and insight.
What major changes is data making in education marketing?
The availability of data, as compared to when I started, is a huge change. The direct mail surveys and telephone interviewing of yesteryear have been enhanced by the availability of many electronic sources. In fact, the school systems themselves use more electronic methods of collecting and managing data. This makes it easier for them to share information differently with us. Whereas we used to talk with a school secretary for information, now we can access quality data directly from schools, districts, and even state Departments of Education, among other sources. Electronic sharing of data means we are able to review and process greater volumes of data more efficiently. This significant change has made it easier for MDR to take quality data from a multitude of sources and normalize it in a consistent, flexible, and easily digestible format. Learn more about MDR’s education database →
How do data projects begin with MDR clients?
We begin our conversations by listening. What are their goals? What are their issues? Then we assess how we can put into action solutions that will return results and achieve their goals. Although data is the foundation, it is rarely the only facet of the solution. MDR provides integrated marketing solutions powered by the industry’s best data. Just as today we’re using more electronic means to collect data, our clients are also using more electronic means to reach out to their customers. So we have more options in data sources to work with. We build on that foundation to help clients identify the right contacts at the right institutions and then find the right ways to reach them using all the facets of connectivity: email, social media…all the options digital marketing offers.
What opportunities do you see for businesses in using all the data they now have available?
Data is multidimensional. I think most businesses see value in their data but may not realize that by expanding your data and linking in additional attributes (like social media engagement), you can gain even more valuable intelligence and insight. Your data can tell new and different stories.
Understanding your contacts’ behavior can give you a fuller picture of your performance. Data allows you to understand your strengths and opportunities and to identify areas for growth. This kind of fact-based intelligence is very useful for informing strategic decisions. It can also help you focus your resources. No company has unlimited resources. But data can tell you where you’ll get the biggest return on your marketing efforts, so you can move beyond just knowing who your contact is to who is the best contact for the message you are sending.
Is there such a thing as too much data? And, if so, what can education marketers do about that?
There is a lot of data out there. The trick is to know the full range of data that’s available, identify the sources you can have confidence in, and then employ tools to help you interact with and visualize your data.
I don’t tend to think of any amount of data as being “too much,” because you never know which attribute is going to be the one that will give you some significant insights. That said, I feel that data hygiene is very important. Removing old data, eliminating redundancy, and setting relational organization are important. These efforts tend to remove the “noise” and leave a more manageable and valuable dataset to work with. These are topics that we talk to our clients about regularly.
What are some of the reactions you get from clients when you return clean or augmented data to them? Are they surprised by how much they can learn from their own data?
Customers who are very familiar with education marketing know we work within a narrow but deep universe. But what they love about MDR data is that it offers them a single stop for well-organized data that allows them to understand who their customer currently is and what other like customers or contacts we have that they haven’t reached out to yet. Learn more about customer file analysis →
Does this kind of customer profiling represent one of the best opportunities for education marketers?
As a company, we know data is the foundation of the integrated marketing solutions that generate such strong results for our customers. So while we’re helping customers expand their reach beyond existing customers using profiling, we’re also encouraging them to expand into digital channels that can put their brand, product, or message in front of customers and prospects in targeted and effective ways. And I think that’s the real “aha” moment.
How can data contribute to customers’ ongoing improvement of marketing efforts?
With all of our email and digital campaigns we provide feedback reporting that shows customers how campaigns are performing and what their results are in opens, click-throughs, and conversions–the results-oriented metrics. Using the information gathered in these results allows you to change your strategies and net more results from your efforts.
What I found over the years is that data is just the foundation. The power is in what you do with it.
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Anne Goto, Data Products Manager
Anne Goto has worked at MDR for almost 30 years in a variety of roles including data acquisition as a data quality advocate, data analytics and, most recently, as the Data Products Manager, helping MDR develop new products that are relevant for their customers.