Host: Jen Spencer

While I was working for a SaaS startup, a member of our board once gave some advice for sales and marketing. He said pick one, maybe two bets, and go all-in.

It's not in my nature to go all-in, especially when there’s a lot at stake, but it’s something I'm working on. And this wonderful little thing called data sure does help.

On our latest episode of SmartBug on Tap, we discussed the 3 keys to going all-in with your data.

Check it out.

My Experience Going All-in

About 15 years ago, I worked for a not-for-profit professional theatre company. We lived and breathed by the box office’s morning report of single ticket sales from the day prior.

If, on the Sunday prior to the start of a show’s run, there was a big splashy piece that told a great story and showed lots of pictures, we expected Monday’s phones to ring off the hook.

The problem was Tuesday morning: Regardless of Sunday’s paper, Tuesday morning’s sales report would show lots of 0s.

If only we could replicate Sunday’s exposure somehow.

We immediately thought we needed to do more PR. But, at the time, there were only so many magazines and newspapers in Phoenix. Plus, publishers and editors didn't always share our affinity for our work.

Nevertheless, we knew that a big splashy piece meant a huge spike in ticket sales. The data didn't lie — this was our chance to really go all in.

As we promoted our next show, instead of running a series of small ads over the course of the run, we pooled the budget. We booked the largest ad space we could afford for the paper that came out two Sundays prior to opening night. Instead of running a standard advertisement we compiled a headline, a story, and a picture to create our very own advertorial. Side note: Looking back, I realize this was really the beginnings of what would become content marketing.

That advertorial produced the $10,000 sales a day we had hoped for. Sure enough, the following Sunday our organic feature story appeared in the paper. Our sales were booming as word-of-mouth spread.

We had gone all-in. The bet was a really good one. It relied on data.

There are more ways than ever to spend our time and our money. We constantly run the risk of spreading it all too thin and missing the mark entirely.

That's why I believe in tempering constant opportunity, creativity, and passion with the one thing that rarely lies, and will keep your team focused on the right thing at the right time: data.

Just having the data doesn't confirm a sure bet. So, here are a few things to keep in mind as you're using data to make your all-in bets.  

1: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Think about being in Vegas, standing at a craps table. There so many great bets you can make here. You can play that passed line, you can back your pass line bet with odds, you can place on the 6th and 8th, you can play the field. They're all decent bets with pretty good odds.

Your data might show you that your buyers live in a particular region or that they use a particular kind of software. Pay close attention to that data. Don’t look at it in silos — look for the places you data points intersect.

This will help you prevent yourself from spreading too thin.

2: Don’t Be Afraid of Betting Big on Consistent Data

What if, back at the theater, we had kept all of those smaller newspaper ads running, but had merely adjusted the design of the ad to appear more editorial? You might think that would have given us the best of both worlds, keeping up our frequency and delivering the type of content our buyers desired.

I don’t think an overly safe strategy would have yielded the same results as our all-in bet. My buyers were responding to big, flashy feature stories. To make my data truly deliver, I had to bet big on what the data were showing was working.

3: Make Sure Your Timing is Set for Maximum Impact

Would a large advertorial in the Sunday paper 3 weeks prior to opening night have been successful?

It's the same audience, it's the same vehicle, and it’s the same content.

But no. It wouldn't have been as successful as our advertorial that ran 2 weeks before the show opened.

Three weeks before the show opened, our flyers and the posters had not yet been displayed. Radio advertising had not yet started. And the latest photographs of the show were not yet available. All of these factors help to create an environment in which the big bet that we made could be as successful as possible.

Your data can tell a valuable story and it can enable you to win big. But you have to pay attention to it, you have to understand the context and create an environment where it can be effective.

So, how are you using data to go all-in with your business? I would love to know! Tweet me or SmartBug at @jenspencer or @smartbugmedia.

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Jen Spencer

About the author

Jen Spencer leads SmartBug's sales, marketing, and brand strategy. Over her career, Jen has built several demand generation and sales enablement programs from the ground up and has experience working within tech startups, publicly traded companies, mid-market organizations, and the not-for-profit space. Jen subscribes to the notion that “we’re all in this together,” and great communication leads to great partnership. She loves animals, technology, the arts, and really good Scotch. Read more articles by Jen Spencer.

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