Part of our focus on data.
Big data has been the big thing in data-led marketing of late, but is it now time to make room for small data to take customer-centred business strategy to the next level?
Huge organisations with millions of online users are able to use volume, variety and velocity to identify general trends in consumer behaviour. Small data analysis is about taking a more personal and investigative approach to this information, seeking to investigate the human behaviour behind such patterns.
Through straightforward and insightful data analysis, small data can play a central role in business development. With a focus on the individual, their personality, and their desires, small data can build meaningful connections between marketers and their target audience.
Publishers need to know plenty about their audience. Academic publishers need to know when professors are looking for new series, what the trends are in education, and what the common concerns are for academics when purchasing material. Depending on whether they’re engaging in direct eCommerce sales, or going via bookstores, distributors, and wholesales, mainstream publishers must know what motivates those groups to buy; when, how, why, and what?
Audience research is paramount. Big trends are important to see, but nothing beats the intimate understanding that you gain from direct contact with your target audience.

Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom is a leader in the field of small data. In his bestselling book and eBook, Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Hidden Trends, he contends that every single human action and emotion reveals amazingly unexpected insights, no matter whether it seems significant or not.
“While big data spews out countless terabytes of impersonal data in an attempt to predict future directions of businesses and brands, it is the uniquely human small data right in front of us that reveals all the real truth and insights. The smallest clue can reveal unexpected insight for a brand or business with extraordinary results…. Small data is the tiny clues that reveal huge traits.”
He suggests a “detective” like approach to data analysis. This involves investigating customer behaviour in fine detail and interpreting the significance of tiny patterns. It is in these details that marketers will find the most valuable insights of their audience, thus driving highly effective campaigns.
Much of the small data for such analysis already exists in abundance. The everyday actions of any individual generates a wealth user-specific data for the small data detective to explore. In a digital context, social advertising channels are set up to crunch the big numbers and offer more intelligible data. This data can then be used by publishers to target promotional content at the right audiences, based on their online behaviour, their likes or follows, and their demographics.
By using both qualitative and quantitative data analytics, publishers can be smart about their targeting and ensure that no budget is wasted on individuals unlikely to show interest.
In the vast amounts of digitally-generated data it is important not to ignore the more traditional practices of understanding your market and what makes them tick. Genuine conversations with your author’s audience remains one of the best ways for publishers to hear their common concerns and passions.
By using the ideas established by Lindstrom, publishers can ask probing questions that will help them understand audiences much better. This could cover issues in the delivery or design of a book, its adaptation to digital, or insights on the places and times that people tend to read.

In practice

Though reaching out and immersing oneself in a habitat is the way for the small data detective, but other small data sets that can be acquired online are also useful. You can use competitions, surveys, and questionnaires delivered by email; all with adequate incentive to take part.
Big data will remain important in developing business strategy, but focusing solely on the number-crunching will limit the in-depth understanding of your audience. Small data can bridge the perceived gap, and work in tandem with vast big data analysis. Correlations can be found in big data that informs small data research, so the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
The personal approach of small data analysis nurtures the development of strong connections between brand and customer. It’s about developing that mutual trust that you’re all on the same page. In turn, this will build a dedicated following and increase long-term sales.
This is the path of data-led marketing in the future, and publishers can forge ahead by taking it. Small data analysis goes beyond the number-crunching to develop a meaningful understanding of customers emotions, personalities and desires.
For publishing houses, it’s imperative to know one’s audience, and to consider this in all communications about titles and authors. What better way to gain a true understanding of an audience than to hear their insights direct?
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