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How to Understand Your Marketing Data

December 2nd, 2010 · 5 Comments

After attending the World Technology Summit for the last two days I was struck by a common theme which was running under much of the conference, Data Overload, and Data Visualization.  The theme of the event was “Encouraging Serendipity” with the idea that when you open your mind and look and listen to things and areas that are not necessarily in the area where you are concentrating most of your interest and energy you will find new opportunities.  It literally covered topics as far ranging as farming and astrophysics.  This conference was an amazing experience which I hope to repeat again in the years ahead.  As a side note- I will feature the videos of some of my favorite speakers from the conference when they are available here in this blog.  And you can watch videos of some of the past conferences on the site.

The serendipity of this conference for me is the idea that understanding the large amounts of data we have to contend with on a regular basis is a challenge for many of us.  So I thought I would share some of the tools mentioned at the conference and one very practical tool I used recently in my professional life.

Understanding Large Data Sets

Some of the data visualization techniques displayed at the conference were:

This example from Gap Minder explores life expectancy by country around the world over the last 200 years.  It  takes a huge amount of data and displays it a way that is easy for us to understand simply. Follow the link and hit the Play button in the lower left.

This example from PivotViewer shows new cars and allows you to sort and filter the data in a number of intuitive and powerful ways. The main site is here with several other examples.

How to Understand Your Marketing Data

In preparing for a major presentation recently the team I was working with sent out surveys to the audience to gauge their experience and familiarity with a number of specific topics.  We asked a dozen people to rate their skills in a number of areas on a scale of 0 to 6 and got results that looked like this in a typical Excel Spreadsheet:

However, MS Excel now offers a feature called Conditional Formatting that allows you to add colors to tables of numbers like this very quickly and simply.  This feature is available in Excel 2007 and 2010 and adds a color dimension to the data which helps you to quickly grasp the entire collection of data and analyze it in a glance.  Here is the same table above with conditional formatting added:

You can see that lower numbers are now blue and higher numbers are now red.  This instantly allows you to see where the numbers that stand out are.  You can add this type of information to tables of Marketing data including, web analytics, sales reports, customer surveys, inventory data, etc.  Adding a visual dimension such as this to your data can help you to view a large of data quickly and understand it while looking for the numbers that are out of place.

Here is a video that offers a couple of other ideas for using conditional formatting in other ways.

Give me 1 Good Reason why you can’t use conditional formatting to improve the presentation of your marketing data.

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Tags: How To · Serendipity Sunday

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Martyn Hodgson // Dec 2, 2010 at 4:59 am

    You’ve given me ideas for blogs from this.
    Marketing as I see it is a logical process in finding the right customers and data enables this using tools like Excel, Facebook, RSS etc.
    I throttle back on analysing too deeply – I could spend days given the chance, but always use Conditional Formatting on everything. Great for projects – Red / Amber / Green.

  • 2 Tweets that mention How to Understand Your Marketing Data -- Topsy.com // Dec 2, 2010 at 6:34 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Kieff, Chris Kieff and alina_popescu, Alina Popescu. Alina Popescu said: RT @ckieff: How to Understand Your Marketing Data http://goo.gl/fb/udUKg [...]

  • 3 Chris Kieff // Dec 2, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I’m glad that you liked this post it’s a little bit of a departure from my regular postings but I thought I could bring it back to the normal subject and offer people something to think about.

  • 4 Tim Wilson // Dec 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for this Chris! I’ve got an analytics and metrics project right now that can benefit immediately from this. I’m swimming in reams of data and have needed a way for things to jump off the page and get noticed.

    I’ll simply export everything I’m looking at across multiple platforms into .csv or .xls formats and pull everything into Excel and use conditional formatting.


  • 5 Chris Kieff // Dec 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you Tim! You’ve made my day. It’s wonderful to know that I helped someone. I hope you have a great day too. Let me know how it turns out.

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