Can Small Businesses Benefit From Big Data?

Last week’s blog post about targeting your clients spoke a lot about using your data, but from where are you collecting this data to use when planning your marketing?  In a perfect world a multitude of data accumulated by other individuals would be at your fingertips. Your job would be to merely sift through the data choosing the marketing pieces with the highest return on investment, determine a budget and make a plan. How easy would that be? You could probably plan an entire years worth of marketing in under an hour.

Good News, Bad News

The bad news is that in most markets, even in the franchise realm data gathered far and wide is often too vague for anyone to rely on at the local level. This doesn’t mean that you should discount the data provided by these larger entities. Use their data to spot trends, but collect your own data to make decisions about your business.

Big Data

From Forbes

Large corporations regularly use big data to get insight on consumer behavior, target their marketing and to boost revenue. But small businesses typically do little with big data. Until now, most owners have considered it too difficult, too expensive and just plain intimidating.

That’s changing. These days an increasing number of small businesses are collecting and crunching volumes of data to lift their sales.

“Small businesses shouldn’t be scared off by big data,” says Steve King, partner at Emergent Research. The growth of the Internet, wireless networks, smartphones, social media, sensors and other digital technology is fueling a big data revolution. Big data was the exclusive domain of statisticians and large corporations but not anymore.”

What can a small business do with big data?

For a start, it can boost efficiency and sales.

King gives an example. The Spillers Group, a company that owns three restaurants in Dallas, uses a data application called Roambi that enables it to share among management all the business information it collects, including point-of-sale data, labor metrics and accounting numbers. With Roambi, Spillers can link managers’ pay to their restaurant’s performance. The app has also cut Spillers’ labor costs 10%, saving thousands of dollars every two weeks.

“Before their data was a hodgepodge,” King says. “They had sales data in one place, supply data in another place and staffing data in another—and they never looked at how to bring them all together. So they were inefficient when it came to scheduling and supplies. When they brought the data together they discovered quickly they could cut costs by making minor changes. That’s a huge win.”

Small businesses that use data intelligently can do business better.

They can improve pricing and just-in-time supply chains. They can find cheaper suppliers that are closer to their location and that offer more price transparency. Small businesses can also use data to tailor products and services to individual customers.

Businesses can identify key customers and treat them better.

They can understand customer patterns, know when they’re likely to come in and reward them for multiple visits. “All this big data is helping to level the playing field for small businesses,” King says. “Even though the field is still tilted in favor of big business, big data is a way for small business to fight back. A lot of this stuff is made easy for small business, like Google GOOG -2.3% Analytics. You don’t have to be a data scientist to use these tools and get good insights.”

Why Data is Important

The more you know about each of your leads, the faster you can zoom in on the strongest prospects, engaging them with content that’s personally meaningful to them.

  • Quickly identify and rectify problems
  • Data can be used to decide which products and services should be marketed and which should be eliminated.
  • Aids in assessing employee performance

Accumulating data is a necessary evil. The alternative is to run your practice on a wing and prayer, which is not a strategy we’d recommend.

Predictive Targeting on the Senior Care Continuum

What if you could pinpoint the exact time when a client would want to buy your product or service, and be able to contact them at that very moment? Predictive targeting in the senior care continuum is the way to do this with seniors in the healthcare markets. Immersion Active writes about their studies in just this, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it with you. Although their article is highly specific to to senior clients in healthcare, this technique can be applied to many different marketing segments.

What is Predictive Targeting?

Predictive targeting can “predict” which user might respond to an ad based not on one specific piece of data, but rather on a wide range of different attributes. One of the best way to predict who will convert is to look at your existing converters.

What is the Senior Care Continuum?

This continuum identifies the journey a senior takes, from their initial health crisis all the way through outpatient care, in-home care, and the move into assisted living. The image below visually represents the 3 phases of care needs. A senior can enter the continuum at any phase and can go from different phases at different time, they do not necessarily enter from the beginning and follow the continuum in it’s entirety.

senior continuum
(via: Care One)

Why Is It Important?

The continuum has increased value when you can apply it to a specific health condition. When we have studied a specific condition for a healthcare client, we have found it useful to first define the continuum for that specific condition, and then to overlay it with lead data and data from the client’s CRM. This allows us to determine types of care that patients are most likely to seek at each stage of the care continuum. This powerful use of data allows you to see into the effectiveness of your marketing and gauge your overall coverage of the complete continuum of your ideal customer.

The key to this process is using data to validate and predict where along the continuum your clients will be at the time of engagement. Imagine a scenario where your customer is engaging with content on a specific topic related to one of your products. The customer is an existing customer, and your knowledge of their condition and its place on the continuum now brings new opportunity as the data aligns to a pattern you’ve seen before. You can now target the potential purchase of a new service based on the predictive timing you’ve developed from your existing marketing data. With more data, you can move further ahead of the curve and know when a customer is moving into the buying cycle at the earliest moment possible.

It sounds complicated, but it’s actually a simple process to get started. However, there are always a few questions when we begin creating a predictive targeting model for seniors for one of our clients.

Do I have to harvest my own data or can I use third-party data?

Great question! We prefer your own data, but you can usually start with the condition and stage, and bring in third-party data to support your ideas. Yet what you want to find is where your product fits into that continuum. A third-party data set will not do a good job of finding that. You can have a custom care continuum study done to find where your customer lands and then go back to your data.

Do I have the right data?

This is determined in large part by the amount of data you have. The minimally viable level of data would be sales data (purchase data), with customer behavior data integration through your CRM. The key to the mix here is that you can tie the two pieces of data together to create a complete picture of the customer journey with your product or service. Many of our clients have software like Google AnalyticsSales ForceHubspotInfusionsoft, or Eloqua. Having one of these tools can make the process even easier.

Without a tool, if you are able to gain access to your web analytic data, you need to have care stage tie-in. This means that you can draw the connection between your Web analytics and the specific condition to a stage of the continuum. Additionally, your content marketing strategy can tell you a lot. We’ve used content to further segment customers, which aids in the overall prediction accuracy.

In most cases, you do have the right data. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.

What will I gain if I do this?

The big take-away from predictive targeting is that it can help you have a clear understanding of what your best customer looks like, and can allow you to target them more quickly and accurately. The process saves thousands of dollars in the long run, due to the increased efficiency of targeting seniors for your product. You’ll be a hero in the boardroom, and no longer will political decision rule the roost. Your predictive targeting will drive a new understanding of both the customer process and of your marketing as a whole.

Should You Under Promise & Over Deliver?

“Under promise and over deliver” is a common sales concept that most people have heard of but what does it really mean?  And is it something you should aspire to?

As defined by McGraw-Hill, “under promise and over deliver” is a service strategy in which service providers strive for excellent customer service and satisfaction by doing more than they say they will for the customer or exceeding customer expectations.

Is This a Good Idea?


At first, this strategy seems to have merit. Over-delivering on customer expectations would raise customer satisfaction and be good for business. But when you delve deeper, there are two main reasons why this is not a good business practice.

  • To under promise and over deliver, you must first under promise. This means that through your advertising mix you are communicating a lower level of service or product benefits. Right off the bat, this will reduce the number of customers your business is attracting. Potential clients don’t know that your plan is to over deliver on your promises, how would they? This, in turn, also dramatically increases your customer acquisition costs.
  • Customers’ expectations are not static. Think about it. Say you order a pizza from your local pizza place. They promise to have your pizza to you in 45 minutes, but it comes to you in 30 minutes. You’re really happy with this outcome, and you’re motivated to order again. When you order again, the same thing happens. Now your expectations evolve and rise. With your next and all future orders, you’re going to expect your pizza in 30 minutes based on prior experience, even though they promise it in 45. You’ll quickly go from being highly satisfied with their service to simply satisfied or possibly dissatisfied when your new expectations are not met, even though they’ve technically “over-delivered” with every order.

There are no long-term benefits of under-promising and over-delivering. It is a strategy that limits customer growth and provides only short-term customer satisfaction benefits.

If you believe in the merits of the product you are selling or the service you deliver, then expound on the capabilities of the product or the advantages of the service. To keep customers highly satisfied, you must continue to deliver more value because their expectations will keep increasing. If you set the tone from the start of under-promising and over-delivering, then your customer is going to expect that same experience of getting more than promised with every interaction.  You are setting yourself up to fail and for your customer to be disappointed. A better method might be to deliver on your promises.

Don’t make a promise you can’t keep and keep the ones you make.

The Easiest Way to Optimize Your Email Marketing

You’ve created what you think is the perfect promotional email, but you’ve gotten less than stellar results. Or maybe you’re getting fine results, but you want to take your email marketing to the next level…what do you do?

Split testing (also referred to as A/B testing or multivariate testing) is a method of conducting controlled, randomized experiments with the goal of improving an email metric such as opens, clicks, or form completions. Split Testing allows you to test different versions of a single email marketing campaign to see how small changes can have a big impact on your results.

So where do you begin?

First you need to choose what you want to test. In an email, if you can change it, you can test it, but you should focus your attention on the things that are likely to have the biggest impact, such as: the subject line, any large graphic used, connected landing pages, and your call to action.

Then, make sure that before you start testing you have a clear idea of the results you’re looking for. You should already know your baseline result, which is the results you’re currently getting. You want to test option A and B against each other, but you also want to know that whichever one does better in the test is also doing better than your current results.

Tests need to be run simultaneously to account for any variations in timing. You can’t test one variation today and the other one tomorrow, because you can’t factor in any variables that might have changed between today and tomorrow. Instead, you need to split the traffic seeing your variations at the same time.

A/B testing is not an overnight project. Depending on the amount of traffic you get, you might want to run tests for anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. And you’ll only want to run one test at a time for the most accurate results.

Accurate split tests can make a huge difference to your bottom line. By using controlled tests and gathering empirical data, you can figure out exactly which email marketing strategies work best for your company and your product. When you figure that one variation might work two, three, or even four times better than another, the idea that you would conduct promotions without testing starts to seem a bit ludicrous.

4th Quarter Advertising and Marketing

We’re well into the 4th quarter of 2015. If you don’t have your advertising plan set through the end of the year (and a little bit beyond that) you better get started.


Advertising around the holiday season can sometimes before confusing. Should you advertise immediately before or immediately after the holiday? Too close and no one may be interested in coming in but if you aren’t running any ads, chances are no one is calling for an appointment either.

Generally speaking, any time in October up until the week in which Thanksgiving occurs is a good time to advertise. Historically our clients have found that advertising during Thanksgiving week has a less than desirable return on investment. Typically your customers are gearing up for the holiday and beginning to contemplate the holiday shopping season.

Resume advertising the week following Thanksgiving…excluding the Monday (Cyber Monday) immediately following Thanksgiving.


The upcoming holidays are all about spending time with friends and family. Here are a few ideas that center around that theme.

“This Holiday Season Give the Gift of Better Hearing.”

“The Perfect Gift for You This Year? Better Hearing”

Planning for the New Year

The end of the first week of January thru the end of January are great times to focus on

“Make Better Hearing Your New Year’s Resolution.”

The 4th quarter of every year tends to be a hectic time for everyone. But you still need to advertise. Take the next week to establish a game plan that will take you though the end of January. You’ll be glad you did.

4 Myths About Marketing to Baby Boomers Debunked

By the end of 2015, Americans 50 and older will represent 45% of the population and control approximately 70% of the wealth. But only 10% of marketing and 5% of advertising dollars are aimed at this sector. As marketers, we are missing out on a vital, untapped marketing that has the time, interest, and money to really make an impact on a company’s bottom line. But there are common myths that still persist about these elusive baby boomer creatures, which keep marketers away. We’ve identified the top four most common myths, debunked them for you, and provided you with tips to successfully market to baby boomers.

Myth #1: Boomers are all the same.

Just because they’re all in the same age range and have mostly gone through the same milestones, doesn’t mean they all have the same wants and needs. While many baby boomers worry about money & health, others are excited about their newfound freedom, encore careers, and having grandchildren.

Marketing Tip: Understand that not all boomers are alike. Target those most likely to purchase your product or service and identify which communication channels will most effectively reach them.

Myth #2: Boomers are technologically challenged.

Truth is, boomers are the fastest growing technology sector! 89% of baby boomers have cell phone, 70% of boomers are on Facebook, 66% buy from online retailers, and 31% are on Twitter. We may make a lot of jokes about helping our parents or grandparents with new technological crazes like SnapChat and Instagram , but baby boomers are a lot more adept with technology and social media than we give them credit for. This gives marketers many digital channels to connect with boomers.

Marketing Tip: Create holistic strategies with SEO, social media, mobile, engagement, and powerful images of baby boomers. Make your online sales process easier and more secure. Make it easy for boomers to find what they need on your site and purchase it with just a few clicks, while letting them know that their credit card and personal information is safe and secure.

Not sure if marketing to baby boomers are social media is smart? Read our blog all about why you should be marketing to boomers on social media!

Myth #3: Boomers are brand loyal.

It is true that baby boomers stick with what is tried and true, which is what most of us do once we find a product or service proven to produce results. But boomers are willing to jump ship if something better comes along, but convincing them to make the leap is harder than younger generations. New product adoption typically only comes with hard facts, data, testimonials, and referrals. They have questions about new products and services that they want answered directly. If a product or service catches their eye, they are willing to do thorough research before the purchase but they are also willing to spend their money in new places.

Marketing Tip: Skip the hard sell. Boomers don’t want to feel like they’re being sold, they like to do their research before making an informed decision. They also want to ask questions and get answers, so make it clear you are available to answer any questions they have. Lastly, build a referral program. Boomers are much more likely to come from a referral. Do a great job for your customers and ask them to spread the word through their personal networks. Make it easy to share your product or service via email and through social media. You can also consider rewarding customers for referrals.

Myth #4: Boomers are captured with mainstream advertising.

Data actually shows that 66% of baby boomers believe that ads have gotten cruder in recent years. Another 67% report being less likely to purchase a product if the advertising is perceived as offensive. Using the same marketing gimmicks or strategies for boomers as you do millennials just won’t cut it.

Marketing Tip: Boomers are smart, know what they want, and are willing to pay for it. Focus on the benefits of your product or services, not just the features or specs. Focus your messaging on how what you’re offering solves a problem. Tell the story of how your product or service makes life easier, better or more enjoyable.

Creating a Patient Recall Program

Patient recall programs are activities that bring the patient back into your office on a routine basis. The program should be directed at both active and inactive patients.

The Method

The only effective method for activating inactive patients is to have a well-trained person from the practice initiate telephone calls. Even for someone who is effective at this task, it’s probably their least favorite thing to do. Knowing that up front means it is important to set goals and monitor their activity, both in terms of time allocated and the successes they are having. Attaching incentives for the person charged with this activity can only improve performance.

It is important to differentiate between patients who should be followed for medical reasons and patients who are being recalled to maintain their active status within the practice. A determination needs to be made at the end of the initial office visit which category the patient will fall into. For existing patients where the determination was not made at the initial visit the staff needs to be given the criteria and the chart should be reviewed prior to making the call. Again, you will be calling three types of patients. They are:

  • Patients who purchased hearing aids from the practice but are no longer active.
  • Patients who were tested and did not purchase.
  • Patients were seen for medical reasons and were not candidates for hearing aids, but who should be monitored.

Each month your files should be reviewed and patients who need to be recalled should be identified. You can contact them with a reminder card and then follow-up with a telephone call taking the same approach above. Your staff should have a much higher success rate with the active versus inactive patients. There may still need to be some prompting on their part but the majority should make appointments.

Why is a patient recall program a good idea?

  • By updating your files, you eliminate mailing correspondence to patients who are inactive.
  • You will increase the opportunity to provide existing patients additional products and services.
  • The value of your practice will increase based on the active number of files you have, should you decide to sell it.
  • You have an opportunity to reclaim patients that may have switched to a competitor.
  • You can eliminate an unhappy patient making negative comments about your practice.

Not sure how to get the ball rolling? Call us. We can help you to identify and to train the right person in your practice. A effective patient recall program is an ideal way to lessen your reliance on advertising to meet your monthly goals.

Marketing Plan Creation 101

The simplest way to create a marketing plan is to segment the population into categories and demographics.  The categories define what you are selling.  Then simply create marketing/ad campaigns that for each demographic within each category.

Separate campaigns should be created for digital and traditional markets.  Although there is overlap between the two, the materials you create will need to be modified to work for both markets.

Below is sample of a marketing plan for a fine dining restaurant that serves only dinner Tuesday – Saturday.  It is available to rent privately for dinner on Sundays.

Marketing by Category

Digital Marketing

  • Email Marketing
  • Review Management – You need to be the first to know what conversations are occurring about you online.  If you get a bad review you want to respond to it as quickly as possible.
  • Social Media Campaigns
  • Website
  • Specialized Directories – You need to be listed and the directories will need to be optimized

Traditional Marketing

  • Brochure
  • Coupon Concepts
  • Detail Rep (see more below)- Trained to visit establishments and present marketing material.  They can often be paid a percentage of the events that they book.
    • Professional Offices
    • Hotels/Inns
    • Theaters
    • Identify Additional Venues
    • Events
      • Identify key events to attend
        • Bridal Expo
        • Charity Events
        • Fundraisers
        • Community Sponsored Events
    • Schedule events
    • Prepare for the event
    • Track the results of the event
    • Newspaper Ads
      • Define market area
      • Obtain rate cards
      • Negotiate rates
      • Theme Nights

Marketing by Demographic

Gen Y

    • 1980 – 2000
    • Ages 14 – 34
    • Market for:
      • Special Occasions
      • Baby Showers
      • Bridal Showers
      • Engagement Parties

Gen X

      • 1965 – 1979
      • Ages 35 – 48
      • Market for:
        • Celebrate special occasions (Anniversary, Birthday, Engagement)
        • Work lunches
        • Surprise Parties

Baby Boomers

      • 1946 – 1964
      • Ages 49 – 68
      • Market for:
        • Work Events
        • Work Lunches
        • Dinner (Regulars)
        • Bridal Showers
        • Baby Showers

– Also see our blog on marketing to Baby Boomers.


      • Age 69+
      • Market for:
        • Pre-fixe menus
        • Lunch
        • Group Meetings

Working Professionals

    • Pharmaceutical Reps
    • Allied Healthcare Professionals
    • Market for:
      • Lunch
      • Hosted Lunch Events

Detail Marketer

If you have staff responsible for marketing then monitoring should be based on the function. For example: If you have someone who is responsible for increasing the number of baby/bridal showers they should provide you with a report of:

  • Who they are planning on contacting
  • When the contact took place
  • Who they talked to
  • What was discussed?
  • What follow-up is needed by when?
  • Your tracking system should also be able to determine if the marketing activity is increasing the amount of showers the restaurant is booking.
  • What was the investment in time?
  • What was the investment in revenue?
  • What was the outcome in terms of return on investment?

Without a marketing plan and a system to track the return on investment of every piece of marketing/advertising piece produced you are bound to miss opportunities, waste marketing dollars and generate significantly less revenue.  Will your business fail?  I can’t answer that question.  But considering that 80% – 90% of restaurants fail in the few years, I’d suggest you leave no stone unturned.

How to Handle the Seasonal Aspect of Your Business

We have clients in every corner of the United States.  We understand that there is a seasonal aspect to this business.  Snowbirds leave the Northeast (lessening the 65+ population in that area) and head for warmer climates starting as early as October and for some extending their stay well into April.  The warmer climates experience the same trend in reverse from April through October.

The northern states must plan for weather that is too cold and snowy.  The southern states must plan for high temperature for days or for weeks on end.

So, What’s Your Plan?

If you don’t have a plan, then start with these 5 ideas.  They may or may not be the solution, but sitting around worrying about the “slow” months probably isn’t going to solve anything either.

Contingency Plans

It’s always a good idea to have a Plan B for everything.  But a Plan B is essential if you’re planning a marketing event.  An Open House in mid March in Connecticut can easily be ruined by a freak snow/ice storm.  Incorporate a “weather emergency” date as part of all your planned events.

Patient Recall

Probably, never a popular “to-do” for any of your employees, your patient recall goals can and probably should fluctuate.  Set higher goals during the months you know will be slow.  Lower the goals during the busier months when you know your staff will also be busier.

Tested Not Sold

They’re just sitting there.  Piles (well hopefully not piles) of patient’s who walked.  Use your slow time to contact these patients.  You already know they’re good candidates.  Don’t be a wimpy, don’t send a letter, pick up the phone and call them.


Ideally your advertising and marketing should be planned out months ahead.  Use the slow months to plan.  If you wait until things get hectic, odds are the planning process will more closely resemble “hurry up and get it done” and less, “let’s base this on historical data, trends and goals”.

Go Where the Business Is!

You know they’re out there, assisted living centers, nursing homes and skilled care facilities.  If patients can’t come to you because of the weather, then you need to consider going to them.  Just make sure you don’t start something you can’t continue once the weather is more favorable.

The Oversell of Call Source Tracking

In theory, call source tracking is designed to allow companies to measure advertising effectiveness, increase sales and enhance customer service.  The customary method is to assign a phone number to each advertising and or marketing piece currently in use.  The premise is that you can better determine the effectiveness of each of your individual campaigns by better defining what made a potential customer contact your place of business.

Why this is all wrong.

Consumer Behavior

What influences you to purchase anything? Consumers are constantly evolving in their buying behavior based on their experiences. Consumer behavior is the process consumers go through when they make purchases and it involves multiple factors that influence their decision and usage.

The 5 Steps in the Buying Process

You need to understand these steps in order to properly move the consumer to the product and close the sale.  Take note, these steps do not need to occur in a sequential process.

Need Recognition

The very first step in the process is when consumers realize that they have a need for something. A need can be generated internally (I’m hungry and want food now) or externally (Your neighbor just got a new car, so you “need” a new car).

When consumers recognize an unfulfilled need and that a product will satisfy it, they have created a want.

There are three ways that consumers recognize unfulfilled wants.

  1. A a consumer becomes frustrated with the fact that a product he or she has is not performing properly. (the consumers own ears and hearing loss fall into this category).
  2. A consumer runs out of the product.
  3. A consumer becomes aware of a product that is better than their current product.
Information Search

After the consumer has developed a want or a need, he or she needs to start an information search about the different alternative selections that they can purchase to satisfy their need. The consumer will look both internally and externally for his information to help him make a decision. An internal information search consists of utilizing information from memory, such as past experiences with the product.

An external information search is the process of seeking information in the outside environment. They ask their friends and family about their experiences, what they purchased and where they made their purchase. They can also research public sources, such as consumer reports for information about a product.

Another external information source for the consumer are would be marketing-controlled sources, such as radio, television ads, brochures, etc. The amount of time dedicated to this step usually depends on the consumer’s past experience with buying the product, the risk involved and the level of interest.

Evaluation Of Alternatives And Purchase

After consumers have recognized a need, conducted information research and created a final set of choices, they then must make a decision.

In order to make the final decision, consumers usually decide on one product attribute that is the most important. It could be quality, price, store location, etc.  The role of marketing is communicate away any potential obstacles.

Our current economy is definitely a factor.  Economic issues have really affected the purchase outcome due to the recession. According to (a national demographic and trend survey company), only six percent of consumers have increased their spending since the recession hit in 2007. In fact, 62% of Americans said in the survey that they have curtailed their consumer spending amounts. In the survey, the respondents were quizzed about their future spending patterns once the economy improves; 31% say that they will spend less in the next few years.

Post-Purchase Behavior

After a consumer makes a decision to buy a product, they expect satisfaction to occur from the purchase. If the product does not meet their requirements, then dissatisfaction can occur and the consumer will talk poorly about the product publicly, return the product and also possibly not be a repeat buyer. A smart marketer will make sure that their consumer is completely satisfied and does not develop any negative post-purchase feelings. There is a difference between failed expectations and “buyer’s remorse” be aware of and understand how to address both.

What Should You Take Away From All This?

The big problem with call source tracking.  It’s an easy way to for you and the staff to check off the “how did you hear about us” box without worrying if the response is an accurate assessment of path the patient took to end up at your office.

Call source tracking identifies the method that the consumer used to make the call.  But in no way shape or form does it identify the path that the consumer took to arrive at that juncture.  Quite possibly, they read a few of your blogs, saw a few of your ads, or attended a consumer seminar you gave 6 months ago.  Eliminate any of those methods and quite possibly the same patient would’ve ended up in your competitors office.

Track your marketing results the right way…ask questions.  “How did you hear about us?”,   “Have you attended any of our seminars?”, “Did you see us online?”  Probe a little for a reponse, guaranteed you’ll be surprised at the answers you get.

Or create a checklist that includes all of your marketing activities and request that they check all that apply.  Leave a blank line for them to fill in.  If want to better understand the final catalyst then by all means use call source tracking.  Just don’t rely on it to when it comes to planning your marketing.