Behavioral data is most preferable

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This year's elections have made fools out of pollsters and pundits alike. Public opinion surveys about the candidates have failed miserably to predict electoral success. Marketers should heed a lesson inherent in all this: Trust in what people do — not in what they say.

Direct marketers need to educate them-selves about behavioral data and learn how they can benefit them. Then, they can make these data an integral part of their databases — and their direct mail and e-mail campaigns.

If you ask 10 different marketers to define behavioral information, you will likely get as many answers. On top of that, much of the material covering behavioral informa­tion focuses on the conceptual rather than the concrete. But most marketers want to know what they can do to improve their ROI today.

Behavioral data — for direct marketing pur­poses — are any record of action taken by a consumer. This is in contrast to survey or opinion data that record intentions or beliefs. Behavioral data vary widely from modeled data, as the former records action, while the latter predicts it.

A record of a consumer who has responded to a fishing offer (preferably with a purchase) would be considered a behavioral data point, whereas a record of a consumer who lists fish­ing as an interest would fall into the realm of survey or opinion data. Modeled data records would be those profiled as likely to fish.

Behavioral data work better — this is one of those truths that I hold to be self-evident. But cost is an issue. In the election example, we can be sure that final results are superior to polling data. But then again, conducting a poll or profiling voters is much less costly than organizing an election.

I encourage all direct marketers to test the different data types and measure results care­fully. For most offers, I am confident that the added expense of behavioral data will be more than offset by increases in response.

Using behavioral data requires a different mindset for many marketers. Finding data­cards that closely match offers can be time-consuming. But, whether it is adaptation to digital record-keeping or going online (both daunting), those direct marketers who are will­ing to push boundaries and try novel methods and technologies are usually rewarded with the most successful campaigns.

Larry Organ is the CEO of Exact Data ConsumerBase. You can reach him at

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