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Recap of our February Techniculture Salon

Last month, culture workers and technology professionals gathered at the Comcast Collaboration Studio to hear a panel discussion of digital marketing professionals. Maud Lyon, Cultural Alliance president, spent the hour talking with Aaron Maas, founder and CEO of Maas Media and Benjamin Litvinas, Senior Director, Data Science at Comcast. Both presented an interesting view on how they use digital marketing and advice on how cultural institutions (even tiny ones) could use data in their organizations.

Maas has been in digital marketing since 1998 (the height of the Internet bubble) and noted that the technology to do digital marketing hasn’t changed. Rather the channels in which you can advertise to people has changed. Maas spoke on how small companies need to have defined mission and clear objectives on what they’re trying to accomplish--it makes it a lot easier to define what data you need to answer business questions you have.

Litvinas’s role at Comcast is to build predictive models around data assets. Comcast then uses predictive models to figure out what customers (and potential customers) are most likely to do. Comcast looks at data such as what people have purchased, if you’ve purchased services from Comcast before, and your past history with Comcast. Combined, these can predict if you’re likely to buy something or not.

For instance, when they look at what motivates someone to purchase a home security system, it’s not always what you think: to protect their home. Sometimes, it’s to watch their dog while they're at work. Overall, Litvinas made the point that it’s much more useful to look at data versus ask someone how they feel and that often what they do (data) doesn’t line up with what they say.

Comcast also compares their data to demographic data they purchase from Experian, which is something both Maas and Litvinas mentioned nonprofits could make use of as it isn’t that expensive. All this data can help predict who to reach out to via digital marketing and even direct mail: millennials, as it turns out, like to get mail and tend to respond to direct mailing.

While Experian data won’t help you align a person exactly to their demographic data, it allows you to look at data for a 5+4 zip code, or about three households. Maas mentioned a practical way to use this data is to apply it to email lists, allowing you to segment your list better by age ranges or income levels. For example, listing the highest donation amount first in an email to wealthy donors is a relatively easy task for web developers.

This data can also show you who your most valuable customers are and what your customer's lifetime value is. Who is Comcast’s most valuable customer? A woman in Tennessee who’s never called Comcast Customer Service, never had a late payment--she has an extremely low potential to churn, or stop subscribing to Comcast.

Maas also mentioned how cultural organizations could be making better use of Google Analytics, which can track everything and anything. Out of the box, Google Analytics only tends to track about 70 percent of user interaction, but if you customize it (such as adding custom tracking to forms such as membership forms) you can collect so much more data. (Editor’s note: a Google Analytics session will be part of our ‘Arts Marketing in the Digital Age’ Techniculture event in May. Find out more here.)

Audience member and Tech Committee chair Ivy Silver brought up that the cost of converting older data to new data can be hard, especially for nonprofits. Litvinas mentioned that the cost of data has gone way down, and Amazon Web Services makes it really accessible for nonprofits.

Before the session wrapped up, Maas and Litvinas discussed some important things for nonprofits to remember as they start to look at more data and analytics.

Maas recommends that organizations work on trying to define what success is when you start this work including what metrics you can measure and what framework could you put in place to make sure these metrics are measured.

Litvinas added that organizations should remember that using data and analytics is a learn and build process. There are going to be hit and misses--executives at Comcast had thoughts about what caused churn--and it wasn’t what they expected. Comcast is on year four of working with data like this, and they still have a long way to go.

Want to learn more about arts marketing? Attend the keynote at our Philly Tech Week event, Arts Marketing in the Digital Age! RSVP here.

TechniCulture is generously supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.