LinkedIn’s Sean Callahan On The Power of Data to Transform Book Publishing
Thanks to the rapid increase in computer processing speeds over the past decade, data has become easier to analyze and more available than ever before, and it’s changing the way we do business, said Sean Callahan, author of The Big Data-Driven Business and senior manager of content marketing at LinkedIn. Callahan led one of the opening sessions at IDPF DigiCon titled, “Building a Data-Driven Business.” He called upon publishers to incorporate data into their day-to-day operations so that they can better understand their customers and better position their products. By utilizing data, even the smallest companies can disrupt an industry and outstrip their competition, argued Callahan.
Amazon is one notable example of this. “People think Amazon succeeded because it changed the distribution model, from going to a store to being able to mail something to your house,” said Callahan. “But what Amazon did in knocking Borders out of business was change the way they use data to understand the customer.” Amazon carefully tracks what its users have purchased and compares similar user profiles to ascertain what the consumer would like to buy next. “That’s what propelled Amazon past traditional bookstores,” said Callahan.
Additionally, organizations can utilize data to improve their marketing messages and outpace their competition. Callahan offered the Obama presidential campaign of 2008 as an example. “The Obama campaign used A/B testing on its site to raise an extra $60 million, which at that point may have been the difference in the election. . . They tested different calls to action, photographs, videos, and colors.” After testing 24 different options, the campaign landed on a site design that they calculated drove $60 million in extra donations. What perhaps is even more telling is the design that the Obama campaign assumed would perform best actually performed the worst out of all 24 options. Imagine how the book industry might transform once it moves beyond primarily instinct-driven business strategies.
Despite the overwhelming proof of the impact data can make on an industry, many executives underestimate its importance. Callahan cited a survey conducted by Accenture, which reported that only 5% of executives that responded to the survey believed data would fundamentally change their business. “95% of those respondents are wrong,” said Callahan.
To conclude his session, Callahan offered 5 tips for publishers to incorporate data-driven decision making into their businesses:
- Determine what you want to know about your customers. This is a critical first step said, Callahan. The best way to make impactful change on a business is to focus on the most important metrics that will reveal customer behavior and interests.
- Focus on little triggers. Although publishers may not have the resources to crunch Big Data numbers like Google and Amazon, they can make little changes that make a big impact. Think about small changes to newsletters, websites, and ecommerce experiences that can drive more sales for the company, said Callahan.
- Invest in technology. Callahan advised publishers invest in CRM systems, marketing automation, and analytics tools. Even free tools like Google Analytics can provide publishers with an edge, he said.
- Hire the right people. “Marketers are moving from the Don Drapers to more of the left-brain analytical people,” said Callahan. Although this type of talent is not necessarily native to the publishing world, it will be critical to its future.
- Test and measure. Measuring campaign results is how marketers can prove their value, said Callahan. He advised that book marketers measure the contribution a campaign has towards revenue, and to continue to refine campaigns based on those results.
More on how publishers are implementing data-driven strategies:
The Rise of Audience Development in the Book Industry: An Interview with PRH UK’s Claire Wilshaw
How Cengage, HarperCollins, and Scribed Are Using Data Analytics
The Book Industry’s Quest for Data Intelligence
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.