Musings on Nonprofits, Advocacy Campaigns, and Big Data

I’m a big fan of how entrepreneurs can use and manage data, but nonprofits have to use and manage data too. Most people know (or would not be surprised to learn) that data append services help nonprofits data-cleanse at the end of the year. This is vital when you devote so much time to finding new donors and keeping consistent donors in the loop–and keeping up with changes in their contact info.

But what about other facets of data management in nonprofits? Specifically, what about nonprofits’ relationship to “big data,” or data sets “too large or complex to be dealt with by traditional data-processing application software,” as Wikipedia defines the term? Interestingly, we’ve recently seen several articles on big data and nonprofits, and depending on which article you read, you might conclude that nonprofits can easily use big data, that nonprofits can only ride on the coattails of private businesses that use big data, or you may learn many ways your organization can both acquire and use it.

You can access some big data for free
Kayla Matthews’ piece last September at Smart Data Collective points out that nonprofits who can’t afford costly data platforms can get free data sources mediated by entities as diverse as Amazon, Pew Research and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They offer “open data” aggregation and platform services that interest groups can use at no cost. There’s also a group called the Nonprofit Open Data Collective, “a consortium of nonprofit representatives and researchers [that] is working to analyze electronically submitted Form 990 data and make it more useful to everyone who wants to see it.”

There are high-visibility organizations using it
Matthews provides a couple of powerful anecdotes in her post from last October, including the Jane Goodall Institute’s use of data entered by private citizens throughout Africa speaking to the status of and threats to chimpanzee populations, and UNICEF’s dissemination of health stats like infant mortality into public hands. It’s not just about being nice, though, as Matthews points out: “Viewing the hard data for themselves might encourage individuals to give generously when it’s time for fundraising campaigns.”

One of our favorite new apps–and new approaches–is Branch, which builds on the success of Kiva, a great platform helping small entrepreneurs –such as beginning family farmers– crowdsource startup loans. It turns out that Kiva’s co-founder, Matthew Flannery, started Branch as a new nonprofit, hoping to solve a challenge that came to be associated with Kiva: “Due to having limited connectivity, loan officers in those countries would have to travel to each borrower to distribute the money, resulting in additional costs. However, with mobile dominating digital technology worldwide, it’s now becoming possible to skip the loan officers entirely and send the money directly to the borrower via mobile. Flannery wants to use machine learning to assist with making sound lending decisions and swiftly deliver loans via mobile payment.” Pretty cool.

So what’s the problem?
For smaller organizations, the problem may simply be scale of human resources to data. In small organizations, people have a lot of hats to wear and no one person may have the capacity and training for big data management. But there may be other challenges intrinsic to the models and iterations of nonprofits. The bloggers at Pursuant say that a leading problem nonprofits have with big data is that they compartmentalize it too much. “Most organizations already have a lot of data,” they write, “but they store it in departmental silos . . . Instead of synthesizing the data from all sources, nonprofits look at one area at a time. But that approach doesn’t unleash the power of big data. Information gleaned from donor data files, special events, emails opened or closed, and what donors click on at your website must be looked at holistically. But doing that requires breaking out of departmental silos. Diffused data isn’t good for the donor, your mission, or your organization’s long-term sustainability.”

So there’s capacity, but there’s also too much diffusion of data across areas that don’t interact much with each other, and so offer no incentive or expertise on data synthesis.

Good data management
Avery Phillips, writing for Inside Big Data, suggests that taking data management to the next level “requires a structured approach that incorporates cleaning up the data (e.g. paring it down to genuinely useful and trusted information) and creating larger networks of employees involved in the decision-making process beyond those that are tasked with handling the data itself.” Your organization might not be big enough to do that yourself, so consultants may be inevitable. While that costs money, the stories in the various posts we read, including the UNICEF example, suggests it could make your organization even more money. It’s up to you whether you are at the level you believe is appropriate for the service you need. The important thing, Phillips says, is that your IT team isn’t the only department “aware of pertinent big data that might influence” an organizational decision. What you want is “a larger umbrella of team members . . .  incorporated into the ‘web of knowledge’ that big data can provide. . . helping them to maneuver themselves into the ever-crowded spotlight, communicate their mission statement effectively, and raise funds at unprecedented rates.”

So, while data management services are available no matter what, the challenge and promise is in managing your data holistically and with as many voices included in the analysis as possible.

Don’t Get Berned by Text Scamming

Last week, lots of folks noticed an unusually heavy rainstorm of texts from sources claiming to be associated with the Bernie Sanders for President campaign–although the campaign had only just begun. One responses was from Anne Laurie, a Daily Kos diarist, who says she doesn’t text from her “secondhand Galaxy S6” and doesn’t provide her cell number to anyone. Nevertheless, she received numerous texts from Bernie supporters in the immediate hours after his campaign announcement. She concluded they really were from the campaign or from legitimate supporters — which irritated her even more, because she doesn’t presently support Sanders in the presidential primary.

Bernie supporters, on the other hand, may be particularly vulnerable to texting scams claiming to be affiliated with the Sanders campaign. After all, they’re an enthusiastic bunch and like to know there are like-minded people eager to meet them. The biggest concern with text scamming, or “SMishing” for “phishing” via SMS, is identity theft. Viruses are also a concern. And as online donations surge for political campaigns, avoiding scam links will become more of a challenge. 

SMishing may be growing as robocalls decrease in effectiveness (The Atlantic says “telephone culture is disappearing”). It’s true that robocalls have been used to impersonate campaigns (or sometimes do the really nefarious dirty work of racist campaigns) and continue to be used to run scams. While we were working on this article, CNN reported on a group running robocalls impersonating Donald Trump that netted $100,000, got media coverage as a scam and, at the time of this writing, was still going strong. But as New York Magazine’s Jake Swearingen wrote just a couple of weeks ago, we may be done with robocalls as a thing, since carriers now have both the technology and the incentive to block or radically screen calls–although it’s not so clear whether the same would be true for texts.

In a brand new study report, “Hamsini Sridharan of MapLight and Samuel Woolley of the Institute for the Future outline more than 30 concrete proposals—all grounded in the democratic principles of transparency, accountability, standards, coordination, adaptability, and inclusivity–to protect the integrity of the future elections, including the pivotal 2020 U.S. presidential election.” The authors argue that both anonymity and automation “have made deceptive digital politics especially harmful.” They locate solutions in public policy and legal liability (including increasing the liability of the platforms themselves, a proposal sure to raise a lot of eyebrows). But they also emphasize routes like public education and ethical guidelines embraced by the media.

Enter the Direct Marketing Association’s code of ethics–not the law, to be sure, but norms that we can hope the political industry will embrace consistently enough that those who do go outside the lines will be seen as exceptional pariahs. More important even than the code’s numerous provisions, compliance with which would end scammy or even opportunistic SMS texts, is the overall spirit of the code, a customer-centric, privacy-embracing document. And, at least two provisions, 1.3 and 3.11 require that your data be cleaned regularly, which data append services will do for you.

In the meantime, we can all take some simple preventative measures. Obviously, don’t open any attachments sent via text. And whatever you do, don’t text back! if you don’t recognize the source of a textaccording to the Federal Trade Commission, not answering is the best way to avoid negative consequences to your identity or your smartphone. While scam and false pretense texts are clearly illegal, there are some opportunistic texting schemes that may slip through the cracks of the law. Under federal law, unsolicited messages and emails are illegal, and both textual and phone “robocalls” are too, but there are exceptions for political surveys, fundraising messages from charities, and popular peer-to-peer texting apps–understandable exceptions, but ones that may be easy for smart and crappy people to manipulate.

Looking into 2019, AI and Data Revisited

At the end of 2018 I published a post citing Cynthia Harvey, who had herself cited a Deloitte survey with bleak predictions tabout companies’ use of AI. That survey had indicated that while more companies (in various industries, not just marketing or campaigning) were dipping their toes into AI, the number of companies abandoning AI projects was also high. Left alone, that citation might give readers the impression that AI is floundering.

It’s actually not floundering at all. What should not be lost is that 37 percent of all organizations have implemented some kind of artificial intelligence in their operations, and that’s a 270 percent increase over the past four years. Even if the long-term rise has its hiccups, that’s an astounding level of adaptation in a short increment of time.

There are several reasons AI helps companies use data across the board. AI can be created with “context awareness” that will allow systems to discern when they are most needed, switch their modes around, and more. In terms of organizational processes, new artificial intelligence systems can facilitate decentralization and delegation of tasks in organizations practices that increase profits in a time when very few things can reliably increase profits.

The implications of this technology are staggering. AI can help policymakers solve poverty, help doctors slow the spread of diseases, help scientists address climate change, threats to oceans, and more. Artificial intelligence can also be a powerful tool in deploying the natural intelligence of salespeople and analysts through data analysis that can supplement other data services. In marketing and campaign data analysis, one function of AI is to detect small and subtle changes in consumer or voter behavior, attitudes, beliefs, demographics, and so on. If income has risen ever-so-slightly in some area, you may be able to look for other signs of income profile changes or even gentrification; this could impact your campaign strategy.

And, of course, AI helps in segmentation. In campaign technology, segmentation was critical in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, where different videos were shown to audiences based on their own level of commitment to the campaign. Consider that it’s been just over ten years since then and AI has advanced considerably. Now, marketers and retailers are using AI to create personalized customer experiences, analyzing data so that customers may be notified by email, direct mail, or SMS if products arrive that they might like. Campaign data analysts can do the same thing.

The beauty of AI, or at least a very important additional benefit, may be the protection of privacy. For example, the folks at Demografy have designed a market segmentation platform that can give you demographic insights or help you append lists with missing data similar to the smart algorithms we use at Accurate Append to create wealth scores and green scores. It does this without gathering sensitive information like addresses or emails, just using names, and it can do this because of its AI component, using “very scarce and non-sensitive information as input while existing technologies use either large amount of data or sensitive personal information to detect demographics.”

The Problem of Unregistered Voters and the Promise of Consumer Data

Based on the partisan rancor over whether the federal government should create an Election Day holiday, it’s doubtful we will see universal or automatic voter registration soon. Still, it’s heartening to see that voter registration and voter participation increased sharply in the last midterm election cycle–to a fifty-year high, according to NPR.

Here at Accurate Append, we’re always curious about how technology can be used to reach both voters and nonvoters.

The data on unregistered voters send a lot of mixed signals. On the one hand, “43 percent of the unregistered said nothing would motivate them to register” according to the recent Pew Trusts survey and analysis on unregistered voters. This is disturbing news by any metric.  On the other hand, unregistered and “occasional” voters are actually not universally apathetic. The Pew Survey also reported that small but consistent percentages of unregistered and “semifrequent” voters self-report having worked to solve issues in their community, done unpaid volunteer work, and attended community meetings. Some (only six percent) had even donated money to candidates they didn’t end up voting for! Assuming those folks aren’t dogmatic about never voting again, that might mean that as many as 10-15 percent of unregistered voters could be convinced to register in 2020.

There’s at least one artificial intelligence project devoted to finding and registering unregistered voters: the Electronic Registration Information Center has, in the past ten years of its existence, identified upwards of 26 million people eligible to vote but unregistered. They have done so while also “cleaning up voter rolls” (removing dead, relocated, or other no-longer-eligible voters) without “purging” the rolls of people who actually are eligible to vote.  The success of ERIC demonstrates that we can increase voter access and improve voter roll accuracy at the same time, a great thing given recent battles over other purges that have been open to charges of partisanship.

But campaigns may not be able to access such data, and there are less resource-intensive ways to figure out who’s not on the voter rolls who should be. As Adriel Hampton pointed out a couple of years ago, one way to reach the unreachable voter is by comparing official state lists of registered voters with Accurate Append’s lists of adult consumers. Services like ours can provide phone numbers and, in some cases, email addresses for unregistered voters based on those comparisons.

Consumer data is a promising comparative tool to find additional people living in an area who are not registered. It’s compiled from a variety of sources and can paint a more comprehensive picture of people’s behavior and preferences than voter data can–and it’s often grouped according to traits that campaign analysts will find useful, such as individual-level weath scores and green scores.

The Pew Report concludes on a hopeful but cautionary note:

more than 40 percent of the unregistered cared who would win the presidency in 2016, and some indicated that they could be motivated to register in the future, though many also feel that the voting process does not affect the way governing decisions are made.

So some of this is about finding the right tech and datasets, but a lot of it is about making the political process itself more engaging. Who wouldn’t support that?

Demand for Data Management – the Logistics and the Ethics

We know that in 2019, demand for data management work will outstrip supply. We’ve seen those numbers. Dataversity’s analysis of this 2019 trend attributes this to the exponential growth in the need for business data, pushing firms to constantly look for “advanced data collection and storage.” Central to businesses’ needs are data engineers – “architect[s] of organizational data planning” whose job role “will take center stage in 2019. In fact, data teams will not be able to function without these super-techies as they are assumed to have multiple programming skills and advanced technical knowledge to prepare the groundwork for Enterprise Data Management, which can be used by other staff like the Data Analyst or the Data Scientist for specific data-oriented functions.”

Here are some other thoughts behind or beyond the numbers:

First, shifting to an Internet of Things means there will be a need for humans to evaluate the needs of other humans. We’re drawing a lot of the information and data for this post from Cynthia Harvey’s recent set of tech predictions for 2019. On IoT, Cynthia predicts a massive increase in firms’ deployment of and planning around “live production networks” in 2019. This will require the refinement of smart devices, and the “smart” will require an infusion of data analysis and management skills, which circles back to the need for those skills.

Second, Artificial Intelligence isn’t a panacea and doesn’t come close to solving the shortage of human expertise in the short or medium term. Growth in AI will be nowhere near growth in IoT technology. In fact, Cynthia cites a Deloitte survey revealing that while over half of enterprises were currently using integrated AI, and “37% planned to do so within two years,” around twenty percent had stopped current AI projects and around another twenty percent “had decided not to start one because of cybersecurity concerns.”

Those numbers indicate a couple of bumps in the road for AI, which will also spur investment in tools enabling “ordinary people” to use AI to become virtual data scientists, throwing the ball back to businesses doing their own data science.

Third, as the data management field grows, those data users in the field of political technology also want “ethical infrastructure” in place to ensure equity and efficiency in the unique ways we use new technology. One important example of this is the Open Supporter Data Interface (OSDI) coalition, providing like-minded developers with an open standard for interoperability between software applications, reducing integration time and headaches. It’s a great example of cooperation within a relatively competitive field, a sign that this kind of nuanced tech can be socially shared, to the benefit of stakeholders.

What is the CAN-SPAM Act – and why does it matter?

Email marketing comprises a large and lucrative portion of any company’s business – and it’s on the rise. Email marketing is the fastest growing marketing medium and it’s used by an increasing number of businesses to communicate with and sell to their customers. According to Forrester, in 2011, email marketing expenditures were growing 10% year over year. Convince and Convert found that consumers who receive email marketing spend 138% more than people who don’t receive email offers and email ad revenue had reached $156 million by 2012 (Interactive Advertising Bureau). Email marketing is as popular as it is effective, as well: when consumers were asked how they would prefer to receive updates, 90% preferred to receive an email newsletter, while only 10% chose Facebook (Nielsen Norman Group). And email continues to be a thriving source of new business: it’s almost 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter (McKinsey & Company). With as popular as email has become some companies that utilize email marketing may not be aware of the regulations and some of the tools available, such as email appending or email verification, that help you get started reaching your prospects.
Any company, large or small, that uses email to conduct its business needs to be well versed in the CAN-SPAM Act to ensure compliance with email marketing regulations – and to avoid sizable penalties for violations. The CAN-SPAM Act established the rules and requirements for commercial email messages, giving recipients the right to unsubscribe from your list, ceasing any further emails. Thankfully, it’s easy to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act: unlike telemarketing, which has multiple state and federal regulations.  With the CAN-SPAM Act there is only one federal regulation to abide by. Simply put, anyone can send an electronic message to another as long as they follow the CAN-SPAM.

The CAN-SPAM Act applies to all commercial messages, which are defined as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Are you sending a note to former customers? Perhaps you’re sending a newsletter to people who signed up for updates? All emails must be in compliance with this law.

So what are the terms of the CAN-SPAM Act? According to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, the terms are as follows:

  1. Don’t use misleading or false information in your header. Ensure that your “To,” “From,” “Reply-To,” and routing information are accurate and identify the business or person who initiated the message.
  2. Avoid deceptive subject lines. The subject must correctly convey the content of the message.
  3. If your message is an advertisement, identify it as such. You have to clearly and conspicuously disclose that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Provide your location. You have to include a valid physical postal address in your message. Acceptable addresses include post office boxes registered with the US Postal Service, a current street address, or a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail receiving agency and established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Let your recipients know how they can opt-out from emails. Provide a clear and conspicuous way for recipients to opt out of future emails. The opt-out must be easy to read, recognize, and comprehend – and it must be included in every commercial message you send. Ensure that your spam filter doesn’t block opt-out requests.
  6. Immediately honor opt-out requests. You must process opt-out within ten business days. Once someone has indicated that they no longer want to receive email from you, you cannot transfer or sell their email.
  7. Monitor your marketing. If you’re using an outside marketing agency for your email, ensure that it abides by all of the CAN-SPAM regulations. The company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

 

So how do you know if the CAN-SPAM Act covers the email that your business is sending? You’ll need to determine the primary purpose of your email: is it commercial, transactional/relationship, or “other?” Commercial content advertises or promotes a product or service. Transactional/relationship facilitates a preexisting customer relationship or transaction. And “other” content is neither transactional nor commercial.

Email marketing continues to be a lucrative source of business for companies, but to reap the benefits of a successful email campaign or email relationship with your customers, you’ll first need to know the terms of the CAN-SPAM. Fortunately, unlike telemarketing, there’s only one law that you’ll need to become familiar with. And familiarizing yourself with it along with other email marketing tools available just might be the best return on investment you’ll ever have with your marketing.

Data Drives the World

“Data really powers everything that we do.”

– Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn

As the CEO for the hugely successful social networking service LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner knows how powerful data can be. Quantcast, a technology company specializing in real-time advertising and audience measurement, calls LinkedIn the world’s largest and most powerful community of professionals. As of 2014, LinkedIn has a community of 200 countries including 93 million customers in the United States and a U.S. penetration rate of 29.9%. Marketers can connect with this audience by leveraging rich profile-based targeting – and these customer profiles come directly from accurate, high-quality customer data.

In a recent White Paper from SDL entitled “Your Data Trumps Big Data” (2014), the authors note that “it’s the small data – the customer’s data –
that really impacts the bottom line” and it’s this data that becomes the “currency of engagement” for a successful business. LinkedIn leveraged this data for astronomic growth in their early years, and data appending services such as Accurate Append are highly conversant with this currency of engagement.

The need for digital information only looks to grow in the coming years. According to a study by IDG Enterprise, organizations are experiencing exponential growth with managed data, with an expected increase of 76% within the next 12-18 months. And 31% of companies expect to manage more than one petabyte – or one million gigabytes – of data by the end of 2014. SDL’s white paper continues: “when you focus on using customer data to deliver better experiences, you’ll quickly realize that it’s all about the customer’s data…[which] is the only data that can help you create the hyper-targeted customer experiences needed for a competitive edge. That’s why customer data will become increasingly vital; it’s what fuels the deeper, more intimate relationships that lead to brand advocacy, long-term customer commitment, higher revenue and margins.”

InBig Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business (2013) author Bill Schmarzo notes that customer data can help businesses gain powerful insights into their customers’ interests, associations, and affiliations, helping them target their customer interactions via focused marketing campaigns (p. 89) just as LinkedIn has successfully done. Schmarzo also notes that augmenting customer data with a company such as a data appending service can provide other valued information, including key demographics such as income level, education level, and household size.

The paper concludes: “Customer data is the lifeblood of your company. You need to collect it responsibly, analyze it, protect it, and then act on the insights it reveals so you can build the experiences and trust that drive conversion, loyalty, and advocacy.”

Data is a driving force for businesses worldwide, powering everything that we do. Customer data fuels relationships that lead to higher revenue, margins, and enduring customer commitment. Accurate Append can further enhance the customer data you already have, making it more actionable and valuable to your company. We leverage decades of experience and relationships because we know that customer data is the driving force behind successful marketing campaigns, long-term customer commitment, and an increased revenue stream.

Data drives the world. Are you ready to get behind the wheel?

Detoxing Your Data

“Detox your mind, body, AND your contact list.”

– SupaNova Som, author of The Remedy: The Five-Week Power Plan to Detox Your

  System, Combat the Fat, and Rebuild Your Mind and Body.

“Detoxing” isn’t just for your body anymore – to succeed in today’s competitive market, you need to detox your databases, as well. But how do you “detox” your data?  And how often should you do this? To maintain accurate, robust customer files, you might need to clean your data more often than you think.

A customer database is one of the most important assets a company can have – but “dirty” data doesn’t do anything for your bottom line – and often times you may not even realize that it needs to be cleaned. Data is “dirty” if it’s incomplete, inaccurate, or incorrect, containing information that is duplicated, outdated, or has punctuation errors. Errors can occur from original sources, misinterpretations of data collectors, and from data entry errors. In their paper “Analysis of Data Errors in Clinical Research Databases,” Drs. Goldberg, Niemierko, and Turchin found that data entry error rates ranged from 2.3 to 26.9% (2008). They found that errors were due to misinterpretations of original data and to mistakes in data entry – meaning that their datasets were between 73.1% – 97.7% “clean.”

For businesses competing in the competitive marketplace, having a customer database that’s only 73.1 – 97.7% clean could mean hundreds if not thousands of inaccurate records – emails, letters, and phone calls that will never reach the intended recipients. But how do you detox data once it’s dirty? According to Venkatesh Ganti and Anish Das Sarma, who wrote Data Cleaning: A Practical Perspective (2013), data cleaning is the “process of starting out with raw data from one or more sources and maintaining reliable quality for your applications” (p. xiii). Data cleansing, data cleaning, or data scrubbing can involve detecting and correcting inaccurate or corrupt records from a database. A data cleaning service like Accurate Append can help by appending complete contact information to the end of your records.  Thus providing additional contact channels through which to communicate with your audience, ultimately increasing your bottom line.

In The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for Your Small Business (2013), author Dee Blick notes: “Data deteriorates more quickly than you think, so budget to refresh your own data, ideally annually.” Annual data cleaning can ensure that your customer files are as accurate and complete as possible – and make sure that your customers receive the information you’re trying to send.

According to Blick, “If your data is old, it may be unclean and incomplete, so consider paying to have it cleaned and remove any known undeliverables (email addresses that bounce back), duplicates, and poorly formed email addresses.”

He adds: “If you own your own data, the cost of appending vital details can be low relative to the cost of renting that data each year.”

Some data cleansing services can detect typographical errors and clean data by cross-checking items with validated data sets. Other data cleansing services help by adding absent information to make a more complete data set, such as appending phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses. Once a data set has been cleansed, it will be consistent with other data – and then it can go to work for you.

Detoxing isn’t just for your body anymore – and with the help of a data cleansing service, you can make sure that your data is detoxed, too.

 

The Next Big Thing

The printing press. Telecommunications. The computer. The Internet. The next big thing: we’re all looking for it. Pioneering inventions not only have the power to change the marketplace – they can change the world. But these game changers all have one thing in common: they built upon and improved prior technologies.

The printing press.

When Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1430s, he didn’t create it from whole cloth – he was improving upon preexisting technologies. Paper and block printing had existed for centuries, originating in the 11th century in China, but printing books was cost-prohibitive. Gutenberg was the first to combine a screw press (used for producing wine and olive oil) with block printing for written materials. He developed durable metal printing blocks that revolutionized mass printing, accommodating vast quantities of information to be disseminated rapidly – and globally, too. The printing press was the 15th century equivalent of the Internet: it affordably diffused knowledge worldwide.

Telecommunications.

It’s hard to imagine a time before telephones, the telegraph, television, or radio. Communications technology has increased in flexibility and utility for centuries. Samuel Morse was definitely on to something when he invented the electric telegraph in 1836, building upon prior technology to create a telecommunication system that suddenlyconnected cities hundreds of miles apart. The telephone later refined this technology, but the infrastructure required in these point-to-point communication systems was vast. Guglielmo Marconi and Nikola Tesla popularized the transmission of signals via electromagnetic waves – and soon, sound was transmitted wirelessly. These inventions changed how we socialize – and exponentially decreased the distance between every person on the planet.

The Computer.

It started out as a big, mysterious box that took up entire rooms. Today’s edition is ever smaller, stronger, and faster. Computers receive information, manipulate it, and output new information –revolutionizing the way we work. While devices that could be considered “computers” existed even during ancient times, electronic computers first came onto the scene in the 20th century. In Before the Computer (1993) author James W. Cortada asserts that computers came from the gradual evolution of the business community, building upon and improving prior technologies, including tabulators, adding machines, and typewriters. Modern computers have sequenced the human genome, created lifelike computer generated images, simplified customer databases, and streamlined business worldwide.

The Internet

The Internet allows people to access almost any information – anywhere, anytime. It has had a profound impact on communication, business, and the economy. While the research and development arm of the U.S. military (DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) created ARPANET in 1969, the true birth of the Internet was in the late 1970s. The public World Wide Web first became available in 1993 – and it continues to be a driving force in commerce.

NationBuilder

NationBuilder isn’t the first to build upon prior technologies – but it’s quickly proving to be tremendously apt at it. This platform integrates customer relationship management and content management in an affordable and accessible complete software platform that’s equal parts business revolution and business evolution. According to Ben Horowitz, co-founder and general partner of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, NationBuilder has what it takes to be the Next Big Thing.

“NationBuilder is that rarest of products that not only has the potential to change its market, but to change the world,” stated Horowitz in 2012. In the two years since Horowitz’s statement, NationBuilder has continued to gain momentum as a community outreach campaign control center that combines recruiting, publishing, messaging, and fundraising. NationBuilder integrates customer relationship databases with Accurate Append’s data appending that yields dynamic customer profiles; custom responsive websites with blogging capabilities and newsfeeds; and deeply integrated social media to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of any campaign.

We’re all looking for the next big thing…But sometimes, it’s already here.

Mind the Gap: An Introduction to Data Appending

“Mind the Gap” is a warning issued to British rail passengers to exercise caution while crossing over from the station platform through the train doorway. The cautionary phrase, which was first introduced in 1969 in the UK’s London Underground, is broadcast over loudspeakers and plastered throughout train stations. But minding the gap is just as meaningful today for entrepreneurs and organizations managing customer databases as it is for vigilant railway passengers.

Minding the gap is an imperative for all businesses; data gaps and blind spots could hinder your marketing efforts and limit your earnings potential. But how do you know if something is missing or inaccurate? Using a data appending service can help you mind the gap and your bottom line. Data appending entails taking your existing information about customers or potential customers and adding (or appending) additional information to those records to create complete and accurate files.

Data appending can save valuable time and money. In her book, Successful Business Intelligence: Unlock the Value of BI & Big Data (2007) author Cindi Howson notes that managers typically spend two hours per day hunting for data – and half of this information later turns out to be unusable. That’s an average of ten wasted hours per week – and more than 500 wasted hours per fiscal year. No business can afford this.

Businesses need to find efficient and effective methods to turn their data into usable information. A data appending service will help you profitably grow your business, putting vital customer information at your fingertips and providing your staff with the opportunity to focus on their real work. And data appending doesn’t just help you mind the gaps in time and money – it helps streamline the marketing your customers will receive. According to author Jeffrey K. Rohrs, customers benefit from data appending because it allows companies to tailor their marketing campaigns and customer service communications to each customer’s specific needs (Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers, 2013).

A data appending service can also perform database scrubbing (also referred to as database cleansing) to remove or amend incomplete, inaccurate, or duplicate data. Database cleansing services can locate and merge duplicate records and add missing information including apartment numbers, zip codes, and telephone numbers. An inactive consumer email address, old home address, or incomplete address offers no value to a company. Database cleaning software saves significant time over manually correcting and updating information. Current, complete data is the new soil for growing businesses – and nothing is more germane than accurately appended and integrated data.

In his book The Data Asset: How Smart Companies Govern Their Data for Business Success, (2009) author Tony Fisher states that effective data integration can improve productivity and decrease costs by ensuring accuracy, reliability, and consistency. Matching and consolidating data creates the most accurate view of a customer, and that’s why Accurate Append matches records based upon a name and an address, while some companies match only on one or the other.

Whether you’re an old hand at business or a greenhorn, you’ll need to mind the gaps in your data. Once you do, everything else will begin to fall into place.