The secret to using data in content

Here’s a story about a multi million-dollar deal that almost got derailed because of something thought not to be of any value. What and why?

The deal concerned heavy-duty industrial machinery and was due to be signed off. But an individual deep down in the buying department made just enough noise to put the brakes on. They wanted to ensure that they – as the purchaser – had access to the data produced by the expensive new kit. The manufacturer dug its heels in, stating that while the buyer may own the product any resulting data should belong to the seller.

So the buyer’s chief executive got involved. He didn’t know what the data might be used for but he knew one thing: if the manufacturer wanted to hang on to it that much then it was clearly valuable. Thus, after months of negotiation, with hundreds if not thousands of jobs on the line, he threatened to pull the plug.

Eventually they reached a compromise. Now both sides own/have access to the data. Well, the raw data anyway because what you do with it after that is another story altogether.

Data is just a by-product

In the old days, data was just ones and zeros. No one really had any idea how it could be used. The systems to analyse it had not been invented. But the clever ones at least put it in the cupboard and (usually) forgot about it.

A good example is Komatsu, a Japanese manufacturer of vehicles used in the construction industry. Since the late Nineties it has been receiving data from all of its vehicles around the world.

Today, Komatsu has around 430,000 forklifts, trucks and bulldozers around the world, digging, smashing down and sending information back to headquarters. The company puts out monthly data reports that can, among other things, track the rate of growth in the world’s commodity markets.

Best of all, Komatsu wasn’t initially keen on the idea; it was the firm’s investors that pushed for the data to be put to use.

Trucks for cabs

Uber provides a good example of how this approach can be used for content marketing. It employed data provided by evening fares picked up by its drivers in New York to produce a guide to the most popular places to eat.

Vandal is the number one place to be fed and watered, if you’re in town. It serves a very nice beef tartar pretzel, apparently.

Content such as this provides value to consumers and is likely to be shared. It also plants the idea in some of those sharers’ minds to use Uber to get there.

But the best thing is that Uber owns the data. It doesn’t have to ask permission to use it. And because it’s a good story, the firm can put it up on its own site in full confidence that other publications will write about it.

Back in the day, this would have appeared as a press release if it was used at all. Now data is a genuine asset, which can be capitalised on in a multitude of ways.

The secret is to use the stuff you don’t need is part of Content24, the blog for London content marketing agency FirstWord.