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Nehemiah asked his brother for two key data points after his brother returned from Jerusalem (Neh.1:2): “Tell me about the city and tell me about the people.” The answers he received changed the course of Nehemiah’s life and the life of a nation.
Such is the power of data. For many pastors, a good statistic or a salient piece of data serves simply as a curious illustration (think percentage of “nones,” unwed couples living together, etc.). However, when understood, data leads to analytics, which leads to insight, leading to ideas, implementation and impact as we have never seen before.
To understand the power of big data we need to understand three terms—big data, predictive analytics and precision marketing.
What Is Big Data and Where Does It Come From?
Most everything we do, everything we buy, every place we go, everything we search for on Google, every email we type, every text we send, everything we view on TV or the Internet, everything we buy with a credit card, every place we go when carrying a smart phone along with every quiz or IQ test we take online and every “like” and comment we make on Facebook leaves a digital trail of our lives. Companies that scoop up this data have over 5,000 data points on virtually every person in the U.S. These data points create a psychographic profile for every person. How accurate is this information?
- With just 10 “likes” Facebook knows more about you than your co-workers.
- 70 “likes”—Facebook knows more about you than your friends know
- 150 “likes”—Facebook knows more about you than your parents know about you
- 300 “likes”—Facebook knows more about you than your spouse knows about you
- 300+ “likes—Facebook knows more about you than you know yourself
Imagine what can be done with 5,000 data points. This information is so valuable that Facebook and Google sold just their information in 2016 for over $60 billion.
Predictive analytics works like this: People who are taking a certain action tonight (say “taking a shower”) were doing these sets of behavior (say “playing in the mud,” “mowing their lawn,” “jogging,” etc.) earlier today. Based on those data sets we can look at what groups of people who, right now are playing in the mud, mowing the lawn and jogging and determine with high accuracy that they will be taking a shower before the day ends.
In business it might look like this: Target has a baby registry that expecting moms can join. Registered expecting mothers buy the same predictable products in each trimester of their pregnancy. So when non-registered women buy the same products, Target is able predict with 87% accuracy not only that the woman is pregnant but also her due date.
Predictive analytics can tell, with an uncanny degree of accuracy, not only who will buy what products, but which people are open to the gospel or who in your neighborhood is heading for divorce. A bit creepy but totally accurate.
The magic of predictive analytics goes far beyond the obvious illustrations above. After analyzing 35,000 couples OkCupid discovered that the three questions that best determine the longevity / permanence of a relationship were far from the questions you might ask. OkCupid scrutinized over 275,000 match questions and more than 776 million answers and discovered that how a couple agrees on the answers to these three questions have the greatest chance of success:
Do you like horror movies?
Have you ever traveled around another country alone?
Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?
Now we’re really talking creepy!
Precision targeting is the ability to send the right message to the right person at precisely the right time. So instead of targeting everyone with the same message, precision targeting allow one to craft a slightly different message to different audience segments (based on actions they have taken in the past or are currently taking) for maximum impact.
How Can Big Data Help Your Church?
Every church worth its salt is consumed with doing the same five missional tasks:
- Attract people
- Get people
- Keep people
- Grow disciples
- Multiply disciples
The first two of these (attract and get) will be a product of what you know about people in your city. What are their hopes, habits and fears? The second three (keep, grow and multiply) are a product of what you know about people in your church. What are their hopes, habits and fears?
Currently you are doing something in each of these areas based on hunches, past experiences or what other churches are doing. What if you became an expert in engaging people both inside and outside the walls of your church based on an increasing knowledge of who they are? Currently we at Leadership Network are working with 22 churches on an experimental basis and are seeing some very promising results that go beyond anything we’ve seen previously.
If you would like to hear more about what churches are doing to leverage data to attract, get, keep, grow, and multiply disciples more effectively, join us for our free webinar entitled “Big Data And The Future Of Your Church. Click or tap the banner below to register: