For years we’ve been hearing a lot about how big data will change our world and while I appreciate how better data has improved my own marketing, the breadth of the opportunity is still mindboggling. According to research firm, CSC, annual data generation will increase 4,300 percent by 2020. That’s just five years down the road.
Last month, our own Susan Payton wrote a great blog post for ReachForce on the benefits of using big data in marketing and PR. The post got me thinking about my own experience using big data to improve my marketing activities so I wanted to share with you what I learned about marketing in an era of big data, whether we’re in B2B or B2C, big or small.
Big Isn’t Always Better
Larger businesses have the budgets and will incorporate more data-driven sales and marketing but smaller businesses often have an advantage simply from the size differential. Large businesses have been operating for years, using a variety of platforms and data-capturing software and techniques, each championed by one leader or another. Trying to corral all of these big, often cumbersome, legacy systems into something where big businesses can fully realize the promise of big data is a huge undertaking requiring significant time and money. So smaller businesses may be able to take advantage of this lag-time and get a jump on their larger competitors if they haven’t already.
Pinpoint Which 50%
David Ogilvy famously said that 50% of advertising is useless but no one knew which half. With big data, companies are gaining insights as to which activities are working and which are not. With predictive analytics and data visualization, even sales teams are able to adjust their tactics and focus in real-time to target and convert the most receptive targets. As a marketer, I am not only better able to deploy more precise, personae-driven and customized messaging and offers, but redistribute my spend across marketing activities in real-time. This access to information and flexibility gets us closer to understanding what works and what doesn’t. Ogilvy would be jealous!
Truly Integrate Your Marketing Plan
A few years ago, Wes Nichols wrote a great piece in Harvard Business Review about using analytics in advertising. One of the key points I still refer to is about how big data will get us out of, what Nichols calls, swim lanes. Traditionally, marketers have measured the performance of campaigns by channel as separate activities. So an email marketing campaign was measured on its own, without accounting for the effect of corresponding web ads or organic search, for example.
With big data, marketers (and advertisers) can begin to measure how each channel is supporting and helping the performance in other channels. The result isn’t just better optimization but better planning. I am able to use big data, personas, and predictive analytics to plan truly integrated marketing strategies because I understand how what I do with my left hand affects what happens on the right.
Big data is more than a nebulous catchphrase, it’s an essential part of business if they are to survive and thrive.