Big data for marketing: how to stop talking and start doing

Big data for marketing: how to stop talking and start doing

With its incredible levels of accuracy and detail, and the vast opportunities for better understanding and communicating with your customers, there’s no question that big data is a juicy topic for marketers.

And it’s a topic we’ve been talking about for a while. In fact, we’ve been talking about big data since the phrase was coined back in 1998. (Yep, that’s 17 years ago!) So isn’t it about time that marketing stopped talking about big data and started putting it to work

This post discusses the benefits of big data for marketing, shows you how to prepare the groundwork, and shares 4 data hacks to get you started.

Big data for marketing: why the hype

Knowledge has always been power in marketing: now more so than ever. Big data can help marketers understand their audience: what matters to them, how they like to be communicated with, and where they go for information - as well as shedding light on which marketing activity is working, and which isn’t.

Here are just a few examples of the many ways that big data can be put to work:

  • Analysing brand sentiment
  • Creating accurate buyer profiles
  • Real-time micro-segmentation, with custom-tailored and one-to-one marketing
  • Campaign reporting and analytics
  • Understanding which products and services are the most profitable
  • Getting a 360’ view of the customer

Big data for marketing: before you start

For most organisations, getting their hands on the data isn’t the problem: but being able to use and make sense of it is. Here are some essential must-do’s to prepare the groundwork:

Identify what you need

Most organisations hold vast amounts of customer data: and actually sifting through it all to find what you need can be a showstopper in itself. If you’re not sure what you need, start with your business objectives: what information gaps are holding you back? Take the most significant and start from there.

Give your data a thorough health check

Often an organisation's data is siloed, out of date or incomplete. Make sure it’s usable before investing in software or people.

Find the best tools for the job

There is a growing range of analytical tools to help marketers manage and use big data. Choosing the right one could mean the difference between sinking and swimming.

Skill up

Technology alone isn’t going to get the job done. You need people with the experience and skills to turn data into insights, and apply these insights to your marketing programs.

Make analytics part of the process

Too often, analytics are seen as a bolt-on to the end of a project. The reality is that analytics need to be built into your planning processes. What do you need to learn? How will the insights affect your campaign? All this needs to be thought through at the outset.

Get insights to the front line

It’s not just your CMO who needs insights. The guys on the coalface need it too: everyone from your front of house, to your telemarketers, to your sales guns, will all benefit from improved customer insights.

Now that you’re ready, here are 4 manageable big data hacks to get you started:

  1. Get up close and personal with your customers

All marketers understand the importance of sending the right message at the right time. See if your data can tell you something around who’s responding to what, and when. Apply the insights to your next marketing activity and see if it makes a difference.

  1. Identify your champion content

Some content works better than others. Measuring what works and what doesn’t makes it easier to identify the elements of success and replicate them elsewhere. Customer tagging and content scoring makes this so much easier than it used to be.

  1. Get to know Google trends

No data? No problem. Use someone else’s: namely Google. Google Trends analyses search terms to identify trending topics: giving you an insight into what your market cares about.

  1. Beef up your customer profiles

Big data can tell you so much about your customers: age, demographics, work profiles, which web sites and social media platforms they visit, how they engage with your website. Overwhelmed? Pick the most useful insight and just focus on that one for now.

A final word

Big data is certainly big news for marketers. But the key is to start small: Don’t try and do it all at once, but start by identifying one or two key objectives, and plan how big data can help you deliver them. Once you've executed your plan, and seen some results, you can move on to the next. This approach helps you grow your big data capacity at a manageable rate, allowing to to gain internal buy-in and upskill your team as you go.

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