5 Ways Big Data Can Create Better Marketing Campaigns
I don't like using the term "big data" as it's become one of the most misused phrases out there. Part of the problem is that big data is really hard to define.
If I were to ask you to define it, you'd probably give me an anecdotal circumstance that you feel falls into the realm of big data. And I'll reply with, "Sure, pumpkin is a type of pie, but what's a pie?" Maybe I'm too picky. Ultimately, Gartner, Intel, Microsoft and the like all have their different definitions of big data, and they've probably all thought about the subject much longer than most of us. There's one thing we know for sure, though — big data is just that: BIG. You can't use big data any more than you can use the Pacific Ocean.
We live in the world of ideas, however, so here's my quick stab at a working definition: big data is a vast amount of information that's not collected for any one purpose, but rather for the goal of having so much data that trends, patterns and conclusions can be made in real time.
It's not perfect, but it will do for now. Regardless of exactly how it's defined, there's no doubting the potential value that large amounts of unstructured data can bring to your organization. Let's take a look at this from a marketing perspective with five ways you can use big data to create better marketing:
1. Know more about your customer than what's currently in your database. There's a vast world of information your customers give you that doesn't currently exist in your relational database. Even better, you don't need to pull it into your database. For example, look at the services offered by numerous companies that have designed tools to wade through the data that's online and to spot trends. These tools enable brands to harness the power of what consumers are talking about in real time. You never know when you'll discover that people are talking about matters that could affect your marketing communications.
2. Consider current consumer frustrations. If you have the ability to scour the web for what customers are saying about your products or services, you also have the ability to find their current frustrations. This data can give insight into either potential improvements in your current products and services or ideas on untapped markets/niches where you could blaze a trail.
3. Understand the "internet of things." In its simplest form, the internet of things refers to objects that need no human-to-computer or human-to-human interaction in order to communicate to the web. In general, this all comes down to sensors. From a plant being able to tweet when it needs water to your refrigerator notifying you when you need to buy more eggs, it's essential that you begin to consider how these vast amount of information will (can) affect your marketing communications.
4. Create a central view of your customer to improve their journey. Transactional data isn't all that useful unless you're combining it with other information to improve the customer's experience. Break down the silos that exist within your marketing organization so that you can reap the benefits from large data sets. Combine the transactional data that you have from customer X with the call-center information you received from him/her three months later. Now, the next time that customer comes to your brick-and-mortar store and swipes their card, give the service agent something to work from in real time.
5. Optimize your marketing operations via machine-generated data. Successful marketing is generally attributed to the "right message" at the "right time." I agree with that. However, there's a gross misunderstanding of what "right time" actually is. Ultimately, it comes down to when the customer can seek the most value from your message. But are you able to react quickly enough to give them that message? Understanding your marketing department's operational data can be daunting, but optimizing your processes based on it can be increasingly rewarding. Imagine halving your time to market. You would be able to increase marketing efficiency and effectiveness all by increasing your operational insights.
Big data is nothing new; it just had a good publicist these last couple years. When leveraged properly, big data can be a great asset. However, if you're not clear on your purpose with the data, it can eat you whole and send you on a snipe hunt.
Kevin Cunningham is senior marketing solutions consultant at Covalent Marketing, a customer intelligence consultancy that simplifies and strengthens companies’ customer interactions and marketing operations.