When you picture “big data” what do you see? In my mind’s eye, it’s basically a giant, terrifying maze. The information is everywhere and none of it can be used. I know I’m not alone in this thinking because time and again surveys have shown that managing data is a problem for marketers. Even as things continue to improve, 37% of marketers claim that the lack of a single customer view inhibits marketing across channels.
What’s So Great about Big Data?
Even most definitions of big data don’t make a case for what’s good about it – frankly, it sounds even more terrifying when people try to define it. Here’s a random sampling of things I found when I searched for the term:
- “Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.” – SAS
- “Big data is a term for data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with them.” – Wikipedia
- “Big data is being generated by everything around us at all times. Every digital process and social media exchange produces it. Systems, sensors and mobile devices transmit it. Big data is arriving from multiple sources at an alarming velocity, volume and variety.” – IBM
These definitions encompass the inherent problem with big data: there’s just too much of it, it’s coming in all of the time, and it’s difficult to deal with.
Data That Gets the Job Done
In an effort to understand customer journeys, try to improve targeting, or personalize marketing campaigns it’s easy to see how marketers can soon can get swamped in different types of data. There are a few different ways of dealing with this problem, but at the core of it all is the same concept – data is useless until you can a) manage it successfully and b) draw insights from it.
Although a customized database build can get a little pricey, if you fall into the 37% of marketers stated above (what you really need is a single customer view to make your efforts sing), this is probably the best way to tackle that problem. A customized database can help unify all the information about customers and prospects into one easy-to-understand view, allowing you to create new campaigns with the information you now have at your fingertips.
Analytics and Modeling
If you have a database but aren’t sure how to gather insights from it, analytics and modeling are your solutions. A database in working order is an awesome tool that can give all kinds of information and let you find prospects that are most likely to respond. You can find key factors that make your best customers unique and then use it to find prospects similar to them, or event get a score to find out how likely a customer or prospect is to take an action. These are just a couple of options, but analytics or modeling tools can give the insight you need to take action.
Marketing Lists and Data Appends
Sometimes for data-driven marketing what you really need is just…data. That’s where resources like marketing lists and data appends make sense. Existing large databases of prospect information can be used to produce prospect lists targeted for your needs or to add the information you’re seeking – after all, what good is it to send out emails or mail pieces that don’t arrive? Creating marketing lists or using data appends can drive results as long as you’re getting good information from your third-party data provider.
Knowing What You Need
Different jobs call for different approaches to get the best response, so carefully evaluate your objectives both for upcoming campaigns and for the future. Collecting “big data” for the sake of having it around is pretty pointless. You’ll definitely want a good partner who can help unify your efforts, draw valuable insights and fill-in any missing gaps in order to make your marketing stand out.