According to The Aberdeen Group, 2012 was when we really started living in the ‘Big Data’ world. It was one of the hottest technology terms bandied around last year.

But what is it today, and how can marketers use it to enhance lead generation and business?

Back in January, Marketing Week predicted that digital marketing would now just be called ‘marketing.’ This reflects the integration of digital and online into the practice of marketing – it’s now become illogical to separate these channels from the topic of marketing.

The Aberdeen Group’s recent report ‘Data Management for BI’ shows how the digital marketing revolution has driven data growth significantly in the past four years:

  • 29% year-over-year growth reported in December 2009.
  • 30% in February 2011.
  • 38% in January 2012.
  • 55% in December 2012. 

So what does this mean for you and your marketing team?

Marketing in the ‘Big Data’ World

What is ‘Big Data’?

‘Big Data’ refers to any data sets which are so large and complex they are difficult to manage using traditional methods and software. This includes anything from medical records and military surveillance to the results of the Large Hadron Collider experiments. 

What the ‘Big Data’ marketers are concerned with is mainly the digital content that’s being created at a phenomenal rate that you can use to gain insights into your customers.

Think YouTube videos, social media platforms, Facebook Likes, Instagram photos, instant poll results, LinkedIn group discussions… It’s even been called ‘the sexiest new marketing tool around‘.

There’s now so much information available about customers that innovations are emerging to handle these disparate forms of data. It’s imperative for marketers to understand these, in order to stay successful in the shifting digital landscape. 

It means that there are novel opportunities to deliver targeted customer experiences based on in-depth insights. This will enable businesses to develop relationships with customers and keep them engaged over the long term.

MarketingProfs recent seminar ‘How to Harness Big Data for Your B2B CRM Efforts’ revealed that: 

  • 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years.
  • 80% of this new-growth data is unstructured content, meaning it can’t be stored in rows and columns, such as emails, presentations, images, videos, social media posts and conversations, and PDFs.

Instead, organisations are storing this data as Blobs (Binary Large Objects) in relational databases and using it to gather intelligence about what people are interested in, what they’re saying about the companies whose products they have bought, and what they might do next. 

Combining these insights with the interactions that your email marketing results and advanced analytics reveal gives a fuller picture of customer interests than was possible before.

Five ways to stay ahead in the ‘Big Data’ world 

Tip one: make your digital marketing team a data driven one 

The amount of data now available can seem overwhelming. 

Econsultancy’s recent  Online Measurement and Strategy Report 2013 found that many marketers were confused by the term, and it has yet to make a real impact on business goals for many. 

While the change to a more analytical role may seem daunting to many marketers, there are some simple steps to making the transition to a data driven team easier (thanks to Hubspot), which in summary are: 

  • Put the right analytics in place.
  • Assign specific metrics to individual marketing team members.
  • Establish benchmarks.
  • Set metrics-driven goals.
  • Have regular progress reports.
  • Back up marketing decisions with data.
  • Reward the highest achievers.
  • Use data to drive content creation.
  • Use A/B testing.
  • Share your data driven research across the business.

Tip two: be clear about what you want your Big Data to enable you to do

Without a goal in mind for what you want your data to help you achieve, you’ll be floundering in a world of analysis for no good reason.

Marketers’ top three priorities (according to Aberdeen Group) are:

  • Improving targeting of marketing offers (getting the right person, in the right channel, at the right time, with the right message) – 52%.
  • Aligning overall marketing activities with specific sales goals and objectives – 43%.
  • Gaining insight about the effectiveness of specific marketing campaigns and channels – 39%

Tip three: don’t just look back, look ahead

So you’ve got a handle on all the data, and have your processes in place. Now, to make the most of what it reveals about what your customers and prospects have done in the past, use it to predict what they’ll do in the future.

Using the knowledge you are gathering about when your customers make their purchase decisions makes marketing products or services to them when they want or need them much easier.

Tip four: integrate your data storage to gain holistic insights from structured and unstructured data

Harnessing the power of Big Data advanced analytics in a format that is easy to digest, analyse and share has been one of the biggest problems of the digital data explosion, but things are changing.

In 2011, the winner of the top prize at the Media Guardian Innovation Awards was Apache Hadoop, an open source, flexible storage framework that can handle both structured and unstructured files and share analysis from them.

Another new kid on the block is Origami Logic, which is a product built specifically for marketers that brings together big data analytics, data science and data visualisation technologies to deliver marketing insights. Integrated with a CRM system, these tools can work wonders. 

Tip five: remember that old-style marketing fundamentals remain the same, they are just delivered in a new way

The fundamentals of marketing remain the same, with the aims still being to build your brand, create awareness, and encourage trial, repeat purchase, preference and advocacy.

So make sure your team has an excellent grounding in the old ways and an appetite to deliver them in new ways.