The Executive Guide to Putting a Leash on Big Marketing Data

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For many businesses, Big Data remains an untamed beast rather than a productive workhorse. Organizations will need to learn how to rein it in if they hope to remain competitive and provide exceptional customer experiences.

As with so many other areas of the modern economy, marketing has been revolutionized in the past few years by the explosion of data collection and analytics capabilities. It’s permeated every aspect of marketing, from SEO to e-mail marketing, customer segmentation to loyalty and programs, and everything in between.

Just 14% of marketers feel their team effectively uses the consumer, media, and transaction data available to them.

It doesn’t take a marketing genius to realize the importance of processing and using Big Data, but even the most clever minds in our field struggle to make use of it.

While the vast majority of marketers understand the need for gathering and analyzing data, many still struggle with determining the best way to use that data. A recent survey by Millward Brown reports that just 14% of marketers feel their team effectively uses the consumer, media, and transaction data available to them. And our own CMO survey shows that Big Data is one of CMOs’ top three concerns, both in terms of the reliability of their data and the ability of their team to effectively use it.

It’s evident that marketing executives are still in the process of truly figuring out where Big Data belongs in the even bigger marketing picture. One thing is certain; we know it can help us make better decisions. As Carl Tsukahara, CMO of cloud data services provider Birst says, Big Data can ultimately provide a “direct measurable impact on knowing the value of budget dollars in marketing”.

How to Make Data Work With Marketing, Not Separately

According to results from the most recent Gartner CMO spend study, the top three priorities of today’s CMOs are:

  1. Driving their organization’s growth
  2. Anticipating and reacting to any competitive threats
  3. Providing an outstanding customer experience

The question, then, is how data science and analytics can help marketer recognize challenges and measure success in meeting these goals. Too often, marketers view this data gathering and analysis as a passive process that happens outside of marketing. They run the same campaigns and just use data to track things like hits and conversions, maybe tinkering with their strategy if certain elements are working better.

A more useful way to utilize big data is to be proactive about experimentation, trying out unique campaigns and targeting, then figuring out what works through data analytics. You want to marry human creativity that can’t be contained in raw numbers with the analytical rigor to establish which efforts need to be pursued further.

That means finding not just talented marketers to fill your team, but also dedicated marketing analytics experts. That kind of talent isn’t easy to find, but is well worth any time you spend looking for them or working with a marketing analytics recruiter.

On the customer experience side of the equation, Big Data can be used to anticipate customer needs. You want to develop a platform that provides real-time responses to customer requests, and that means tracking user activity and feedback on your web properties in order to determine their primary needs.

Aiming for the Right Target

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Big Data itself shouldn’t be a marketing goal; it’s a means to an end. CMOs need to determine how to make the transition from Big Data to useful data. Often, marketing teams get so overwhelmed with the sheer volume of data they receive from CRMs, databases, market research and other sources that they end up losing the forest for the trees.

The key step for marketers is to figure out which metrics are essential to their brand, and which are merely interesting factoids. That means determining which metrics are most closely correlated with key brand objectives such as sales growth, market share and customer retention.

According to Azita Martin, CMO of data processing and reporting company Datameer, essential data metrics are those that clearly identify what gets prospects to convert to customers, and identifies which campaigns have had the most impact on customer acquisition. On the brand awareness side, brand mentions and search, media impressions, social media mentions, and number of social media followers are essential metrics to analyzing the customer experience.

“Nice-to-have” measurements, while important for understanding the overall health of marketing, are secondary. As WynnDurva, CMO of data crunching company Druva explains,

“Those metrics which are more the ‘canary in the coal’ mine ones. You want to track them because they show trends in the business that when take a dip (or spike) means something is probably not working the way it is supposed to and gives you an area of focus in which to drill into.” 

The most obvious example of the kind of data points that might not have much of a direct impact on sales are things like Twitter followers, Facebook likes, etc. General attention and traffic online is nice, but not a guarantee for ROI. Find the metrics that are essential to your business, have tangible links to your KPIs, and experiment with ways to improve those metrics.

Revealing the Humans Behind the Data Curtain

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Marketers sometimes bemoan how the increased volume of data in all walks of life seems to hide people behind statistics. Indeed, it can be easy to forget that the source of nearly every marketing data point in a spreadsheet or chart or database is a living, breathing human beings with thoughts and dreams and needs.

But when Big Data is used properly, it should actually bring your marketers closer to your customer. Data is a way to understand people and it requires an investment in your own human capital develop that perspective.

But when Big Data is used properly, it should actually bring your marketers closer to your customer.

 The problem lies not with Big Data itself, but your team’s ability to accumulate and use it. A recent Adobe survey of marketing professionals found that many companies lack the analytical skills to properly make use of their data. Without effective marketing analytics staffing and data science recruitment, organizations fail to gather the talent they need to turn data into action. Machines can gather data, but it takes people with analytical and creative minds to turn all those numbers into actionable insights.

Adjusting Your Understanding of Data

The demand for statisticians that can work as and alongside marketers is booming, and employment growth for data analysts in general is expected to significantly outpace the overall labor market over the next decade.

In addition to investing in their own people, CMOs need to adjust their mindset to think of data as a way to understand their customers as people. The end goal of data analytics is to be able to quickly respond to individual needs.

Some executives have gone so far as to say that Big Data means customer segmentation will become irrelevant. Businesses will eventually need to understand each customer as an individual, not as a part of a larger demographic.

“Marketers will say my job has always been to understand customers segments,” says IBM CEO Ginni Rommetty. “The shift is to go from the segment to the individual. It spells the death of the average customer.”

Article source: Forbes

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