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Death By Big Data

Marketing

Death By Big Data image death by big data toe tag 3 300x228If some data is good, more data is better, right? And why stop at more data when you could have BIG DATA? While this sounds like a logical philosophy for marketers, the reality is that most of them suffer from death by data. If they’re already choking on data to the point where the best they can do with that data is compile and purge it on their CMO’s desk, they could be doing more harm than good. With big data, wouldn’t it be better to interpret, act and report rather than collect, collate and purge?

On Search Engine Watch, Thom Craver shared his take-aways from the SES Toronto event, which featured a keynote by Google’s Avinash Kaushik on data analytics. Avinash urged everyone to avoid “data puking” since that essentially tells your boss “here’s the data, go find the hidden jewels.” The CMO and the rest of the c-suite already have mountains of data from which they’re expected to extract meaningful trends they can act upon. Giving them heaps of marketing-centric data just passes the death-by-data buck up the chain of command.

Instead, Thom suggests that marketers must go beyond reporting metrics and use data to tell a story. They must analyze and make recommendations on how the company can act on the information revealed in the data. Excellent advice since executives would prefer their teams add value rather than give them more data to add up themselves.

But I’d recommend taking things a step further by admitting to yourself and your boss when the volume and velocity of data is simply too much. For some marketing purposes – like search marketing challenges around semantic search, customer intent, and real-time routing – it is simply not possible for a marketing team to do it alone. The data is simply too big and too fast for even the best team of brilliant people, monkeys or interns to act on. The volume of queries and noise in the long-tail of search marketing is not somewhere people can be effective. Big Data Apps, with their web-wide data and machine learning, are the only way to make it profitable, overcome death-by-data and report some numbers the c-suite will understand and embrace (ROI and revenue).

Miller’s Law says that the average number of objects the human mind can hold in working memory is 7 (±2). Obviously big data analytics tools, or even Excel, can go way beyond that. But when the numbers are crunched and it’s time to analyze and act, how many trends, opportunities, or actionable nuggets of information can you keep straight in your mind? Even if you’re on the high end of the spectrum, you can count them on both hands. That’s not exactly making the most of all that data, since the long-tail provides selling opportunities well beyond those revealed in the biggest 7 trends.

If your big data strategy moves from data purge to action, terrific! Just make sure you admit when and where you need help.

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