Big data is a big deal, but why? Short answer – it’s a gold mine. If you find the appropriate tools to mine that data and identify what it is the data is telling you, you’ve hit pay dirt (assuming you take appropriate action). Many individuals and organizations collect large amounts of data, but few really leverage it in their day-to-day business decisions. So, what is big data, how can you leverage it and what tools will help you do so?

What is Big Data?

The term big data refers to large, often widely dispersed data sets.  For a company, this data might be gathered in various software platforms – CRM systems, marketing systems, various databases, etc. It encompasses all those random bits of information you gather/receive on your customers (or employees, competitors, etc.), such as those numbers speaking to their usage of an ever-increasing number of social media networks, their demographic, geographic or industry information, the offers they download and their clicks on your site. The challenge for today’s marketer is taking all their disparate sources of data and somehow distilling them into numbers that give meaning and drive individuals to take profitable business decisions.

Big Data: Portrait of a Customer

Big data offers a variety of opportunities for increased efficiency and better decision-making across the board, and one of the best opportunities for marketers rests in customer segmentation. With all this minute information on individual customers, we have an unprecedented view into the consumer mind. Your customer’s internet usage is a large window into their soul and their digital footprint is one you can examine and leverage, if you have the right tools and know-how.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is close to our hearts because it focuses on creating experiences and messages that people want to hear and gets those messages in front of the appropriate audience. But it also makes the best business sense. Inbound marketing techniques ensure you reach the people that want to hear you, and vice versa. This means better qualified leads, fewer annoyed and unqualified prospects and, ultimately, more sales and customers.

Marketing Software

For data to be useful, it needs to have some meaning. For it to have meaning, it needs to be aggregated. And it would be helpful if it was distilled into numbers we can garner meaning from. This is where solid inbound marketing practices backed by software come in. Programs like HubSpot aggregate consumer data and put it in charts, reports and graphs that allow you to not only track the efficacy of your efforts, but also identify common characteristics within your consumer and audience groups. I can see basic data, such as how much traffic my site has in a given day, week, month or quarter. I can see what social media posts have garnered the most interest or what channels my audience most frequents. I can track that 54 people downloaded my eBook, “The Complete Guide to Cloud Computing Capabilities” and they were delivered to my landing page from social media, specifically LinkedIn and Twitter. I could see that these individuals were employed largely in the manufacturing industry. (And then I can place these contacts into a lead nurturing track that will email them 3 predetermined emails with other offers and information they might find helpful and relevant.)

My system has even more power when I integrate it with a CRM, such as Salesforce, and I share data across platforms to get the most complete customer picture for my sales and marketing teams. Three cheers for extracting simplicity from complexity! For enterprise inbound marketing, this is a great time and money saver.

Data Drives Decision, People Take Action

The most difficult piece of the big data puzzle is not getting your hands on it. The biggest challenge most organizations have is finding the right people to interpret it – its trends and patterns – and taking action based on those individuals’ insights. Data drives decisions, but people are the decision makers and decision takers.  Data collection for the sake of data collection does no one any good. To harness the power of big data an organization needs to employ insightful people that understand the power and processes behind all the bits of information, people capable of making and taking decisions that will lead to a more efficient and profitable organization.

So, what data is your organization collecting, and how do you leverage it?