3 Lessons Marketing Pros Need To Learn From Big Data

Big Data is Valuable to MarketersIf you haven’t noticed yet, big data and analytics are serious buzz words right now. Just last year, Harvard Business Review declared that data scientist was the “sexiest” job of the century. Some experts even believe that big data will have a bigger impact on business than the IT revolution of the late 20th century. Can you even imagine what life was like when companies used typewriters instead of computers, and file cabinets instead of search engines? Technology changed everything, and so will big data.

To be clear, big data isn’t just an “IT thing.” It’s capable of changing every department in your organization, from finance to risk, and yes, especially marketing. It’s a phenomenon that’s poised to disrupt how marketers attract, engage, and convert customers.

What is Big Data, and Where is it Coming From?

What is big data, anyway? IBM says it’s defined by volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. However, that concept isn’t especially accessible for most of us. HCA’s Chief Data Scientist Edmund Jackson defines it in two different ways. One, it’s a volume of data that can’t be contained in traditional data centers (think server rooms). Second, and most importantly, it’s enough data to make things very personalized for everyone. Your laptop, tablet, mobile device and GPS all generate huge volumes of data each day. The smartest organizations are using these insights to up their game significantly.

Big data is how Amazon’s recommendation engine and Netflix (usually) know exactly what you like. It’s how Target can predict that you’re pregnant before you can. Big data is used to drive everything from car insurance quotes to credit card offers, inventory at big box stores, and even health care treatments. No industry or profession will be immune from the impact of the data revolution. Here are some things marketers can safely predict from big data:

Big Data Technology Will Become Commoditized and Cheap

As recently as 5 or 10 years ago, advanced data analytics were a tool reserved for very big budgets. Insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and credit card companies all had extremely complex models to determine your creditworthiness or risks. Small businesses that couldn’t afford talented actuaries weren’t able to develop the same insights.

Now the tables are turning, and it couldn’t be more exciting. There’s a new wealth of affordable tools. Some real-life examples for inbound marketers include:

The capabilities of these big data-based tools are absolutely mind blowing. You don’t even need any particular technology skills to uncover some seriously rich insights or launch highly-personalized marketing campaigns.

The Lesson: Learn to Keep Up

Before you run out and torture yourself trying to learn Hadoop, Java, or Cassandra, relax. Big data technologies for marketers are increasingly user-friendly and within reach. Your job will be keeping up with the latest advancements.

Business Silos Will Disappear

Inbound marketing brings together sales and marketing departments. SMarketing has the potential to improve lead generation and increase business growth. Big data is also poised to unify silos in companies of all sizes. MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar used advanced analytics to create an ROI evaluation framework in 2013, effectively aligning the companies finance and marketing arms. With the help of the right technology tools, your company will be able to create comprehensive customer profiles that guide your marketing, sales, customer services, finance, and information technology departments.

If you’re worried that your marketing job could be absorbed by a data science department, don’t fear. Gartner predicts that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on technology than IT!

The Lesson: Learn to Get Along

Be prepared to collaborate more with your colleagues. Big data will provide a unified, end-to-end customer strategy for organizations in the future.

Marketers Will Be Business Ethicists

Social media is responsible for a large percentage of big data. There are an estimated 6,000 Tweets published each second. While the volume of user-generated social media content is absolutely staggering, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the information out there is generated in less-conscious ways, such as through users’ interactions with their mobile devices and other technologies.

However, people are definitely concerned about how their data is used by businesses. A recent study by Pew on information privacy found that:

  • 91% of adults believe consumers have lost control over their personal data.
  • 61% of consumers don’t appreciate increased efficiency due to big data.
  • 64% believe advertisers should be more closely monitored by the US government.

Remember, technology is ethically neutral. Just because you have the tools to do something as a marketer doesn’t mean you should. Over-personalizing your marketing efforts can lead to some seriously creeped out customers. Even worse, selling, exploiting, or failing to protect your customer’s data could seriously devastate your brand.

Marketers will be called upon to make more and more ethical decisions about how to use data in their marketing outreach. As Gartner’s Frank Buytendijk points out, what’s considered creepy by one demographic might be completely acceptable to another. Tools will only grow more capable, so it’s going to be up to you to determine what’s morally and culturally acceptable.

The Lesson: Study Your Craft

Marketers in the future will need to guide their technology to make the right choices. It’s to your benefit to become versed in the basics of business and human ethics. Culture matters immensely, so ensure you understand your buyer persona’s attitudes towards big data and personalization.

Have you begun integrating big data into your inbound marketing strategy? What tools and tactics are you using?

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