Big data is now the “New New Thing” in marketing and companies big and small are scrambling on what to make out of this emerging big datahot subject. The articles on this topic are often stark, with the implication of disaster if companies don’t embrace big data – like, your company will be eaten alive by competitors who are more strategic and agile because they embraced big data. This post is an attempt at separating facts from hype, and to suggest key areas for your marketing organization to start tapping into big data.

What is Big Data?

First of all, what is big data? There are plenty of definitions all over. The one I like most in the context of marketing is as follows: “Big data is extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

With the availability of cheap cloud storage utilities like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services, some companies may be inclined to store data in large quantities without any game plan on how to make use of it. In a survey by Gartner, businesses responded that they plan to store all kinds of data in massive quantities – “every data source received 30 to 40 percent of responses including extremely challenging data sources like audio and video.” This is what happens when organizations look for a solution without identifying which problems to solve, and that’s exactly what every high performance marketing team needs to avoid.

First, identify the problems data can solve

Now, how to identify key problems that your business needs to solve with big data? Forrester’s “Forrsights Strategy Spotlight: Business Intelligence And Big Data” study notes that “High-growth firms are more interested in what’s possible tomorrow than what’s painful today.” I think this is a very admirable goal. But the reality is that there are many pain points today that companies can solve by embracing big data. Therefore, realistically, you want to identify a list of the areas that are a combination of existing pain points and future possibilities for your own company. With that in mind, here is my list of the areas that show the greatest promise with big data for B2B marketers:

1. Connect the dots between marketing activities to opportunity creation

Marketing teams are busy planning and implementing campaigns, such as email campaigns, web page optimization, social media participation, tradeshows, and more. How to assess contribution of these activities to outcomes such as “opportunity creation by Sales”? In the simplest form, it requires connecting the worlds of marketing automation and CRM. Such data integration can answer questions ranging from “How many opportunities did my email campaigns create?” to more micro-level questions like “What is the comparison of Opportunity amounts influenced by email A vs. email B?” Such insights will help justify resource investments in campaigns and help marketers plan marketing asset creation better.

2. Find the true ROI of marketing spend

ROIWith basic tools and level integration, marketing organizations can estimate rudimentary KPIs like “cost per lead.” But with a foray into a big data environment, you can gain more significant insights such as true ROI for each dollar spend by initiative. Examples include the return on PPC spend or trade show attendance. With fewer approximations and fuzzy math involved, your ROI estimates will gain a more receptive ear from your CFO, which will prove to be beneficial for your next budget.

3. Identify the true value of a visitor for outbound marketing

Every day thousands of visitors (most of them anonymously) visit your website and research your products. What if you can identify the company the visitor represents using a reverse lookup of IP, combine that with external data (industry, employee size, technologies that they use, etc.), and send alerts to your outbound marketing team? They would love these relevant leads.

4. Identify the priority for following up on an inbound lead

Once a prospect expresses interest in your product, you can attach a number of external variables to the prospect’s record such as demographic (employee size, industry, etc.) and behavioral information (web pages visited, emails opened, etc). You can even factor in fancier data points such as – is this company hiring new employees, did they just receive funding, are they in a buying cycle of new products, the growth rate of their industry, and so on, to further qualify and prioritize the inbound lead.

5. Leverage customer marketing to increase product use and decrease customer support needs

As any high performing marketing organization knows, signing a new customer is not the end of marketing. Marketing efforts need to continue to educate the customer on your product’s features and various ways to generate most benefit (through drip email campaigns, customer webinars, customer summits, etc.). Effective customer marketing also reduces the need for customers to call your customer support team, saving you significant organizational expenses. Big data can connect the world of marketing and customer support, enabling you to install and fine-tune best practices for customer marketing

Go beyond the obvious

Some of you may find the five areas listed above not a big leap from your current capabilities. First, kudos to you if that is the case, because you are already well prepared to embrace big data. Bringing in big data elements (especially combining more data sources, advanced analytics, pattern recognition, and real-time alerts) will allow you to increase the effectiveness of your marketing programs. Moreover, it will allow you to identify opportunities that you had not thought of before, resulting in a more strategic and agile business that can compete in tomorrow’s marketplace.

Also, on the topic of big data, we want to mention our newly announced “Data Studio” feature that allows you to extract data from Act-On platform and even a connected CRM tool (like Salesforce). Furthermore, Data Studio comes with analytics and visualizations capabilities built in, and gives you the ability to use external business intelligence tools. With Data Studio enabled, every Act-On customer is well into the world of big data and better prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow. You can see the details of Data
Studio here

New marketing tools – and rapidly changing buyer behaviors – are driving marketers to find better metrics for evaluating their efforts. So what metrics should you focus on today? Find out with this guide, The New Marketing Metrics for B2B – it’s a five-step action plan that will show you how to identify your marketing objectives, select the most powerful metrics that indicate success and track the right data, at the right time.