What's the Big Deal With Big Data?

  |  August 15, 2012   |  Comments

How do you leverage big data to build relationships and improve marketing and business performance?

Are you feeling the same thing I am - a current of chaos and a bit of bipolarity in this ever-changing world of ours? Maybe it's because I'm fully entrenched in the digital world that pivots hourly, or more likely it's the fact that I have two little ones under the age of two. Either way, I'm guessing you're feeling it, living it, and wondering how to deal.

I'm sure most would agree, the business world is no different; it's actually worse. Rapid, real change in business is omnipresent. Whether it be the changing geo-political winds of the European Union and the fate of the euro itself to the cooling off of China to the fact that large, multinational blue chips like Lehman Brothers have gone out of business seemingly overnight. Or within the industry itself, like the rise of Netflix at the expense of Blockbuster. Take a closer look at General Motors for that matter, a true stalwart of the American manufacturing engine for the past century. The largest market cap of all U.S. companies in 1999 at $50 billion and $100 a share…to declaring bankruptcy less than a decade later - ouch. At the same time, a 15-month-old tech company with 13 employees like Instagram can demand a $1 billion valuation in months - months! Real change, real pain, real fast.

As the industry changes, so do our customers and so does their journey. On average we look at 10.4 sources before purchasing, 92 percent of us rely on word of mouth first and foremost, and 83 percent of moms research online before purchasing almost anything (even toothpaste!). Our customers' journey and expectations have changed and it's only just begun.

OK, got it. Change. What does big data have to do with this? Because the fundamentals of business and marketing have changed; customers have control; and the barriers to entry are minimal - competition can enter and win quickly. Hence, your customer relationships become your largest asset and the key to long-term viability. And data becomes the introduction to, enabler of, and insight into these relationships. Your product, IP, brand, customer service, and other viable differentiators are now the enablers but not the key. Of the over 1,700 CEOs interviewed by IBM, over 70 percent believe the number one macro goal is to get closer to the customer and to develop "a better understanding of individual customer needs and improved responsiveness."

So what is the key? Luckily we now have access to more data than we've ever had (explicit and implicit); and it's easier and cheaper to store, collect, and connect at the customer level. This makes big data a big, big deal. John Battelle of Federated Media would tell you: "Those companies that can have one-to-one conversations at scale will win."

Specifically, how do you leverage big data to build relationships and improve marketing and business performance? Below I've touched on the highlights of how and what. We'll dive deeper into each in future posts.

  1. Attribute. In a nutshell, big data allows you to better understand which channels, which content, and which messaging on which device is working best. With that insight, we can reinvest our efforts to build the right content and experience in the right places. Better experience, better ROI.
  2. Close the loop. Know what's working. Which channels are driving results? Which are wasting your time and budget? Typically in a B2B, high-consideration, multi-touch sales process most marketers are only tracking web activity to lead. This only tells a part of the story. In reality, marketing campaigns are still interacting with people into the late stages of the buying process. Jerry Maguire says it best: "Show me the money!" With the right approach and technology you can connect your data to lead to sale; and directly tie marketing activity to revenue. Score! You and your budgets grow!
  3. Personalize. Once you've closed the loop and have rich customer data, you can then deliver the right message to the right person at the right time on the right device. Leveraging regression modeling and validated engagement scoring, you can help reengineer success and provide a more relevant experience for everyone - based on industry vertical or job function. Be über-relevant and build the customer relationship.
  4. Improve sales efficiency and effectiveness. In addition to driving more qualified leads via the approaches above, give the sales department more relevant information at the right time. When you leverage scoring to alert the sales team that two known visitors and 15 unknowns from Sony are engaging with the website and email campaigns, that's game-changing. Now, predict who will buy, what they will buy, and when they will buy it. The sales team is closing business faster; you're breaking down walls, building bridges, and showing the value of your campaigns to the bottom line.

Change isn't easy. Big data is messy. But the optimist in me sees enormous opportunity with change. Big luck with big data!

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Thad Kahlow

Thad Kahlow is the CEO of BusinessOnline and is responsible for the entrepreneurial leadership of all operations. His visionary leadership style has helped propel the company into the online marketing spotlight, making BusinessOnline one of the nation's leading digital agencies. He focuses on the alignment of business goals and customer needs so our clients can make business decisions guided by information that matters. Thad's "roll-up-the-sleeves and get it done" attitude coupled with a commitment to client relationships allows him to effectively direct the agency to support large engagements with sophisticated, global clients.

Thad is considered an authority on online marketing. He has presented at numerous industry and executive conferences including the DMA, HTMA, AMT, and Online Marketing Summit, is published in leading trade and business publications like iMedia, ERA, and B2B Magazine, and was one of the original founding members of the SEMPO institute.

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