The Marketers' Big Data Playbook

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Marketing pundits share their top four game plans for Big Data.

Marketing pundits share their top four game plans for Big Data.
Marketing pundits share their top four game plans for Big Data.

To be a winner in the Big Data game, you need a strategy—an unbeatable strategy. However, the constant rush of new technologies designed to equip marketers with the tools necessary to capture and manage more information often leave them feeling as if they're on the defensive instead. Without question, data analytics is getting more complex, but marketers don't have to sit on the sidelines; they can go on the offense with a game plan that helps them leverage and take action on Big Data.

“The actual size and quantity of Big Data isn't necessarily important for marketers,” says Bruce Williams, director, media practice lead for digital marketing agency 360i. “Small and clever can achieve more than big and complex.” He adds that it's what marketers do with data that can make for impactful, profitable campaigns: “Big Data doesn't have to necessarily be big [for marketers] to see big results.”

Williams and several other data experts provide a play-by-play of four effective Big Data strategies for marketers.

Simplify the data
To play ball, marketers must organize and simplify the data they have. Williams says that means paring down complex data into simple, personal insights that marketers can take action on.

“Brand marketers don't have to stitch together every last piece of data that exists just to make it actionable,” he explains. “They just have to be flexible and use [the data] that's available to them. It really gets down to simplification of the data points.”

Williams says there are indicators within the data that can lead marketers to the information they should be extracting from it: “There are so many trends and signals within the data,” he notes. “Focusing on what those trends and signals are and how customers are interacting will enable [marketers] to simplify all of that information.”

Connect the data
As the name suggests, Big Data is voluminous. “The volume of information that we produce as a society is doubling every 12 to 18 months,” says Justin Schuster, VP of marketing at data onboarding company LiveRamp. Schuster explains that with the explosion of digital devices customers use that creates data and the emerging technology marketers use to collect data, all of that information must be linked. “Marketers must connect [customer] data to fuel search optimization, and determine how websites are personalized; [marketers should] even connect transaction data to ad impression information and exposure data so they can do an attribution analysis.”

Schuster says marketers can go for the double play by taking offline data (e.g., in-store purchases) and connecting it to online data (e.g., digital ad views) to improve targeting. “By connecting the purchase information they have, marketers can determine the best way to target a particular audience.” Schuster adds that by connecting the dots, marketers can also suppress customers and prospects they don't want to reach: “The messages you do send [will have] a higher yield.”

Quality check the data
The ongoing collection of data should also mean consistent quality checks. “Quality data is data that is accurate, correct, and portrays the consumer as a person versus a mass segment,” says Lisa Arthur, CMO of marketing applications at Teradata, a provider of analytic data platforms. “If I have data but I can't do anything with it, it's not helping me engage my customer more effectively.” Arthur says data of low quality doesn't provide insight, thus will produce less effective or simply ineffective campaigns: “If I've got access to data but it's bad [information], the outcome will be the same [as not having any data].”

Don't overestimate Big Data
Marketers shouldn't risk striking out by concentrating on only Big Data; rather, they should focus on small and open data—or actionable, free insights. “Big Data is important, but it's not everything,” says Marina MacDonald, CMO of Red Roof Inn. MacDonald cites how the hotel chain used flight cancellation information and weather forecasts to make relevant offers to stranded airport passengers this past winter. “Marketers have to determine when the marketing [campaign] resonates with the right people,” she says. “To do that, you have to use the right data—not necessarily Big Data—to give the message to the right person, in the right place.”

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