Big Data. It’s the marketing buzzword of 2012. You’ve probably seen countless articles about “The Rise of Big Data”; or heard the rallying cry “You need to be equipped to handle big data!” For many organizations and executives, the term Big Data seems intimidating. It conjures thoughts of endless strings of numbers and complex equations. But while the process of collecting and analyzing data may be complex, understanding the power of data doesn’t have to be. Let’s push aside all the Big Data hype and focus on what’s really important: How data will benefit your business.
2.7 Zetabytes of data exist in the digital universe today.*
First Things First – What Exactly Is “Big Data”?
If you’re having trouble finding a solid definition of “Big Data”, it’s because their isn’t one. Like all business buzzwords, Big Data has been tossed around like a dog toy. In the process, it’s accumulated different meanings. NYTimes.com recently published an article (“How Big Data Became So Big”) exploring the origin, usage and meaning of the term. The piece reveals Big Data can mean “applying the tools of artificial intelligence, like machine learning, to vast new troves of data” or it can be used more symbolically. Rod A. Smith, an I.B.M. vice president for emerging Internet technologies says: “Big Data is really about new uses and new insights, not so much the data itself.”
14.9% of marketers polled in Crain’s BtoB Magazine are still wondering “What is Big Data?”*
So where does that leave us? Nowhere really. But the term itself isn’t really important. People love buzzwords, but they don’t ultimately mean that much. What does mean something is what data can do for you. At eleventy, we believe data should be a driving force in every organization’s marketing. Why? Because the numbers tell the truth. They make your business – whether it’s selling to customers or reaching out to donors – that much easier. Data creates a path for your marketing to follow. That’s why it is an invaluable tool every organization should be using.
Four Ways Data Can Drive Your Marketing
Enough semantics, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes. How can data help make your organization’s marketing better, stronger and more effective? Here are four ways:
1. Reach the RIGHT PEOPLE
In a world of 100% ideal marketing, every person you reach with your message would purchase your product or donate to your organization. While that kind of marketing perfection may be near impossible, data can bring you closer. You can use data to whittle your audience down to the people most likely to respond. You can look at the data makeup of your existing customers and pinpoint common traits – income, age, gender, location, occupation, hobbies, purchases, etc. Then you can use that information to target people with similar characteristics (based on collected data). This can improve response rate, increase efficiency and boost your marketing return on investment.
Data production will be 44 times greater in 2020 than it was in 2009.*
2. Reach customers at the RIGHT TIME
Data not only tells you who will be most likely to respond, it can also be used to tell you when they will be most likely to respond. By collecting and monitoring data on how people interact with your organization, you can begin to extrapolate patterns. You can use data to reach customers and donors more effectively and efficiently. For example: if your calling data indicates a customer rarely answers the phone in the morning or afternoon but frequently answers in the evening, you can target your calls only during the evening hours. This way you save the time, effort and cost of making calls at a time the customer is unlikely to answer.
Facebook stores, accesses, and analyzes 30+ Petabytes of user-generated data.*
3. Reach individuals with the RIGHT OFFER
One of the biggest benefits of data for consumers and companies alike is that it can be used to create more personalized experiences. Based on what people purchase or causes they support (as mapped out in the data), organizations can customize offers and opportunities to the individual. If you know an individual has bought certain electronics recently, you can recommend accessories for those products. If an individual has donated to various nonprofits in the past, you can show how your organization is doing related work. If an individual has children of a certain age, you can suggest products other parents of children that age have bought. The possibilities are endless. But it all points to tailoring the marketing experience to the individual.
29% of companies report that their marketing departments have “too little or no customer/consumer data”.*
4. Reach people through the RIGHT CHANNELS
Another incredibly valuable insight data can tell us is how people prefer to respond. With so many communication channels available, people connect in different ways. Using data, we can get a better sense of how individuals prefer to communicate. For example: We can learn that Joe prefers to use email for customer service requests, likes to gets deals and offers through social media, and responds to phone calls from nonprofits. On the other hand: Jane does all her customer service communication via phone, wants deals and offers in her inbox, and most frequently responds to donation requests through direct mail. Organizations can use that data to reach individuals in the most effective way possible. As a result, people will be more apt to respond positively.
The volume of business data worldwide, across all companies, doubles every 1.2 years.*
In this new age of customized marketing, data is an amazingly powerful tool. Data gives organizations the ability to speak to personal preferences and tailor marketing to the individual. When implemented properly, data creates a map for organizations – showing you how to reach the right people at the right time with the right offer through the right channel. Don’t be put off or intimidated by the term Big Data. Today, using data to better segment your audience and create more focused messaging doesn’t have to be daunting. Technology is making it easier every day. The truly “big” aspect of data is the benefits your organization will see as the result of more refined marketing.
*Big Data statistics from WikiBon’s “A Comprehensive List of Big Data Statistics”