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Big Data in Marketing: What’s all the Fuss About?

Yesterday I attended the monthly Triangle American Marketing Association luncheon:  CMOs and CIOs Collaborating to Use Big Data for More Successful Campaigns. Bryce Gartner, founder and CEO of Icimo, spoke and then opened it up for discussion and a question and answer session. So what exactly did the head of a “top 50 big data startup to watch” company, who has also been a CMO and CTO, have to say about big data? A lot. This is a rough summary and interpretation of Bryce’s presentation.

The big picture concept throughout, and one to keep in mind for all marketers really, is the push toward using data-driven rather than opinion-based decisions. In order to succeed in this “new world” of marketing and technology, there has to be a better way to know your audience, reach them and then measure the results. The way to do this is by analyzing the data you have available. “Doing” big data means knowing your business better, and the answers lie in your data.

So how do you currently find your data? Do you send a report request to IT and wait for the result for two weeks only to find it’s not exactly the data you wanted? That’s a pain point for marketers and IT people alike. Marketing gets frustrated because they had to wait, and it’s not even right, while IT thinks marketing doesn’t even know what they want. In this situation, IT has a backlog of hundreds of reports that they can’t output fast enough.

Or, is your marketing team a bit more autonomous because you’ve practiced “shadow IT” where your CMO has purchased and implemented technology to analyze your data without getting the official IT approval? You might be able to function that way, but in the end, the CIO/CMO relationship is strained further. So why can’t marketing implement technology they need to increase revenue if it comes from their budget? Simply put, in the end it’s the CIO who’s going to get the call at 2 a.m. if customer information is leaked or there’s a system breach.

Basically, CMOs and CIOs need to develop an efficient and effective relationship where marketing can be self-reliant, but the worry of implementation and cost isn’t a burden to the CIO. The resistance from the CIO comes from this issue being one among database housing, server issues, system infrastructure, security and more. The resistance of the CMO comes from the fact that they have to react quickly in order to make a good campaign great, and be able to know their audience better. Many times involving IT in a technical decision can drag that out for months.

The case needs to be made that big data does not equal big dollars or big time commitments. A few easy to use and relatively inexpensive programs Bryce mentioned were Tableau, QlikTech and Spotfire. On a more intricate and costlier level, he mentioned IBM, SAS, SAP and Microsoft platforms for big data.

Another barrier for data-driven marketing comes from the resistance to use data at all. In the past, the glory of marketing has gone to the creative who comes up with the award-winning idea. (If anyone watches The Crazy Ones, the “Simon Roberts Was Here” episode epitomizes this point.) But even to measure the effectiveness of great creative, you still need data to tell you whether an ad, jingle, event or something else led to conversions.

Another issue is the embarrassment of thinking you don’t have good data. Newsflash:  No one has clean data. But you won’t improve without making it a priority. And making data a priority is exactly what companies are doing. According to Informantica, half of Fortune 500 companies will have a Chief Data Officer by 2015. This emphasis on big data tells us that businesses believe that there is data-driven effect on their revenue.

Regardless of how your company is currently handling big data, the topic is going to stay for a while. So make sure that the information you have backs your thoughts and ideas. Your gut-feeling shouldn’t be abandoned, but justifying marketing campaigns with data that comes directly from customers will go a long way convincing the C-Suite to back your latest marketing budget.

To learn more about big data in marketing, check out our Data-Driven Marketing Boot Camp.

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