From Big to Smart Data – A rough guide to data-driven marketing

Big Data is the hot topic of the moment. From a variety of industries, to publications and even sports – absolutely everyone is talking about it.

In 2014 the global market was estimated at more than €50bn, with industries such as medicine celebrating first successes with individualized therapies. Needless to say, big data plays a huge role in marketing – both online and offline.

The marketer’s dilemma

Marketing decision-makers face a big dilemma. On the one hand, they are supposed to embrace data-driven marketing by basing more decisions on data. On the other hand, a number of studies show that the benefits of big data are still questioned.

What the marketing world needs now is CHANGE

Losing sight of the bigger picture seems to be a common side effect of a higher degree of specialization in different areas of marketing. Therefore, what is important here are inter-departmental meetings to make common decisions based on data.

Even though handling data seems like a fairly new idea for companies with no current set rules, getting into the subject matter is well worth it. The common goal must be to move from the established input-orientated definition of big data, through the so called “3V-perspective” (volume, velocity and variety of data), to a more output-oriented perspective, where the concrete questions to be answered are defined before the data is gathered. Through this we can develop a fourth V: Value.

From Big Data to Smart Data – the new 4P’s of data-driven marketing

As established, it is not just the volume of data gathered, but its precise selection and combination. The answer to questions critical to marketing success is ‘smart data’, not big data. And since most companies seem to have the same kind of questions, smart data practices are just a scalable as big data ones.

  1. PURPOSE: Without absolute clarity concerning the decisions to be made, “metrics that matter” can’t be clearly defined. Goals must be strategically defined before gathering data. Only a small fraction of all available data has to be gathered at a central location.
  2. PEOPLE: All “Data-driven Marketing” is automatically a “Change Project”. Responsible employees of all marketing divisions and agencies need to work together to profitably implement recommendations for action.
  3. PROCESS: Traditional data silos need to be cracked open and new processes must be defined, which incorporate the expertise of all stakeholders. Mixing is important. Through the combination of traditional market research data and new, mostly digital, data, the value of smart data becomes apparent. This smart data supports the much-needed process of change towards data-driven marketing.
  4. PLATFORM: Replace elaborate IT solutions with intelligent, streamlined and significant data science concepts and dashboard solutions. Replace “we can explain everything” with “we explain what we need to explain and can implement”.

The main benefits of Smart Data

  • Transparency helps an holistic understanding of the customer
    It is crucial to understand all marketing processes holistically. Optimizing individual sections without taking into consideration the whole picture would probably be counterproductive.
  • “Closer to real-time” marketing control increases marketing efficiency
    Transparency can help companies continually increase their marketing efficiency. Ideally this happens through an iterative learning process. The goal is not to immediately increase your Marketing ROI, but to gradually improve and gain a better understanding of the customer. This will lead to better brand management and thus a better brand experience for customers.
  • Data-driven marketing planning leads the way from paid media to owned media-driven traffic
    Through learning and created efficiencies, money can be saved, which in turn can be used to create original, exciting content and implement innovations that improve the customer experience. Both better content and targeted innovations, based on data driven marketing decisions, pave the way from paid-media-driven traffic to owned-media-driven traffic. Online and offline!

What is happening now?

Nobody working in marketing can avoid the topic “data”; simply ignoring it could cause severe competitive disadvantages. Dealing with available data has influenced all agencies involved in value creation. Creative minds feel that their creativity is threatened by data monitoring. However, the fact is that while creative, high-quality ideas are still needed, their success can only be measured through data.

In the future, new sources of data will help to manage marketing excellence – for instance through location-based marketing used to predict regional marketing performance, or marketing automation which will enable less complex tasks to be performed by semi-automatic processes.

What is essential in all of this, though, is for businesspeople to stay virtuous. Data needs to be handled confidentially at all times. At present, a marketing decision maker’s success is judged not only by whether they can offer their customers the best experience possible, but also whether they can further their business success.

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