If you're a marketer and Big Data is keeping you up at night, take comfort in knowing you're not alone. According to a recent IBM survey, the percentage of CMO's who feel under prepared to deal with the "data explosion" increased from 71% to 82% between 2011 and 2014. Big Data is a source of unrelenting angst among marketers everywhere.
The decisions facing marketers no longer have to do with whether or not to pursue Big Data, but how to pursue it the right way in order to create better customer experiences, deploy more real-time, omnichannel marketing campaigns, and drive revenue. And while most marketers plan to invest heavily in marketing analytics platforms, marketing automation systems and other data-centric tools over the next couple of years, it's important to recognize that those tools alone won't relieve the pressure of Big Data or necessarily deliver the results you need.
A few steps and considerations taken early on in a marketer's Big Data planning and investment process can guide a sustainable and valuable strategy:
Know what you know, and what you don't: Before you can decide what to do with your data, you have to understand what information exists across your organization. Marketing houses copious amounts of customer data, and other functional areas such as sales and customer support also have costumer information that is extremely relevant to building more personalized customer experiences. Third party data providers are yet another source of valuable customer information. However, not all data points are useful for every business scenario. An essential part of finding value in Big Data is identifying what information you have and what you need, and how to integrate critical data sets for new insights.
Set reasonable goals: Big Data has created big expectations among consumers. Your customers give up a degree of privacy and anonymity when they interact with your brand, and in return, they expect you to know who they are, how they shop, and what they like (often before they do). But you can't redesign your customer engagement processes overnight. Start with a specific, measurable business goal that is tied to a specific business problem, and determine how more of the right data can help you achieve better results.
Accuracy is key: Before you push data into any new marketing technology, ask yourself how confident you are in the accuracy and completeness of that data. Every data error diminishes the potential return on investment you could receive from that new technology. Analytics aren't accurate or insightful if the data points they rely on aren't attributed to the correct customers. The best marketing automation systems can't deliver your campaigns if you don’t have the correct contact information for your customers. The quality of your customer data is critical to Big Data success.
Finally, remember that you don't have to do Big Data alone. The rate of Big Data's growth outpaces the growth of analytical skill sets within many marketing departments. An experienced partner that is familiar with the complexities of large-scale data management can help you navigate all of these steps, and put a good plan into action.