The Irony of Big Data

The Irony of Big Data

In today’s digital marketing environment, big data is big business. Spend any time in the marketing blogosphere or reading the trade pubs this month and, chances are, you will see a piece on big data and how, if harnessed, it can change your business for the better.

The marketing landscape is in continuous flux, one of the few constants being the increasing number of marketing touch points through which a company can interact with a customer – the more touch points, the more data. The effort for companies to consolidate, organize and translate big data continues to be an immense undertaking, but to what end?

MORE OR LESS DATA: Generating enormous amounts of data may, on the surface, seem impressive. However, data by itself is just data.  Certainly there are metrics within the collected data that are important to your business, but those need to be established and visualized.  A “dashboard” of ALL data, is most likely NOT needed. Therefore more is the not the answer; the right data is.  Even then, metrics and analytics are not good enough — insights need to be generated in order to effect change.  Change (or action), is really the key in the end.  No amount of data, metrics, or insights will impact marketing or sales efforts without the ability to execute specific actions as a result. This is the most important, and unfortunately, the most elusive step.  Also, it’s essential to consider that within big data, there is always a mix of…

USEFUL AND USELESS DATA: As pointed out, more data doesn’t always mean useful data. Key performance indicators vary by the brand, products or service offerings being promoted. So if 90% of the data collected doesn’t relate to your brand or service goals, a great deal of resources are wasted in collecting and sifting through it to find the 10% that truly indicates your level of success.  Timeliness of data use is also important. Analyzing old activity may give you ideas on how to capitalize, but the opportunity to capitalize has a time limit. Not capitalizing on data in a timely fashion may lead to…

DATA GONE BAD: Considering the pace of the market these days, a lot of data has a limited shelf life. If data is extracted and analyzed on a minute-to-minute basis, marketing campaigns and other stakeholder disciplines can use the information to make adjustments
where needed. Interestingly, however, business disciplines are seldom set-up to be agile enough to take advantage.  For example, if a specific tactic or channel is clearly not working for your brand, do you have the ability to kill it, and apply the recouped funds somewhere else?  Contractually perhaps you do, but have you ever actually done this “mid-campaign?”  The processes employed to produce marketing and sales campaigns require significant amounts of time for development, review and approval, resulting in a lag time for course corrections, so, the immediate usefulness of the data disappears. Now, assuming the most useful data has been collected and explored in a timely manner it can
still only inform you  that . . .

IT HAPPENED, BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? : If data is organized and analyzed, perhaps it can tell you what has happened at an aggregate level, but may not be so enlightening in terms of why individuals did what they did.  For example, knowing the percentage of people who opened a certain email or the amount of times a website was visited might be helpful to a degree, but it doesn’t provide insight into why individuals took this action or how to make adjustments in the future at the individual customer level.  To make the most out of it, it’s crucial to put the . . .

DATA IN THE RIGHT HANDS: Often, big data is organized and displayed on impressive dashboards for sales executives and managers to analyze and, subsequently, make macro level decisions. This may be effective for some corporations; for businesses with a high degree of salesperson/customer interaction, however, it is the salesperson or account person that has the greatest knowledge of customer needs and interests. The key to unlocking the potential of data is turning it into action and data is most actionable in the hands of those who actually close new business with it.

For the level of investment at some companies, there appears to be a general lack of recognition of the limited amount of meaningful intelligence being realized from “big data.”  Collecting and analyzing data can be a huge advantage to companies, but turning data-into-insight and insight-into action is the way to unlocking the true potential of this often oversimplified resource.

The bottom line, ironically, is that big data is only as useful as its ability to affect…well, the bottom line…typically in the form of new business.

Stay tuned for Part 2 which will address the value of individual data vs. aggregate data.