Meeting the Big Data marketing challenge: get started, get targeted, get ROI

by Steve Seager

Big Data Marketing ChallengeSome advice for marketers in medium sized businesses with ambition: if you want to set yourself up to best leverage Big Data in the future, start adopting targeted marketing strategies right now. And include ROI as a core social metric. If you’re up to speed on Big Data, jump to the last para down below – that’s where the takeaway is. If not …

… What is Big Data?

‘Big Data’ is the rising flood of data now available to businesses via the social web and enterprise ICT infrastructures. The Big Data challenge involves its Volume (there’s tons of it), Velocity (it’s real-time) and Variety (there’s loads of different types of it).

Sure there’s a danger of drowning but Big Data is also the ‘Next frontier for ‘innovation, competition and productivity’. There’s examples across industries in everything from supply chain management to strategic decision making.

But how does Big Data impact marketing in social channels?

The marketing benefits of Big Data

Big Data offers marketers the opportunity to gain in-depth (and real-time) insights into the behaviours and preferences of individual customers, who can then be targeted by marketing to help sell more – and more tailored – products or services.

Sounds fab! But what’s the catch?

Here’s some of the key findings from the Feb 2012 research by Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership and the New York American Marketing Association (NYAMA). It shows how marketers in large corporations currently perceive and approach Big Data.

  • 100% (!!!) of CMOs from large companies believe that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions and 91% of senior corporate marketers agree
  • 85% of large corporations are now using social network accounts (e.g. brand accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare) as a marketing tool
  • Only 19% of these are likely to collect data from those social channels!

So in other words, even though Big Data is considered as the next big thing, over 80% don’t collect or analyse it. Weird. I wonder why that is?

  • 37% of respondents did not include any mention of financial outcomes when asked to define what ‘marketing ROI’ meant for their own organization
  • 22% are using brand awareness as their sole measure to evaluate their marketing spend.

Aha! Now things become clearer.

One of the main reasons Big Data seems to be such a problem is that marketers in large corporations are currently applying mass media marketing approaches to social channels and data.

Take this example from Dachis Group on Big Data for Advertising response during the Super Bowl. The key metric seems to be ‘general brand awareness’. Great for a traditional marketing goal in mass media. But just how valuable is that data in social channels? How do you interpret it? Where’s the genuine business insight? The ROI?

In social channels, you need to measure much more specific goals that are tied to a specific business outcomes. And focus on the actual behaviours that result in that business outcome.

So if you are a medium sized marketer with ambition, I think you can learn from the mistakes of larger corporate marketers. And I reckon it’s just common-sense:

Develop targeted marketing strategies to set up that initial data filter

The key is in flipping your headset from mass marketing strategy to ‘social’ marketing strategies.

So for your next marketing program target regional, rather than national goals. Think sub-verticals rather than verticals. Target DMUs not companies. Personas not demographics. And specific parts of the buying cycle rather than the full cycle.

If you start by targeting your real people, aligned with a single proposition, to a specific outcome, you will immediately create a filter on the amount of data you will have to analyse and synthesise. So set this in motion. And build from the inside out towards Big Data.

Include ROI as a core social marketing metric. The rather splendid Olivier Blanchard can help you with that in this presentation.

To sum up, if you are a medium sized business with any level of ambition you can best meet your future Big Data challenge by starting out as you mean to go on: get started, get targeted, and get ROI.

One last thought. Data or not, it’s still social. It’s still all about human behaviours. Focus on measuring the specific behaviours that lead to specific business outcomes and you won’t go far wrong.

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