Don’t Dodge the Data Deluge

You read a lot these days about big data and even a “data deluge.” The news has been abuzz with the amount of data marketers have access to with the advent of cloud computing and the continued momentum of social media and digital audience targeting.

According to the Global Chief Marketing Officer study released in October, 70 percent of the 1,734 CMOs interviewed said they were incapable of analyzing and 
responding to the deluge of data available. Social media in particular is flooding marketers’ data analysis practices. As a CMO of a company that makes digital advertising its business and trades on the valuable currency that customer data has become, I’d like to say two things that might surprise you. One: I get it. I struggle with data deluge too. Two: I’m not going to tell you that you simply need more data.
There’s a way out of the data deluge. It’s about using the right data. There’s no way any marketing professional can avoid the amount of data that is generated on a moment-to-moment basis. In fact, it will likely get bigger and more powerful. But there are ways that marketers can start to use the right data and after the right data finds its way out of that deluge, great things start to happen for you and your customers.
The first step is to think in terms of customers. It may seem obvious, but look at all the data generated by marketing campaigns and even customer purchases, and you’ll see that a lot of data doesn’t necessarily reflect real people making real purchase decisions. Focus in on the metrics that matter. Did you generate data from the right customer groups? Is it data that can inform your next campaign? Those are good questions to ask.
The second step is to think precision. Ask yourself: If I could choose the most precise set of data about my customers, what would it look like? This will inevitably lead most marketers to the attitudes that fed a purchase decision, responses to recent marketing messages and the recent relevant purchase activity.
The third step is to think in terms of a data ecosystem. Data generated by and for marketers doesn’t exist on its own. Nor does it mean anything on its own. Just because an airline knows that a frequent business traveler booked a round-trip ticket to Dallas in March 2012, that doesn’t mean much about that customer. What did that customer do three months ago in terms of travel? What’s his income level? Has he booked directly or through an online service? Does he make consistent hotel bookings? Does he ever book trips for his family? Only when the complete data set shows up does it paint a true picture of the customer.
Yes, there is a data deluge. But it’s a manageable one. Data should be a source of information to make your advertising work better and forge better customer relationships. Data is not the enemy.
Layton Han is CEO of Adara Media, an audience targeting company.
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