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Now is the Time for Small Businesses to Unlock Big Data

By Feb 26, 2013

Marketers’ roles are shifting from brand ownership and outbound media to brand stewardship and customer engagement. Winning the race for awareness at the top of the purchase funnel is no longer the paramount objective, as big data has enabled marketers to enter the consideration set further downstream. This creates new opportunities to acquire customers more efficiently with behavioral advertising.

There is nothing a quarterback hates more than an interception, dependent of course on his pain threshold when getting sacked. The same should be true for marketers who have built and nurtured their brands on a solid foundation, yet are losing potential customers near the point of purchase. For a sales rep, it’s like presenting the problem, developing the solution, getting buy-in, and then walking in the door the next day to find a competitor had intercepted the deal after you did all the heavy lifting.

Today’s customer acquisition and retention challenges are increasing for big businesses, where there is far more at stake with quarterly earnings to report. If you’re an underdog marketer, now is the time to learn how to effectively manage and integrate your online and offline marketing efforts with big data.

For paid media, the behavioral advertising benefits of big data can help you test different offers to highly targeted audiences at a reasonable cost. Offline best customer match modeling is now being applied to third-party cookie pools of non-personally identifiable information data (non-PII) , so you can leverage predictive analytics in real-time. Companies like AdRoll provide easy-to-use, measurable, cloud-based solutions for retargeting site visitors to bring them back before it’s too late. So, regardless of your business size or level of online marketing expertise, you’ve got plenty of resources at your fingertips. All you need is a good value proposition, an Internet connection, and the desire to learn.

In regards to big data infrastructure, there’s another strong force coming to play. Amazon Web Services is now taking its B2C big data management expertise to market for B2B, by offering RedShift (a petabyte-scale data warehousing solution). This eliminates the need for small business owners to raise capital to build a marketing data warehouse (i.e. Oracle, IBM, etc.), and enables companies to scale and gain control over the process. Business owners can use Amazon Web Services to load their database and manage the assets online.

RedShift doesn’t lock you into any specific BI (business intelligence) tool, so you can migrate what you have. Could RedShift become the ‘Walmart’ for B2B data management? If so, then what’s the future hold if they have all of this big data under one roof? For improving marketing communications and relevance, it’s all good and moves us towards an economy of perfect competition, because all businesses – no matter how big or small – will be able to benefit from the data and technology at an acceptable cost. On the flip side, it is still hard to predict how legislation and market forces will respond in an era where the machine just keeps getting bigger and smarter. However, worrying about all of that should not deter business owners and marketers from leveraging big data solutions for marketing optimization.

For many small businesses, paid search is still the preferred engine for online lead generation, and that can be difficult to scale profitably. Search engine marketing is no longer the only game in town if you want to show up late on the customer decision journey, and it works really well with an online display advertising component and to fuel your organic efforts. The role of DMPs (data management platforms) has expanded for improving online display advertising relevance and effectiveness. This enables small business owners and marketers to leverage big data in a programmatic way, often without even realizing its underlying capabilities. This benefits marketers in terms of efficiency, but it is also important to learn what attributes are driving interest, engagement, and conversions. The takeaway is this — your big data acumen will profit you in the long run, as you learn to effectively diversify your paid marketing investments in a complementary manner.

Continuing education is a must for keeping up with the best practices and solutions for integrated online marketing. Remember that it is also wise to take incremental and calculated risks when testing new channels and methods, set clear and measurable objectives, and consider the ROI of your time with a long-term perspective.

Chris DeMartine is director of business development at NextMark and president of the Vermont/New Hampshire Marketing Group.