It now takes 48 hours to create the same amount of data that was generated from the dawn of time to 2003.
Let that sink in for a moment.
All of this knowledge — which takes mere days to accumulate — represents a wealth of opportunity for marketers. We can now easily collect vital information about our customers’ needs, preferences, habits and motivations.
The ongoing challenge, however, is resisting the urge to collect and analyze everything we can get our hands on. There’s a common paranoia among marketers where we feel like we’re missing out on major insights if we don’t track every little detail imaginable. With this “bigger is better” approach, we end up falling down data rabbit holes, feeling overwhelmed by information, and ultimately making slow, less informed decisions.
As marketers, we need to stop obsessing over volume and start getting diligent about what is absolutely required.
The Struggle for Concise Context
As technology advances, customer journeys become increasingly complex. Thanks to so many touchpoints (both online and offline), modern consumers tend to take complicated choose-your-own-adventure routes from awareness to conversion and retention. This results in many different experience combinations and makes it difficult for marketers to assess the effectiveness of any one single campaign or channel.
Because information is flowing into the company from a variety of sources, data quality often suffers. In order to glean meaningful insights from big data, systems need to be linked, data needs to be cleansed, metrics need to be defined consistently across the organization, and reports need to be centralized so a single view exists of customer behavior.
Needless to say, fully capitalizing on big data isn’t an easy task, but it’s still a necessary one that needs to be tackled sooner rather than later. Enterprise data volume is expected to grow 50 times year over year from now until 2020.
As big data becomes even bigger, we need to continue refining our strategies to make information more manageable. Even just a 10 percent improvement in data accessibility has been proven to earn Fortune 1000 companies $65.7 million in additional revenue.
Here are four tips to help marketers efficiently gain insights from their data:
- Align marketing initiatives to KPIs. Key performance indicators help a company understand whether it’s achieving its vital business objectives. These metrics serve as guideposts and starting points for deeper analysis, and aligning your marketing initiatives with them will help you better understand which areas need the most attention. A few examples of KPIs include net promoter score, customer acquisition cost, and customer lifetime value.If you learn, for example, that your customer acquisition cost has increased two percent over the past six months, you can begin peeling back the layers and looking at how many leads are generated by each marketing initiative, how much you invested in acquiring those leads, and which leads are creating the most value for your business. The ultimate answer may not be overtly apparent, but as you dig in, you’ll be able to pinpoint specific factors that contribute to the root cause of your issue.
- Focus on the next decision, not the broader data picture. Within any given marketing program, marketers can find themselves confronted with a seemingly endless number of possible strategies and decision points. This is where it’s crucial to identify the information you should analyze; not the information you could
When developing a mobile app for a media client, my company used data to incorporate features only once we knew they were necessary. One such feature was a “thumbs up/thumbs down” button that would allow users to ultimately determine which types of content appeared in their feeds. We had no idea if the button would even be used, so we released a nonfunctional version of it and analyzed a simple “yes” or “no” data point: Did people click on it?
Ultimately, users mostly ignored the button, and we decided to not pursue the feature. This incremental, next-decision data approach ended up saving us tons of time and money.
- Let technology facilitate your objectives. Once strategies, KPIs, and relevant data points have been standardized across the whole company, marketing departments can then begin to chip away at implementing necessary technology. These tools should facilitate marketing objectives, create efficiencies, and ultimately lead to more informed and timely decisions.
Partner with IT to define the right technology strategy that will achieve your company’s goals. Don’t come to the table with prescriptive solutions, but do be very clear about your objectives and the information you need to make decisions.
- Iterate on the technology. When it comes to developing a data-management tech infrastructure, it’s best to take an iterative approach. Business trends are constantly shifting and customer needs are always in flux, so there’s no use in trying to define the perfect long-term solution. If you do, you’ll fall behind the curve and always be playing catch-up.
When you think about how to best use your company’s data, consider technology’s role in your marketing road map. There will always be new data to analyze and new methods for managing that information, so stay focused on what’s directly in front of you and build from there. Don’t get too hung up on perfect data solutions; if they do exist, they won’t be perfect for long.
Don’t fall down the data rabbit hole. Prioritize what’s most important today to make more informed decisions tomorrow.