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5 ways to actually use big data

5 ways to actually use big data Vivek Sharma

Big data is on every marketer's mind -- usually in the back somewhere, in a pile of about 20 other buzzwords.

Basically, marketers know that data is important, but as soon as the quantifier of "big" enters the picture, they freeze up. There are a lot of challenges when it comes to actually making use of the data at a company's disposal, and they're not exactly the easiest problems to solve.

Every day, enterprises are processing so much data that most of that information passes across many channels and departments and goes unnoticed and unused. So how can marketers start making sense of it all? And how can they break down "big data" so that it doesn't only make sense, but actually offers value to the organization?

My team at Movable Ink asked five different data experts about some of the top challenges for marketers today -- and the ways that businesses can actually take concrete, tactical steps to tackle it.

Connect phone data to the digital experience

Bhavesh Vaghela, CMO, ResponseTap, @ResponseTap

Recognizing the needs of the customer before picking up the phone means the rep can be the missing link in the path to purchase, creating an omnichannel experience for the customer as they move online to offline.

Data gained from online interaction like search queries, keywords, clicks, and impressions can further be used to route the customer to the agent best suited to dealing with that type of call. That agent can then be given specific information about the caller, making them much more likely to deliver a sale.

Combining click-to-call with call tracking analytics also makes it possible to see exactly where your best leads are coming from, meaning marketers can focus their efforts on these areas.

Don't make decisions on bad data

Glenn Cipolla, vice president of technology, INTAP

Before making decisions based on big data, you have to ask one question: Is it good data?

It's very easy to search a large data set for the answer you want and find it. If you are searching for a desired result in that vast amount of data, the chances are you will find the answer you desire.

Instead, try doing negative searches of your data to disprove what you are looking for. If the positive results are in place and there are no negatives to offset those positives, you have your answer.

Pinpoint your demographics

Brian Clayton, CEO, GreenPal

Studying the data your own business generates can tell you which of your online marketing campaigns works best. Do the ads appeal to your target market or another market altogether? The data may also point to completely new areas of customer interest.

At GreenPal, the "Uber for lawn care," we recently used the power of big data to better connect with our potential customers.

In a recent campaign we ran in Nashville, Tenn., we ran a pay-per-click AdWords campaign with one ad targeting the entire metro Nashville area. The headline read "Local Lawn Pros in Nashville are a click away."

I thought the performance of the ad was good, but we wanted to make it even more contextual and relevant to the viewer. So we researched census and found that East Nashville is an up-and-coming neighborhood populated with more working class, and a creative class demographic. So we segmented those ZIP codes and ran a specific ad for them, with a headline, "The Cheapest Lawn Mowing in Nashville. Lawn mowing from $20."

After running the ad for one month, on-page analytics proved the guess to be true. We saw more than 200 percent lift in click-through rate and 30 percent lift in on-page conversion.

Keep the data as updated as possible

Lateef Mauricio Abro, Omega Performance, @latab

Data drops in value when it cannot be accurately tracked across touchpoints. It is critical to establish a system that tracks activity throughout the entire buyer lifecycle. This is where a robust customer relationship management system and airtight marketing automation programs come into play.

When you don't have these systems in place, the data-update onus is on the people who interact with the buyer, at each critical touchpoint.

This is where the utility of big data starts to fall apart -- because, even though we selected a handful of high-value columns, we devalue the data by allowing for gaps in tracking the data's activity. This can be as simple as forgetting to mark a record as unsubscribed, to a more critical issue like failing to re-segment a buyer based on stated product interests.

Make your data human

Carlos Hidalgo, CEO and principal, ANNUITAS

Though having big data on your customer and knowing that data is a big competitive advantage for marketers, true customer knowledge and insight must go further.

Want to really know your customers? Ask them what they need.

If, as a marketer you are not in the habit of talking to your buyer, start now. If you are and ask leading questions, change now and ask more open-ended questions that get you into the mind of your buyer. And if you truly want to understand your ideal buyer, ask those folks who are not your customers. Again, keep the questions open-ended and not so focused on "why did you not choose us?"

And don't forget to talk to sales to find another dimension to the buyers' personas, and conduct in-depth research on the world in which your customers live and external factors affecting them.

Vivek Sharma is CEO of Movable Ink.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

"Man looking astonished in a network data center" via Shutterstock.

Vivek is leading the charge to make email a more dynamic and relevant communication channel for marketers and consumers. With a background in both sales and product development, Vivek brings a potent combination of engineering talent and business...

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