Turning Big Data into Smart Data for Targeted Marketing

Stephen DeAngelis

May 12, 2015

“I’m officially sick of the term ‘Big Data’,” writes Scott Fasser (), director of Digital Innovation for HackerAgency. “Marketers have access to lots of data — got it. However, Big Data in and of itself doesn’t sell more products or services, or make high-value prospects aware of your brand. Big Data is merely the pool in which we swim to target and generate results. Smart data is the spear gun — this is where we need to focus.” [“Why Smart Data Is So Much More Important Than Big Data,” MarketingProfs, 3 February 2015] Fasser is right, of course, and I’m sure he is not alone in his desire to see the buzzword “big data” disappear. The fact of the matter is, however, that smart data (i.e., analyzed data) comes from having access to lots of data. Fasser knows that and is simply trying to get marketers to focus on the analysis rather than the data itself. Brenda Stoltz (@BSStoltz), CEO and founder of Ariad Partners, agrees with Fasser that marketers would like to see the term “big data” go away. “The name itself is scary,” she writes. It conjures up images of Big Brother, Big Government, and Big Tobacco or “some mythical corporate beast.” [“What Does Big Data Mean for Marketers?Business 2 Community (B2C), 1 December 2014] Placing “Big” as a modifier in front of a word doesn’t necessarily inspire images that help marketers sell products. Frankly, those images are turn-offs for most consumers.

Stoltz would prefer a warmer term. “[Big Data] might be easier to live with,” she explains, “if we called it Big Daddy because it facilitates data collection, storage, and analysis, allowing enough information to merge from separate spheres to provide real-time traffic maps, patient monitoring in intensive care units, and highly-targeted marketing strategies based on a customer’s ever-changing needs.” I don’t think “Big Daddy” works any better. It conjures up images of mob bosses and kept women. Like Fasser, Stoltz understands that it’s the analysis of big data that provides benefits for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. “Like it or not,” Stoltz adds, “Big Data is here to stay, and if you are marketing content, you will learn to love it. While the development of Big Data is proportional to the Internet of Things (IoT), marketers too can share in this windfall of new technology.” Fasser asserts there are seven smart use-cases for big data analytics in the area of marketing. They are: 1) Creative optimization; 2) Campaign optimization; 3) Conversion optimization; 4) Campaign reporting; 5) Attribution analysis; 6) Executive reporting; and 7) Privacy and compliance. Stoltz also offers a list of ways that smart data can be used by marketers. Her list is a bit more informal and includes: 1) Tailoring your emails; 2) Keeping a closer eye on your prospects; 3) Monitoring the whole dang web; and 4) Predicting the future. Clearly, there are a number of ways that smart data can be used beneficially by marketers. In fact, Stoltz concludes, “It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you want to grow it competitively, you must step up your marketing game with Big Data techniques — or else you might get lost in the dust.”

Angela Modzelewski (@SheerID), Vice President of Marketing at SheerID, suggests another way that big data can be turned into smart data — helping to get campaign timing right. “You know that old adage ‘Timing is everything’,” she writes. “Well, that especially true when it comes to marketing. Marketers are constantly trying to pin down that perfect sweet spot for launching marketing campaigns.” [“Perfect Timing For Targeted Marketing Campaigns,” Business 2 Community (B2C), 22 October 2014] She goes on to explain how big data can be used to make smart timing decisions.

“When you’re trying to reach a specific audience with a targeted marketing campaign, timing can be even more critical. Sending out that press release or launching a new exclusive discount at just the right time can increase your reach by up to 51%, according to our own marketing team’s tests. So when is the right time to reach a targeted audience? Well, it depends who you’re trying to reach. … Certain times of year are better than others, depending on who you’re trying to reach. For example, if you’re trying to reach teachers, they’re most likely to be actively searching for teacher discounts in late July and early August during the beginning of the back-to-school season. May is also a good time, especially during Teacher Appreciation week. … Military consumers have a very different pattern. Their searches for discounts center around military holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, and year-end sales.”

Modzelewski’s education and military examples may appear obvious (i.e., who needed big data to tell me that?); but, big data can reveal any number of confounding variables that could affect a campaign’s perfect timing. For example, by monitoring and analyzing weather patterns in real-time, a campaign for rain gear or suntan lotion could be moved earlier or later depending on forecasts. The best way to ensure that you get the most out of your big data to let a cognitive computing system, like the ENTERRA® Cognitive Reasoning Platform™ (CRP), analyze your data. The insights that a cognitive computing system can provide are generally much better because they can analyze many more confounding variables than traditional analytic systems. Every one of the use-cases mentioned above can be improved using a cognitive computing system.

Pamela Bartz, vice president, and Michael Pernice (@MichaelPernice), regional sales manager for GT Software, rhetorically ask, “In today’s competitive, dynamic business landscape, what is the most prominent marketing medium where everyone is vying for customer attention?” Their answer, “Three words — the digital marketplace. Why? Because digital marketing is the most inexpensive and measurable means for expanding a customer base and increasing sales. It’s also at the forefront of improving customer experience because it offers a touch point that is highly customizable and targeted. And, in a climate where one missed step can send demanding consumers straight into the arms of the competition, its strategic use is becoming more critical.” [“How Accurate is Targeted Marketing if You Can’t See Your Target?” American Marketing Association, 25 September 2014] The digital marketplace is also the arena best-suited to gain from big data analytics because cutting-edge analytics can help a company accurately define and profile its “audience so as to leverage digital marketing’s targeting capabilities to the greatest advantage.” Bartz and Pernice conclude that success is “all about the data.” I would have revised that conclusion to state it’s all about the data analysis. Fasser agrees. He concludes, “I’ll take quality data over quantity of data any day. Understanding where the data is coming from, how it’s stored, and what it tells you will help tremendously in how you use it to narrow down to the bits that allow smarter business decisions based on the data.”

John Fleming, Marketing Director at Webtrends, writes “The door is open for your business to be more creative and innovative in how you use data to give customers the personalised, exciting and engaging experiences they seek. Big data is a key part of the equation to understanding exactly who your customers are and how you can engage with them. … Big data allows you to tailor engagement to make it much more relevant to an individual customer. The positive experiences generated by the interactions between your business and your customers ultimately breeds trust.” [“Big data in marketing: how to gain the advantage,” TechRadar.pro, 13 September 2014] As Fleming implies, the analysis of big data, rather than the data itself, is what provides the understanding and insights that opens the door to opportunity. Analytics turn big data into smart data and everyone could stand to be a little smarter.