It is an undeniable fact that the marketing landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade. The shift from print and television to digital campaigns is a huge part of that, but there is another, arguably more important, piece of the puzzle: big data. According to IBM, people create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone. In the days of Mad Men, your golden concept could win you an award and a promotion, but the numbers behind that success were often specious. With the influx of big data comes a responsibility for marketers to quantify their success, and to adjust their strategies accordingly.
Unfortunately, according to a 2012 CEB study, only 11% of decisions marketers make when it comes to consumers are based on data. Obviously this number should be higher, but how high should it go? Making 100% of our decisions based on data would remove crucial intangibles like emotion and instinct that every good marketer and manager should possess. There are downfalls to an overdependence on data and your business should be working hard to find the balance between leveraging your data, and trusting your team to know when to look past it.
Little Big Data for Small Business
You can’t leverage big data if you don’t have it. Most larger companies have been employing big data platforms for close to a decade, but recently platforms like Kissmetrics have made it available to even the smallest of businesses. Even if their data sets aren’t big enough to technically qualify, they can still benefit from the insight this “Little Big Data” can offer.
Before you can reap these benefits, you need to understand what you’re collecting and why. What conversion funnels are you hoping your customers follow? Did they watch a product video before they purchased? What about mobile data? Location data? Social media interaction of post-purchase customers? The possibilities are endless. Figuring out which metrics you need to focus on before you start tracking them can help smaller businesses without dedicated analytics teams save valuable time and direct their attention where it matters most.
Filter Out the Noise
If 89% of marketers aren’t using enough data in their decisions, then part of that 11% are putting too much stock into the data they collect. If your landing page falls from a 20.1% conversion rate, to 19.9%, don’t dive into a redesign just yet. Understanding the difference between minor fluctuations and larger shifts in the landscape of your campaign is critical to successful analysis. Shifting gears at every downward tick can easily lead to losing the focus of your entire campaign.
While improving conversion rates on your dashboard is great, it’s important to remember these metrics don’t speak to customer loyalty or lifetime value. A great marketer will always have sight of the larger goal and not lose the forest through the trees.
Don't Leave Qualitative Data in the Dust
If you’re not collecting qualitative data, you’re not seeing the whole picture. While it can’t be analyzed on the same scale that big data can, it can tell you far more about how your customers think and feel. You may know that 80 percent of your customer base isn’t upgrading from one level to the next, but why? Whether it’s customer surveys, tweets, or Facebook posts, don’t overlook the power of qualitative data analysis to contextualize all that hard data you’ve been collecting.
Recognize the Irrelevant
With so many wonderful statistics to pat us on the back, it can be easy to get distracted by the wrong metrics. If you launch a twitter campaign to generate leads and end up with 10,000 new followers but only ten new leads, it’s easy to consider that a success in its own rite. You would be wrong. With every campaign you should be defining clear, measurable goals before you begin, and judging your success only by those numbers.
"The Intern Can Do It"
With all of the things that big data can tell us, you need to have someone who knows what to listen for. Marketing professionals of the past didn’t need to be statisticians and many of us still aren’t today. If you don’t have someone on your team who can dig into the minutiae of those numbers and distinguish successes between different ads across different mediums and different demographics in the same campaign, you need to step up your game and hire someone who can. The beauty of big data is just how small it gets, and marketing success is no longer measured by correlation.
Depending on the size of your organization, big data can look drastically different. Whether you have a dedicated IT infrastructure and teams of analysts running the numbers, or a start-up Kissmetrics account and a one-man marketing department, its implications remain the same. It has spectacular potential to provide insights that were never before possible, while simultaneously presenting pitfalls to which many a marketer will easily fall prey.