9 July 2012 by Micky
Marketers have long dreamed of having accurate information about customers and prospects. Be careful what you wish for! With today’s social media, CRM, ERP and new tools for data collection, what was once a hard-to-find trickle of customer data has become a torrent. So has the dream become a nightmare?
A new survey from Columbia Business School and the New York AMA finds 36 percent of marketers say they have “lots of customer data, but don’t know what to do with it.” The study also found two in five marketers admit they cannot turn their data into actionable insight.
Companies are asking themselves how they can effectively manage the increasing volume and complexity of the data stream. They ask themselves:
- What are the most efficient tools to collect and analyze the data coming in?
- How do we store customer information so that it’s readily accessible but still secure?
- How can we use the data to advance our marketing efforts while still protecting customers’ rights to privacy?
These questions point to the need for a company-wide strategy for handling customer data. Here are some straightforward steps to help navigate the information stream:
Don’t be overwhelmed by the volume of data and the need to answer tough questions. Embrace big data and it will become clearer. Attack it in small, manageable chunks rather than all at once.
Find senior leadership to champion and support your big data mission across all affected business units and functional areas. And create a cross-functional team – including marketing, product development, service and support, and finance – to help develop an enterprise-wide data management plan.
Develop the plan based on the company’s well-defined, overall objectives and goals. Include marketing metrics to ensure marketing is linked back to these business objectives.
Build a strong infrastructure to house your big data. Consider using a SaaS solution and keeping data in the cloud. The more efficient your storage is, the more data you can afford to keep for your analysis. The faster that storage performs, the more often you can make decisions grounded in fresher data.
Review and analyze data thoroughly and regularly to understand what buyers care about, how they make their decisions and how they want to receive information.
Revisit the objectives and goals regularly to ensure they are still relevant and metrics are being hit. If they are not, adjust as necessary.
Finally, ask questions and seek the opinions of others – including those outside the company – throughout the process. Learn from others benefitting from big data in a big way!
*Micky Long and Kristen Ward collaborated on this piece.