Marketers, Is Your Data Scalable?
As big data continues to be top of mind in marketing, columnist James Green outlines the questions you should be asking to get your data to work at scale.
While “big data” was once seen as a buzzword, the conversation has grown tremendously over the past several years. Data now holds the most critical role in our industry, due in part to the combination of new technologies that make the digital advertising landscape more complex, with consumers seeking real-time, relevant communications with brands.
Now that data is the driver behind the majority of marketing efforts, marketers large and small are feeling the pressure to become more data-driven.
One of the biggest trends I’m seeing in the industry is the division of companies with scale and companies without scale, and the differentiator between them is data. Data is the reason that scale matters — and that’s why marketers need to experiment and ask questions in order to know if their data is scalable.
Why You Need To Use Data At Scale
The more data you have access to — whether it’s just from running campaigns and buying media, or explicitly from curating multiple data sources — the more effective your ad campaigns will be. This is why tech giants like Google and Facebook are so successful.
Using data at scale means marketers have the opportunity to reach different consumers with personalized, relevant advertising within different channels. These messages can be tailored to their interests based on search and purchase history, location, demographics, and so on, and can then be served to consumers on various devices, an impossibility without scalable data.
Having limited scale only works if you are looking for limited results from your marketing efforts. The euphemism that people in the finance industry use is “a business with limited scale is a lifestyle business.” What they mean by this is that it’s big enough to support one, two, three or maybe a family in relative comfort, but it’s not enough to make many rich.
There’s nothing wrong with lifestyle businesses, and I’d say that if you’re lucky enough to own one you should stick with it. For those who work for large organizations that have received outside financing, they have to grow, and grow quickly. There’s no growth and certainly no rapid growth without scale.
Ad campaigns are like this, too. It’s easy to make a small campaign work: Target it really tightly to people you know will convert. But that’s not going to be big enough to satisfy everyone. What’s tough is getting campaigns to work at scale.
Getting the right data to work at scale is very different than finding out the few prospects that you know you’re going to close.
Experiment And Ask Questions
It’s almost impossible to know if something is going to work at scale until you try it, so rule No. one for marketers looking to create scalable strategies is to experiment. But while experimenting, there are a few questions marketers should be asking themselves:
• Where is your data coming from? Push, prod and use your common sense to consider whether your data sources are going to work for what you are trying to accomplish.
Take inventory on what types of data you are using and understand how it is being used across channels and devices.
• Will you continue to spend money trying to acquire prospects, or is there a way to create a cycle where you identify people, nurture them, and bring them to close?
This is a virtuous data cycle where you know what your customers are interested in buying, what they have bought, and you can predict what they might purchase next.
• Are your current systems large enough to handle all the data? Can you process all of the impressions, clicks, traffic through your website and conversions using the same system?
Many companies take a shortcut and only measure clicks, but much can be learned from tracking impressions against individuals, seeing what moved them to convert and what didn’t.
The holy grail of marketing that we’re all working towards is combining the intimate data of what your customers have experienced and bought from you (first-party data) with the broad data about what people are doing in the market (third-party data). To date, we have many systems and targeting capabilities, but they are not well-connected.
Systems, analytics and targeting technologies that combine first- and third-party data sets are coming to market right now, and we’re only just scratching the surface in terms of what they can do for marketers — and even more important, what benefits they’ll bring to consumers.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.