There was a time when marketing firms had to treat everyone like generic off-brand mac & cheese. Sure, they could make certain assumptions based upon average consumers, but real, personalized customer offers and promotions just weren't possible. That time, however, has passed. These days, brands are able to gather data about individual customers from before any sort of interaction even begins to take place. Through information sources such as web browsers, social media, surveys, customer reward programs, transaction data, etc., it is possible to gather massive amounts of data regarding the personal preferences of millions of potential customers.
Technologies like Apache Hadoop are enabling companies to more effectively manage and utilize this data to market to their target audiences.This, combined with basic demographic data, provides a wealth of information that can be used to reach and influence potential purchasers and clients. But despite these amazing new inroads, few companies are taking proper advantage of analytics to increase their business prospects. This may be because many marketers have trouble distilling actual, usable information from the maelstrom of raw numbers that are gathered during analysis. Four steps that can help are as follows:
All of the data in the world is utterly useless if it can't be turned into real business decisions. Worse than that, it wastes time and money to collect. So, the first step in achieving data-driven marketing has to be comprehension. To begin, a marketer has to have goals. What do they want to accomplish with the information in question? Once a business knows what the end result should be, it can begin to move forward. To do that, it will need to understand the numbers. For example, how was the information acquired? What problems does the information suggest? What assumptions can be made (but not verified) based upon the numbers? What technology is best to take advantage of the data? Answering these questions will allow marketers to focus future acquisition efforts on important data, while ignoring superfluous numbers.
Once the information is comprehended and a strategy has been developed, the next step is act upon that information. This step will be different for every business. The important thing to remember is the fluidity of data. The analytics that were collected should be be the foundation of the business strategy, but that doesn't make them immovable. Refining the numbers and realigning the strategy is necessary to achieving marketing goals.
As data is being utilized to pursue business goals, it is imperative that marketers accurately monitor and record the results of their actions. Standard KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are important tools that allow organizations to evaluate and quantify the success of particular ventures, and should be utilized to help keep track of business results as they relate to goals. This can be done a number of ways, but should eventually lead to a standard set of metrics that can accurately gauge the success or failure of the business strategy as a whole. Keeping a record of the results will not only allow marketers to identify problems within their systems, but will also give them insight into future trends.
Although this article is setup as a simple four-step process, in reality it is an ongoing cycle, with each step happening simultaneously and interconnected with every other. As the process continues, businesses will gain access to more and more accurate data, which in turn will allow them to better connect with consumers, thus yielding better information, etc. Adaptable business strategies that focus heavily on data-driven marketing will build on themselves, and success will follow.
The era of the faceless consumer has passed. Modern marketing must rely on a constant stream of incoming data and analytics if it wants to really reach its target audiences. Hadoop platforms, such as those that we offer at MapR, are helping marketers manage their incoming data and use this information to better their businesses. Those that are able to do so will see that personalized marketing strategies are not only the wave of the future, but are also a great way to create a pool of happy and loyal clients.