By Christopher Hosford, editor-in-chief, HosfordGroup.
Never before have marketers had so much information about prospects, customers, the competition, and the markets they hope to reach. Sounds like a happy situation, right? But say “Big Data” instead of “information,” and marketer smiles will turn upside down in a hurry.
But Big Data is information—competitive knowledge about the behaviors of customers, helping you learn how to adopt to those customers’ needs. This provides an excellent opportunity to respond in kind, with campaigns of information that directly address those needs.
Data flows like a river through the world, regardless of what problem it is asked to solve. Marketers just need fishing hooks to find it and fish it out of the river. The data might include mostly words, not numbers, so you may have to invest in technology not to get lost in the fire hose. But finding the opportunities in Big Data can be deceptively simple.
Say you have a promotion based on a statistical test of two types of content. Make one set of messaging "dynamic" and tailored based on prospect data. Create the other with just static content. Season to taste, stir well, and deliver to 100,000 recipients. Which one performed better?
Now that wasn’t hard, was it? This classic A/B test provides, through simple empiricism, all the evidence necessary to solve an immediate problem. Nothing “big” about this data—except its usefulness.
Start with the data you have at hand. Ask yourself who your customers are. Get a handle on understanding segments. Get these segments to your website and look at what they do when they get there. Are they dipping into your features set? Hurrah, it’s a warm lead! But are they perusing your homepage, or downloading a white paper? Don’t get excited, we may just be talking about a prospect here. Snare his/her info and keep nurturing!
This is simple behavioral analysis, to better engage with prospects and work toward an eventual sale. This is Big Data in spades … “big” in the sense that now you know what types of content to deliver to which segment of prospects.
Of course, now you do have to engage with these prospects, right? Here we’re talking content marketing—developing the words, videos, audio or slides that engender trust and respect. Content marketing is often seen as the key to inbound marketing, luring prospects into your website to begin with. But it also is a strong push marketing approach, in the sense that Big Data identifies prospects’ propensity to buy, and content marketing “pushes” information to them to help accelerate that sale.
Sure, things can get more complex. Sentiment analysis considers the behavior of prospects in the social sphere rather than on your website. Content—the right content—can influence this, in particular at the top of the sales/marketing funnel. Then there’s optimization techniques that perfect campaigns through multivariate testing. I like this approach, because it tests various types of content for effectiveness. Lesson learned: Don’t depend on your chief writer to tell you which piece of content works best. Test it, and prove it! Then go back to the drawing (writing?) board and start again.
Don’t worry about buzz words, like “Big Data.” Instead, consider what you can do by knowing your customers better, knowing what gets their attention, and knowing what prompts them to open their wallets.
Because the biggest opportunity with Big Data is revenue. And you can’t get more simple than that.
Christopher Hosford is former East Coast Bureau Chief of Crain's "BtoB" magazine, and former editor-in-chief of Nielsen's "Sales & Marketing Management" magazine. Currently he is editor-in-chief of HosfordGroup LLC, a New York City-based content marketing agency. He can be reached at chris at hosfordgroup dot com.