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Big data in online marketing

Big data is a buzzword across every segment of business. The discussion on its value and how to leverage it simply isn't going away. Marketers should be paying attention – the potential of big data to revolutionize marketing strategy is huge. Analysis by McKinsey has revealed that a focus on data in marketing can increase ROI by 15 to 20 percent. This is a vital component of the business case to be made for the use of big data. Research shows that while CMOs understand that big data is important, very few of them feel comfortable with analyzing and using it. There is no need to have a statistics or information technology background to get actionable insights out of big data, however. The following are steps to optimizing big data use in online marketing:

Make goal-driven measurements
There is a staggering amount of information now available online. Attempting to tackle all of it can feel overwhelming. However, big data is much more manageable than it may appear. The first step in leveraging data is determining which questions need answers and what client issues can be solved by using data analytics. Conversations with others in the company can bring to light pain points that big data might resolve.

Search Engine Land suggests analysis options for search engine marketers. These include measuring search trends and pursuing keyword segmentation. These are good basics to understand; however, the options for marketers extend well beyond these metrics. Data can be gathered on customer behavior on an enterprise website, for example, in order to optimize user experience and make the path through the sales funnel more intuitive. If a business is struggling with finding leads, it can turn to big data to inform a client retention initiative.

Deriving an action plan from big data
The most important function of big data is to help marketers develop realistic and useful action plans. Without a strategy, big data is just a lot of information and a trendy buzzword. When it is used to formulate a plan, however, it can be extremely worthwhile to marketers of all kinds.

Poring over customer and prospect data can lead to developing better buyer personas, which can in turn foster more effective targeting. If this is a challenge a business faces, it may find social media data useful, or demographic data on existing customers. This kind of information leads directly to good, actionable insights. Knowing who a target audience is and what makes them tick has always been invaluable in marketing, and big data is simply the latest tool to help develop answers to these questions.

Obstacles to implementation and how to overcome them
There may be other roadblocks to effective implementation of big data within an organization. For example, some analysis may truly require advanced programs or staff with analytical knowledge before data insights can be put to good use. It may also be the case that buy-in regarding the value of big data is low across departments. If this occurs, it's possible that data will remain in its separate silos. The best analysis comes from integrated data rather than information that is isolated by department or function. Both of these obstacles can be overcome. There are quite sophisticated analytics programs available that will take the mathematical heavy lifting off the shoulders of marketers, for example, and it is possible that there is untapped talent within an organization that could handle the demands of big data analysis. In terms of buy-in, doubters may simply need to be confronted with statistics.

Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.