There is a lot of data floating around. B2B marketers are aware of big data – every Internet-connected device generates it. Big data is different because the information that is generated tends to be unstructured. Every Facebook post and tweet, for instance, contributes to this ever-growing collection.
A May 2015 report from Cisco looked at future Internet traffic growth and the organization predicted that by the end of 2016, Internet traffic will surpass the zettabyte (1). Most computer users are familiar with gigabytes, and to illustrate just how much data will be available, 1 zettabyte is the equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000 gigabytes. That number is almost unimaginable to regular Internet users.
Big data has been around for quite some time, and businesses are utilizing it for multiple purposes. Vast amounts of information can help marketers with lead generation and tinker with marketing campaigns to find out what is working. Yet, there is another form of large data that will help B2B campaigns.
What is open data?
Open data is the next (or current) form of information that should be heavily used. Essentially, there is a belief among some in the government and technology industry that believe certain information should be freely available and used by anyone with no restrictions. There are key features of this information, according to Open Knowledge. In order for data to be open, it must be available with no fees to use and be created so users can download it. Terms and restrictions should also allow for freely distribution without penalty, and finally, there should be no discrimination. Everyone should be able to access open data, no matter the industry. For instance, a B2B marketer might come across a dataset that a college professor is using for a class project. Both parties can use it because the data is formatted in a way that does not require special programs to read it (2).
Virtually any topic can contribute open data. The U.S. government has a website dedicated to freely available information (3). From here, users can search for information either on a national or statewide level. In fact, all but 11 states freely release information for use. Some of the biggest cities businesses may operate in, such as New York City, are proponents of openness.
Relation to B2B
Radius currently helps B2B marketers become more data-driven (4). In a July 2014 post, Lisa Fugere wrote big data has pressured organizations to adapt quickly and raise revenue, or risk falling behind competitors. Every department of a business gathers data that may not be shared with other departments. This closed-off approach can be damaging, as leads may be passed over because the marketing team did not have access to the data.
Instead, Fugere said there is a growing trend of combining internal data collection with information freely available on the Internet. This information, when combined with marketing and sales knowledge, can help businesses anticipate trends. This may help open up new areas for lead generation and marketing techniques.
Example of open data use
Scientist Ben Wellington is an advocate for open data and presented his ideas during a November 2014 TED Talk, as highlighted by B2B News Network (5). He believed companies and governments are overwhelmed with all the information and are not sure how to proceed. He also told the audience how open data can empower those who use it.
A dataset currently offered by the federal government looks at construction price indexes. This provides statistics on the number of single-family houses sold and the number under construction. An organization that sells construction equipment and safety gear may be able to look at these numbers and estimate future construction growth. Marketers, with the help of software analytics, can predict if there will be an increase in home development, which may signal a growth in employment. More employees will then equate to more gear being needed. The business that provides safety gear will get a head start and offer supplies before construction firms realize they need it.
Open data may also lead to the creation of new markets in the near future. A business may notice an area ripe for disruption or more activity.
Four important questions
According to the Open Data Institute, a business must ask itself four questions if it wishes to pursue open data, but is confused over potential costs and risks (6). These questions are:
- What are the goals of the business?
- How can the business achieve value?
- How is data currently used and how can it be used in the future?
- In what ways are the business models similar?
While open data is just a few clicks away, it is an area that must be studied carefully for B2B usage. Marketers may be overwhelmed with the amount of information available. Yet, the opportunities exist for open data to have a profound impact in the B2B sector by allowing companies to stay ahead of trends and maybe create new ones.
(2). What is Open?