The Big Data Marketing Gold Mine

It’s become clear that the true political star of the 2012 election was Big Data. There is much that marketers can learn from its meteoric rise.

Trumping the old-school, gut-instinct days of electoral politics, today’s campaigns employ data crunchers who mine the campaign’s database for clues on what it takes to engage supporters and motivate them to donate, volunteer and vote.

These data-driven clues emerge in many forms, such as the public information that people share on Twitter and Facebook regarding candidates, books and television shows. When fed into predictive models, the data offers a window into the minds of key audiences, which in turn helps campaigns personalize email communications, fine-tune television ad spending, and engage voters on the social platforms that matter most.

Lesson for CMOs

Sound familiar? What 2012 taught us about next-generation political campaigning holds parallel relevance to what CMOs are striving to achieve now in marketing: the ability to reach people with the right message at the right time, and make marketing a welcomed service instead of a nuisance.

Consumers are faced with endless choices when it comes to products and services. But most advertising budgets are not endless — so savvy marketers are turning to data to help them determine where to spend, and how best to speak to customers. Using information gleaned from social media and other sources, CMOs are trying to understand what makes consumers tick, what makes them purchase, and what keeps them coming back.

Given the level of complexity and the technological know-how this type of analysis requires, we’re seeing an increase in collaboration between the CMO and the CIO.

Why? Well, to start, as marketing technology budgets keep pace with — and increasingly exceed — IT budgets, it is vital that CMOs and CIOs work together to use their dollars efficiently, understand each other’s goals, and focus jointly on the tools and people who can ensure the brand can put its data to work.

Cruch the Data

The shift we’re seeing in CMO’s thinking — prompted by factors such as the dominance of online commerce and the influence of social media-powered consumers — is moving from “tried and true” to a data-based approach. This requires a heightened focus in two areas: the tools for harnessing data, and the skills to operate them.

Imagine if you could predict when your first-time customer might make a repeat purchase, and what would drive that individual to do so. Moreover, what if — with the right insight on your consumers’ likes and dislikes — you could pinpoint what types of communications would motivate them to act as an online ambassador for your brand, by sharing their purchase experience with social media contacts.

With the analytics technology available today, this is a reality. And that is why marketers need tools that specialize in business, social and predictive analytics.

Of equal importance to selecting the right technology, today’s marketers also need to hire highly-skilled employees who can use analytics tools to channel, analyze and make recommendations based on the data they find.

Model for Marketing Success

Remember that low-key team of data crunchers who propelled their political campaign to victory? They should be viewed as a model for what today’s marketers need in terms of a workforce that can turn Big Data into strategic decisions.

This type of workforce holds special value for marketers. From small, specialty boutiques to large, corporate-communications teams, marketing operations of all sizes require the ability to quickly capture customer, competitor and market data.

The key to filling these data-crunching jobs is having university-level training that engages students from all disciplines — not just computer science — so they are prepared and applying to the 1.9 million Big Data jobs that will be created in the U.S. by 2015, according to Gartner.

What can a CMO learn from a political campaign manager? Just as the 2012 election illustrated how Big Data can transform traditional campaigning, marketers who likewise harness the power of data can reimagine their roles and deliver greater value to consumers.

Deepak Advani is vice president of business analytics products and solutions at IBM.

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