THE BLOG
09/24/2013 01:17 pm ET | Updated Nov 24, 2013

Channeling Data: Using It to Create Powerful Marketing Strategies

In today's technology-driven society, data is being generated at a rate never before seen in history. Based on recent statistics, Internet users are writing two million blog posts, sending 294 billion emails and posting 400 million tweets... every single day. On the face of it, this staggering amount of information represents endless opportunities for marketers to create targeted campaigns that result in higher customer engagement and ROI. Yet, many are struggling to make sense of it all. Filtering valuable insights from this vast array of data is one of the greatest challenges facing modern businesses.

Even those who manage to collect the most meaningful data aren't in the clear. They must synthesize, analyze and communicate data in a way that generates actionable information for a collection of internal teams who rely on accurate information about target consumers.

If you're serious about cracking the code -- translating big data into a strategy that allows you to meaningfully connect with your customers as well as motivate them to take action -- consider this three-step process.

Step 1: Figure out what you really need to know.

Every effective project begins with a well-defined problem or question that represents an obstacle to business success. Ask yourself what's stopping you from succeeding now. What do you need to know about your customers or your company to improve your business? By keeping an eye on the problem or information gap that's holding you back, you can focus your data collection and analysis processes and generate the most relevant data to help you overcome your most pressing challenges.

It's also important to research and identify effective methods for collecting that pertinent data. In her new e-book titled Be a Big Data Marketing Hero, Lisa Arthur, Chief Marketing Officer at Teradata Applications, points out that traditional methods are proving inefficient in dealing with massive amounts of data. "Big data exceeds the processing capacity of conventional database systems," says Arthur, who suggests alternative ways to process data to gain the value you're seeking.

Step 2: Recognize your own biases.

A healthy ego is an unavoidable aspect of human nature. We tend to use data to confirm our own hypotheses. When faced with huge volumes of information, it may be difficult to filter data in an objective way. That's why it's important to take precautions and minimize the impact of your own bias to influence research outcomes.

In a study done by Princeton University, researchers tracked the natural tendencies of bias and how it is present in people. They found that individuals are aware of the bias in others, but not themselves. To avoid getting caught up in biased thinking that may compromise the validity of your data, document your assumptions about the business issue, watch for patterns and themes, and remain alert for unexpected findings.

Step 3: Roll up your sleeves.

If you've done your work in the first two steps, then you've accurately targeted reliable information to meet your business needs and have only data that relates to your business objective. That means it's time to go through the data and convert it into actionable information you can use to improve business. Here's where many businesses hit a wall.

Synthesizing data and analyzing it may be one of the toughest aspects of communicating in the modern world. Consumer information comes in so many different forms -- audio, text, numbers and photos -- just to name a few of the most common. Businesses with a system in place to consolidate the various types of information coming into various departments throughout the organization can gain a critical lead in the uber-competitive field of modern business.

But even those who can't afford sophisticated storage and analysis software can still gain sizable competitive advantages simply by digging into relevant data sets, extracting the findings that stand out, and sharing them throughout the organization. Use existing staff if that's what you've got, and ask them to spend a few hours each day looking a bit closer at the consumer data generated by your sales team and shipping staff -- as well as information provided by your accounting folks. Overlay all that with comments you pull from your social media accounts or hear from your customer service team.

The point is to start developing an integrated picture of how your social marketing programs are performing in terms of enterprise-wide goals and consumer needs and preferences, and then using that information to refine your messaging, promotional processes and other strategic initiatives to resonate with consumers and boost business.