THE BLOG
09/08/2014 04:31 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2014

Big Data And Marketing Personas - A Perfect Match?

Just today I was reviewing the data I had at my fingertips and realized I didn't have what I needed as a marketer. Hmm, I thought. The solution isn't "let's get more data." The solution really is, "let's get the right data." As I started to dig through the piles of notes I had gathered over the past year which included marketing studies, brand reports, research and just plain strategic planning documents, I thought, "there must be a better way." I started thinking about surveying customers, social media and other tools to obtain accurate feedback. Is big data the answer I thought? It can provide information I certainly need, but is it really what marketers need, and how does it help us get that information?

Big data can give us a glimpse of how to get answers in an instant. But what it can't do is fully interpret and relate to experiences and data it has not analyzed yet.
- HuffingtonPost

Yes, big data is extremely useful. However, big data as big as it is, cannot see and know everything. It's not omniscient. It's only as good as you program it to be. You must think through the potential outcomes that are important to you, ask questions and potentially role-play to get the data-solutions you want.

Personas

Guiding a brand is not easy. However, it becomes very difficult if you don't know who your personas are. Without a clearly defined description of your personas, your content marketing, advertising and brand could potentially be way off the mark. Don't think about product and service features any more. Think about solving customer problems, answering their questions and educating them. This will also help establish credibility and trust. This process will also help to identify qualified leads for your business development team.

In order to understand why big data and personas are a perfect match, let's first define what a persona is. I happen to like HubSpot's definition.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

I know, you think you can define your personas perfectly. Honestly, your definition of your persona is probably based on your perception of them and who you want them to be instead of actual facts. I have experienced first hand company leaders in several industries that don't really know how to define their personas and the motivations of them. As marketers, we don't want to make a hasty generalization when defining our personas. That causes errors in strategy and content creation. My perception may have some merit, but it shouldn't be the only way to define personas. Try online research, focus groups, social monitoring and even face-to-face information gathering. You want facts to be as accurate as possible.

Big Data - A Must, Not A Wish

Real time, big data will be able to provide marketers with the information needed, exactly when it's needed. Thinking about the specific type of information you want and then asking the right questions in marketing is the key to revealing the answers and data we need.

Big data certainly offers a cavalcade of data that marketers can use and never dreamed they would be able to access. But that doesn't mean they haven't asked the questions all along. Any good marketer has said at one time or another, "Wouldn't it be great if we could know x or y?
- Maryanne Conlin | LinkedIn

Once big data becomes more of a must instead of a wish, and the cost of technology to deliver that data becomes mass-market ready, we will soon be able to better define personas with big data. We will also be able to better define customer motivations for buying, behavioral patterns, where the buyer is in the sales funnel and those hard to get sub-sections of our target market.

So, are big data and the all-important marketing persona really a perfect match? If you're in the marketing trench like I am every day looking for better ways to create targeted content that's delivered to targeted customers - Yep... It's a perfect match.