In just 60 seconds, over 168,000,000 emails are sent in the world, 695,000 status updates, 79,364 wall posts and 510,040 comments are published on Facebook, and 600 videos (equivalent to over 25 hours of content) are uploaded on YouTube.

In this technology-enabled environment where information exchange takes place in a split second, marketers are facing the risk of swimming blind in the sea of data made available through Web 2.0.

The volume of data has exploded exponentially, but what we must realise is that organisations have been working with extremely large data sets for decades. For marketers especially, data has always been key to gaining insight into customers, their buying habits, and demographics. What’s actually new is the technology and the data practices available that allow marketers to make sense of the data more effectively, and apply it to their marketing campaigns.

Overwhelming as it is, rather than focusing on big data, marketers should be looking at how to make smarter use of the data that’s available to them. They must be able to prioritise, organise and analyse both structured and even more so, unstructured data.

Smart use of data can help marketers create a richer, more interactive customer experience at every touchpoint, from correspondence to call-center interactions. Here is an opportunity to leverage what you know about your customers in order to make even mass correspondence, like billing or statements, more personally valuable, helping you building a more enduring relationship. For example, if you’re a mobile services organisation, by identifying the heavy SMS users in your customer base, you could tailor your offerings and embedding a surprise loyalty offer of 100 free text in the invoice of these customer.

This recognition that a data management strategy is required is forcing changes in many organisations. As a marketer of a company that helps its customers take on a more strategic approach to managing their data, we are starting to have conversations with an increasing number of our customers about how they can better leverage the mammoth amount of information flowing in and out of their organisations.

This is definitely reflected in the marketplace as according to a report by Neolane and the Direct Marketing Association last year, more than fifty percent of its 250 mid-and executive-level marketer respondents said that they were planning on investing in data-related marketing initiatives to better respond to the challenges of extracting value from their data.

5 tips to strategic data management:

1. It’s not about the data, but the way you use it. Don’t get caught up in the big data hype and rush into investing in big data tools. Without a strategy of how to manage the data and what you’re going to do with it, you’re bound to come away disappointed with the results. It’s no use being data rich when there is no action plan to turn these data into actionable insights.

2. First step is to build a story with your data and envision the outcome you desire. You’ll find that by working backwards from the expected result, you’ll be able to more accurately determine what insights you need, where the data gaps are and where in the organisation this information resides.

3. Don’t undervalue the information that is lives behind the firewalls of your organisation. Often crucial information live behind the silos of your organisation – your sales colleagues may be holding the key ingredient to making your next campaign a success, or a contact centre staff may have had a conversation with a customer that offers useful insight. A transparent, interdepartmental view of customer interaction and business processes will help you gather valuable insights to build your customer experience management strategy.

4. Don’t get too hung up on all the technology talk. Best thing to do is to work closely with your CIO to communicate not just your technical requirements, but also engage them in the design process of a campaign or project. This will ensure that your goals are aligned and ensure that your IT department will be able to give you access to tools that are suited to your needs.

5. Diversify the talent in your marketing department. Having people with technical knowledge beyond will the marketing mix will bring a more well-rounded perspective to marketing campaigns and can even help provide a more convincing argument for that chunk of the marketing budget. Hire data scientists and invest in training to help your marketers rise up to the challenge of dissecting information from big data.

Martyn Riddle
BY Martyn Riddle ON 13 May 2013
Martyn Riddle is Asia Pacific marketing director for OpenText