Data-Driven Marketing Really IS the New Big Thing

There’s a huge amount of interest in Big Data and its new off-shoot, ‘data-driven marketing.’

Indeed, IDC has gone on record that it sees this year, 2014, as the year data-driven sales and marketing takes off.

But what’s the best way to deliver data-driven – and to deliver apps that give users what they want, but which are also highly scalable and enterprise-class?

As organisations battle to gain competitive advantage and better serve their customers by integrating and analysing (even sharing) their Big Data assets, the problem is that many challenges will have to be overcome first.

That’s because when it comes to delivering Big Data insights directly to front-line campaign managers, planners, and even end-consumers, we still need to work out a number of things.

Joe Public – or the data scientist?

Visualisations of dataThe challenges start with how to access the ever growing volume and diversity of data sources that could be improving our research or market strategy. Then we need to figure out how to pull all that into one place, so we can get a complete view of consumer behaviour.

We know that to do all this, we need transactional, Web, and social data feeds. Next, we know that once we have this view, it’s difficult to fully explore, enrich, analyse, and truly understand our data – especially with tools more suited to statisticians and IT experts than everyday business users.

Another issue: how to manage data assets securely. And, yet another is how topresent large volumes of information to a large spread of users in a highly consumable, engaging fashion (potentially as part of an interactive feature or premium subscription service). Finally, we need to be able to start merging the management of the ultimate “viewer” experience with the delivery of meaningful data-driven insights to all stakeholders; after all, customer experience today is increasingly linked with how relevant your content, offers and outreach are to each individual’s personal preferences and lifestyle.

Making it easier to be effective

It’s clear we know the end-game; being able to deliver all this to everyday business users and colleagues to help them perform everyday tasks easier and better think, targeting a new customer campaign, understanding sign-up and churn rates, or projecting next month’s advertising revenues.

These challenges show exactly how far our industry has to go to deliver the power of Big Data across our organisations.

The good news is that practical insights have emerged that are inspiring us to re-examine the state of Big Data – going back to look for ways to make data driven-apps, campaigns, and experiences simpler, smarter, and more responsive.

This approach begins by thinking not “Big,” but “Small” Data.

Focusing on Big Data’s ‘last mile’ – Small Data

What do I mean by that? Much of the discourse to date (necessarily, as we’ve been in start-up mode) has been about technology – about the processing horsepower we need to do Big Data.

Now, we need to focus on the marketing tools and publishing platforms that will put data into context and empower end-consumers with targeted content, visual elements and engaging experiences. I am thinking specifically about the rise of consumer data-driven apps like Amazon’s product recommendations, the Jawbone UP lifestyle band, and similar innovations – all the way out to Kayak’s intriguing “When to Book” travel tool, where a unique presentation of data and purchase-timing insights is opening up amazing customer/traveler experiences.

In fact, the rise of data-driven apps for consumers has prompted new thinking over the past 18 months in terms of data-driven apps for business customers, as expressed in the Small Data movement I’ve helped to advance.

Small Data is about shifting the emphasis to the “last mile” of Big Data, encompassing design perspectives and use cases that support the delivery of useful, relevant insights and answers to both internal users and external customers. So what Small Data is about is giving focus and agility to all data work: your ideas need to be as simple and smart as you can make them. Why? Because this is the way to get the kind of compelling apps that will give business customers the accessible, understandable and actionable help they need to get their everyday tasks done more effectively.

It’s also a perspective that gets us to re-envision the tools marketers will use for creating more responsive, more accurate data-driven campaigns, while we are focusing more and more on the customer’s experience of our brands and products.

A framework for new thinking

Building on our Small Data philosophy and definition, let’s look at helpful design criteria and questions that you – as digital marketers – can use to help harness the power of Big Data for real-world tasks:

Are all relevant data sources accessible? Are we able to deliver large volumes of new and historic, but customiseddata to each user on a regular basis? Can non-technical users help themselves to data-driven insights without assistance? Are the resulting data-driven apps/sites accessible in the broadest sense –available to all, regardless of role, location or physical ability?

Can we enable users to access relevant data as a report, dashboard, or data export? Ultimately, we need to deliver insights in the form the business wants to use. Are we personalising the experience by location, role, or user segment (visitor, subscriber, advertiser etc.)? Can users easily navigate and explore their personal data, and access other sources or even insights from other users from within the app/site?

Are we delivering actionable insights? Are we packaging up insights and answers to support everyday tasks? Can users easily annotate, and share learnings from their session? Can support teams seamlessly monitor the customer experience and help out as requested? Is this (whatever we are doing) useful?

Finally, remember we will never get to “data-driven” if we don’t think about the customer at all times.

That’s the focus to enable you to give them the data-driven apps they want – and you need to offer.

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Allen Bonde

Allen Bonde

VP of product marketing and innovation, Actuate

Industry watcher, speaker, author, and 3-time CMO Allen Bonde is VP of product marketing and innovation at analytics leader Actuate. An early proponent of data-driven marketing, Bonde was co-founder of social marketing leader Offerpop, and served as an analyst and practice leader at Yankee Group, McKinsey, ABG, and Digital Clarity Group.

Earlier in his career, he was a data scientist and researcher in machine learning and analytics (early Big Data) in the Telecom sector, and received a patent for some of his work. He’s also been named a Top CMO on Twitter and Top 25 Enterprise Software Leader. Allen blogs at

June 24, 2014

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