Why Big Data Isn’t Always Smart Data


The process of collecting and analyzing big data is more than smart; it’s nothing short of brilliant. Yet without the ability to interpret and take action on that wealth of information, it’s about as relevant to your marketing efforts as records of snowfall in the Andes in the 1920s. Smart data, like smart people, can be quickly responsive. It lets you course-correct to keep pace with your audience, nurturing the relationships you’re building with your prospects and guiding them to buying decisions. With it, you see the bigger trends and reasons underlying your prospects’ decisions, not just the results of those choices.

If you’re focusing on the size rather than the quality of your data, you have the equivalent of a library with no Dewey decimal system. Knowledge only matters when you can easily access and interpret it. Here’s a look at how to know whether your big data marketing applications are giving you the smart data you need.

Bigger Than You Think

Some business owners who hear the term “big data” mistakenly think it refers only to collecting information on a larger number of customers and prospects. While that’s certainly part of big data applications in marketing, it’s just the most superficial aspect of it. A big database alone does not define big data. It’s the collection of data on a level that human minds don’t process well – data that requires heavy computational power to organize – that sets it apart from simple collection of information. It would take marketing personnel a while to connect all the names on your mailing list with email addresses, but they could do it if you didn’t mind a few months’ wait. Ask them to track every click from every visitor to your website, though, and they wouldn’t be able to manage it even if they had years.

That’s what we mean when we say big data is larger than you think: Even if you had a tenth of your customer base, you and your marketing company couldn’t begin to analyze all the information an automated system collects. The system itself has to be smart; it has to not only collect the data but put it into ways its users understand.

Expert Analysts

Big data applications didn’t start with marketing or business. They started with the hard sciences, including astrophysics, quantum physics and molecular biology. The data these applications collected about tertiary protein structures or light variations in stellar systems needed experts to interpret the software’s findings. Even for them, data analysis often took years – time a marketing department can’t afford to spend.

Now that big data’s gone commercial, applications that use it offer much more user-friendly analytics, but you still need someone with expertise to turn raw information into derived data and derived data into a marketing plan. Installation isn’t implementation, and it isn’t enough just to buy into a marketing automation system that uses big data. You also need people with marketing experience to transform big data into smart data and concepts into action.

Analysis into Action

Once you know about behavioral and contextual data that send the necessary signals to your marketing automation software, you need a way to turn that potential energy of customer knowledge into kinetic energy in the form of revenue. Lead scoring provides a great example of turning knowledge into intelligent action. When your marketing automation system scores leads, it’s telling you who’s ready for the sales team, who needs more nurturing, and what you can do to help that lead along the sales funnel. Default values in a lead scoring system are only a starting point for smart data applications that can then be adjusted to accommodate real-world behavioral data.

Look for tools that give you smart data, not just big data, and choose a marketing company that can harness its real power.

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