Everyone’s talking about big data, including us, and with good reason. Big data has the power to transform marketing in ways that nothing else has since the advent of the Internet. It’s essential to understanding larger trends and spotting relationships that otherwise wouldn’t be visible. With it, you’re able to pinpoint your best customers and find more leads just like them. Before you can use big data effectively, though, you need to know more about small data.
Separating Small from Large
To put it simply, small data includes anything you can fit in your head. Individual customers’ names, email addresses and phone numbers qualify. So would simple behavioral data such as click-throughs and open rates for a given email marketing campaign. You might not be able to recall the exact numbers without a spreadsheet, but you can readily see how one element relates to another. You might need to widen a column on your spreadsheet to fit those larger numbers, but you wouldn’t have any trouble seeing how names and addresses are linked to one another.
By contrast, big data makes otherwise unreachable concepts accessible. Suppose you want to know what percentage of your customers in the healthcare sector who downloaded your latest white paper later tweeted about it and if those social media signals correlated positively with order size. It would take you an unreasonably long time just to find the data points and plot them, let alone draw useful inferences from them. That’s where big data excels.
It’s the Little Things That Matter
Business owners have a tendency to speak of big data in superlative terms while devaluing small data, but the truth is that the former depends on the latter. You need to amass a great deal of small data to derive meaning from the big data. Knowing which keywords drive the majority of your site traffic, seeing how SEO affects your search engine rankings, and discovering which email recipients forward your messages to other potential leads are all vital – and they’re all small data. Even if you’re dealing with an audience of millions, it’s the interrelationship of information and not the quantity alone that defines big data.
All those details, that small data, adds up to become something greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s look at keyword data for SEO. Small-scale data analysis can tell you about the most high-value keywords and where site visitors came from to find them, but it doesn’t tell you who those visitors are the way big data can. If you want to learn how your visitors’ website activity correlates with their social media activity, for example, you need to add up all the smaller pieces to create a larger picture.
Small data tells you where your prospects have been and what they’re doing now. Over time, those masses of behavioral, firmographic and demographic data become potent predictive tools that allow businesses to figure out what future customers will do. Marketing forecasts are notoriously difficult to construct using traditional means, but marketing automation systems that amass and analyze huge volumes of data have become adept at it.
To see an example of how big data can foretell the future, you only have to look as far as Google’s search bar. Type in a few letters or the first few words of a phrase, and Google will predict the rest of the text for you. Sometimes, the search engine seems almost eerily prescient, but it’s just using data from billions of other searches to make a prediction about what you want to know. It’s a trick that can seem almost like mind-reading, but there’s nothing supernatural here – just small data and plenty of it, plus sophisticated algorithms that make use of that information.
Predictions rooted in small data pay big dividends. With them, you can forecast where your next customers might come from, which offers to send a hot lead, or deliver the content your customers want precisely when they want it.
© Reach Marketing LLC 2015 All Rights Reserved.