"You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?" The Talking Heads weren't talking about life, they were talking about BIG DATA. At some stage in the development of most large companies, data analysts wake up in the middle of the night screaming. Why? Because there's too much of it. It's everywhere and nowhere like a great big garage full of junk that nobody knows what to do with. At some stage, enterprise inbound marketers face the same dilemma. How can you find your customers, both present and future, in this mountain of data and reach out to them at just the right time to influence both buy decisions and lifetime value?
The Big Wave That is Big Data
Big Data is a Big Topic. According to Gartner, CIO's will spend more than $230 billion on Big Data technologies over the next five years. For a little perspective on what Big Data is all about and why all the fuss, a few salient factoids:
- Walmart handles about 1 million customer transactions per hour and maintains databases more than 2.5 petabytes in size. A petabyte is a million megabytes for those of you scoring at home. Yeah, that's a bunch.
- According to eBay, the total amount of business data collected worldwide doubles every 1.2 years. OMG.
- IBM estimates that the World creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data every day. Yep, that's a billion billion.
Big Data is all about applying new software and hardware technologies to not only manage, but also to make sense out of all this data, ideally in real time. No problem, right? BIG problem. None of our present-day systems are equipped to handle this kind of information overflow. Now you know why folks are spending more than $230 billion in the near future. But can we at least manage relatively small chunks of Big Data to improve inbound marketing results? You betcha.
The Role of Inbound Marketing in Big Data
Well, think about it. Where do all of those blogs, social media updates, likes, comments, shared photos, SMS texts and website visits go when you turn out the lights? That's right, they're collected in massive virtual data warehouses floating high in the clouds, ruled by the Gods of Information. We have access to a lot of it, but there are rules and there are barriers. Facebook has rules. Google has rules. Governments have rules. And then there are all the diverse tools you need to tap into this marketing goldmine of information. You have to start somewhere, or you will be buried in all of this data.
The Role of Big Data in Inbound Marketing
So let's back up a few steps. Big Data isn't just about petabytes and quintillions. What about all of the data you're collecting right now from your website, blog, social networks, marketing ppc campaigns, emails, publications and ecommerce transactions? Big Data is a relative term. Small businesses have data challenges just like enterprises. What good is a huge collection of data to any size company if you can't process it quickly, find patterns and predict outcomes? Let's take a simple example.
Let's say you create a fantastic new ebook and publish it on all of the usual content marketing channels. People start downloading it, love it and start to pass the word. Soon you have a nice spike in your website traffic and leads. You collect a few key identifiers from your new leads like name and email in your landing page conversion form. Now what? What else do you know? Can you quickly or even automatically discriminate between "warm" and "cold" leads? Into which lead nurturing campaigns should you segment your leads? Do they just go into one bucket? Wouldn't it be nice to have a lead intelligence program keeping track of your leads' past and future interactions and notifying your sales team immediately when they cross that magical threshold into "sales-ready" status? Yeah, we're talking about Big Data now, even for Ma and Pa Pizza Shop on the corner.
So Where Are We Going With Big Data?
It's here folks. When was the last time you checked the (updated) owner's manual of your marketing automation platform? Are you using all of the tools in your toolkit? You might be shocked to learn what's already available in the systems you already own. I know I'm digging into the new HubSpot 3 tools for the latest in lead intelligence and lead nurturing. Our team is already well down the road, and I want to make sure I stay on top of this stuff, so I'm doing a deep dive. We'll be talking a lot about Big Data in the coming months, because it's driving the future of marketing.
Photo Credit: Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer