In today’s digital landscape, consumers are very aware of the amount of data being collected about them. From internet cookies tracking actions, to mobile data being used for location based services, a huge amount of information is being collected at every moment. According to PWC, consumers now create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day with 90 per cent of the world’s data being created in the last two years alone.

As the collection and analysis of data has become commonplace, so has its role in business. The use of data to improve services to customers has transformed many businesses, with marketing being particularly impacted. The days of marketing campaigns consisting purely of mail-outs taking a scattergun approach should be long gone. Data analysis allows marketers to more intelligently target their audiences – helping them reach the right people at the right time with the right content. As a result of this, marketing priorities have changed and the role of technology has become absolutely vital – at least for those who know how to use it properly and are prepared to invest the time and effort to reap the rewards.

Many marketers now use Marketing Automation software to automate repetitive tasks, to implement simple tasks cheaply and improve efficiency. For example, such solutions can help marketers manage outbound marketing campaigns, automating the process of identifying targets and sending out content.

“Big Data” analysis in particular can help marketers get in front of the right people based on the information being collected. For example, by analysing sales data, marketing teams can begin to understand who their customers really are and group them – assessing everything from age, gender and location to income, education and previous purchases. That kind of insight is invaluable – helping drive sales and, ultimately, boost revenue.

However, if not done well, automation can result in people being inundated with texts or automated phone calls which are not relevant to them. Worst of all is where the customer does something unexpected – like responding to an approach – that the system goes haywire. Automation alone is not the answer, it is intelligence which brings true value and it is vital that businesses put it at the heart of marketing operations. The basics of good Marketing have not changed in 50 years – what has changed is the information at our fingertips to aid our decision making.

Despite its benefits Big Data is not without its challenges. The main problem faced is that it costs time and money to properly analyse data. Many businesses may not have the resource or expertise to truly reap full reward from Big Data but there are some processes they can put in place to ensure they are able to tap into data intelligence.

There are five key things that marketing teams of all sizes, and with all budgets, should be doing:

· Understand your customer

This has not changed since Eve first offered Adam an apple – it is at the very heart of what is Marketing. All businesses will have some form of customer data. That may be quite basic information such as transactional history, gender, nationality and age. Or it could be more complex such as education, vocation and general interests.

Businesses do not need Big Data experts or expensive analysis tools to tap into this. It is relatively easy to start grouping customers to create customer sets which can be used to target customers – perhaps to women between the ages of 18-24, for example. This allows for basic targeting.

Once business start basic analysis and grouping, they will see trends start to emerge and will be able to start reducing the size of their customer sets – ensuring even better targeting – saving cost, improving response rates, and avoiding upsetting customers with unwanted approaches.

· Appreciate your unique selling point

Having a unique proposition is very important in helping to define a company’s differentiation in the marketplace. As barriers to entry reduce, competition increases, so making your business stand out from competitors is essential.

Big Data can have huge benefits in this area by helping organisations truly understand what current competitors are offering, what customers want, and how businesses can make their proposition stand out.

· Plan your communications

Planning communications is critical for any organisation and when done correctly, it can have huge advantages. Whilst you cannot plan for all eventualities, many things are predictable (such as when Bank Holidays fall), and having a plan allows businesses to remain in control, whilst accommodating more unpredictable opportunities.

Understanding the purpose of communications is important, but understanding when and how to deliver it through the use of data analytics is vital as it allows communications to be accurate and better targeted. Linking some messages, and planning follow ups (whether through Marketing Automation or otherwise) allows you to understand when customers are being bombarded with messages, or when they might feel ignored.

· Speak the customer’s language

Organisations need to speak the customer’s language. Few customers want to hear the latest technical jargon, they want to know how your product or service addresses their need. So you need to find a language that works.

If in doubt, test it with customers first. Identify a sub-segment of your target base and contact them to measure how they react. Using marketing analytics in this way can help businesses understand how customers talk and how to best engage with their audiences.

· Understand the customer’s buying cycle and follow it through

Finally, organisations need to understand the customer’s buying cycle and stick with it throughout the process.

By leveraging customer data, businesses can take advantage of each of the stages (awareness, consideration, preference, purchase and repurchase) and create targeted services for each one through specific content.

Whilst Digital Marketing has given us many more tools to get our message across, the core requirement of successful marketing over for the last 100 years – insight, targeting, proposition, creative, call to action – has not changed. As such, Marketing teams should not forget the basics, and instead look to use data to truly understand their customers and hence deliver even better results than their forebears could have wished for.


By Simon Carter, Executive Director of Marketing, UK & Ireland at Fujitsu

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