Big Data: Success Starts with the Problem

By on December 6th, 2013

There as a great article on Forbes.com recently that talked about the key to big data. It’s not building better databases. It’s not integrating data silos. It’s not the use of multiple channels (although all of those things are important). It’s starting out by knowing what problem you want to solve.

It sounds simple, and it should be. Like QR Codes, personalized URLs, and all of the other hot buzz technologies in the marketing world today, big data is not an end unto itself. It is just a tool to get somewhere else.

The article gave some great examples of how big data solved real world problems, such as how UPS used big data to predict likely truck repairs and bring down its maintenance costs and how the U.S. Tennis Association used big data to draw its fans more deeply into the matches, and they’re worth a read. But how to take that focus and apply it to the world of marketing?

Start by asking what the client wants to accomplish. For example, I want to boost my sales on Tuesdays, my slowest day of the week. Or, I want to get people to buy maintenance contracts with my products. Or, I want to get sell more X to this demographic. Nail it down. Be specific. Then ask what data — specifically — is needed to accomplish that goal.

Do you have that data in-house? If not, where can you get it? Should you gather it in-house or is this really a list purchase with the right qualifiers?

It’s not about “Let’s do a big data program.” That’s overwhelming and meaningless anyway. It’s about targeting a specific problem, then bringing resources to bear on that problem.

Sometimes simplicity and focus are the most important assets you have!

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One Response to “Big Data: Success Starts with the Problem”

  1. John Leininger Says:

    You are right on target. I always have a discussion about what data they have and what they want to do with the data. The two things have to work together. It amazes me how often I quiz someone about a project they are working on and they cannot tell me the goal of the campaign. Everyone involved should clearly know what the goal is and should be thinking about how their part of the job impacts the end results.

    You summed this up nicely,

    John Leininger