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February 06, 2013

Everywhere you turn these days, there’s an article, conference or new tech solution about Big Data.  If Big Data was traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, it would be the hottest stock out there. 

Big Data is more than just a physical presence on a server.  It requires a change in thinking, as comScore chief Gian Fulgoni hammered home in a recent blog post.  If your marketing organization isn’t prepared to accept and leverage the Big Data that’s accessible to your business, chances are your competitors will. 

So how does one prepare for, and align their organization to be more data-driven?  As with many challenges, the first step is identifying the roadblocks before considering a solution.

Barriers

• Prioritization.  With today’s digital marketer being pulled in so many directions, it’s a daily battle just to get the basics.  As a result, data-driven thinking gets lost in the shuffle.
• Lack of comfort. Many leaders and key executives of marketing organizations have media or creative backgrounds and aren’t necessarily strong data thinkers.  As a result, the appetite for data is low when compared to those things that they better understand, such as mobile or social media (where budgets are growing exponentially). 
• Cost.  While media and creative are products that marketers can pay for and see, data can be more of a bet on the future.  It’s hard to get any projects pushed through fiscal scrutiny these days, especially ones that need time to pay off in the long run, versus short-term gains that can be seen this quarter.  
• Analysis paralysis.  The more data you have, the more overwhelming it can be.  There might be a mountain of information out there for you to leverage on behalf of your business, but how and where do you start?  As the data gets even bigger, it becomes even scarier to jump in.
• Lack of human capital.  Frankly, there’s just too much demand for and not enough inventory of data-driven specialists.  The ones with the experience often cost a lot more than companies are willing to pay.  In addition, these specialists generally huddle in the largest markets where jobs are more plentiful.  Of course, there are many very solid data professionals spread out over the world, but if you’re a Fortune 2000 company trying to hire experts in Des Moines, Peoria, or Jacksonville, you may not have a lot of options.

Solutions

• Winning with data.  The best way to prove success of a new channel is to show real results.  Phase in your data approach so there’s a smaller cost and less disruption, but still enough actual value generated to build in an appetite for more by your colleagues.  The best data advocates are those who can patiently build a supporting case for data-driven thinking, versus demanding it and getting frustrated when no one sees things their way.
• Losing without data.  Unfortunately, if all of your begging for more data-driven thinking falls on deaf ears, you may have to wait until something really bad happens before you can get your managers to take action.  Seeing yet another quarter of missed revenue goals or severely underperforming in Q4 can be the catalyst you need.  It’s not the best approach, but sometimes losing is the only way to find a path to winning.
• Better planning.  A strong data practice is more of a long-term play than a short-term win.  The promise of data is its ability to make everything you do better—better creative, better media allocation, better A/B testing, etc.  Many companies aren’t great at planning projects, making it difficult to clearly see how data can be used to make things better at every step.  However, if you sit down and plan out all of your organization’s marketing tasks, it will be easy to see where data can make a significant impact.
• Outsourcing.  Although outsourcing can have a downside, there are also many benefits that speak directly to the challenges listed above.  Outsourcing can save money, provide the necessary expertise, alleviate fears, and more. Look outside of your organization when you can’t manage it internally.
• Top-down sponsorship.  Most important, you have to have someone at the top who is championing data-driven thinking.  When you’re not in the room when big decisions are being made, this person has to be the one looking for opportunities to drive these initiatives home.  

Big Data is here to stay.  Identify the barriers that are holding your team back and find ways, such as the ideas presented above, to move past those challenges. 

by Josh Dreller
Courtesy of MediaPost

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