Big Data makes sens for marketing

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For businesses, managing the ocean of data is frustrating. An Oracle (ORCL)study released in July of more than 300 executives in the U.S. and Canada indicated 93 percent believe they’re losing revenue opportunities by not being able to leverage the information available to them. Pete Elliott, director of marketing at systems integration specialist Key Info in Woodland Hills, Calif., helps companies of all sizes deal with the “oceans and oceans of data” spawned by posts, tweets, likes, links, images, videos, comments, texts, blogs, click tracks, and even digital sensors in shipping crates, among other things. The more data there are, Elliott says, the more his clients of all sizes want access to it—and quickly.

Let’s clear up one big misconception about Big Data now: It’s not just for big businesses. Data analytics is just another tool to increase revenue and maximize profitability. For any size business to stay competitive, it’s imperative to get a handle on its data because its counterparts are likely already doing the same with theirs. The glut of data available today is of no use if it’s not in a form that can be easily accessed and understood. As new software increasingly allows for better collecting, sifting, and sorting—turning data into information and information into insight—it can offer significant competitive advantages.

Data can also have a significant impact on customer satisfaction. Ryan Hollenbeck, senior vice president of marketing at Verint Systems (VRNT), an analytics company in Melville, N.Y., tells the story of a client that used software to look for patterns in call center conversations. The client discovered (to its horror) that it was unintentionally misleading some customers with its advertising. Another client used speech analytics to analyze the conversations of customers who were terminating their accounts, then used key words and phrases to identify other at-risk customers. Reaching out to these at-risk customers, the client reported that it saved some 600 accounts and more than $12 million in revenue in the first year of the program.

Getting a handle on the potential of Big Data requires you to get your feet wet. Invest a little time and money learning about software services that work online and don’t require buying servers or hiring engineers; Key Info’s Elliott suggests sophisticated analysis through cloud-based applications will be available for as little as $1,000 in the not-too-distant future.

Decades ago, when most business was conducted face-to-face, companies could get to know their customers in a personal way. Today, leisurely conversations are being replaced by instantaneous connections online. Organizations that fail to recognize these new paths of relating to customers, and fail to take steps to collect, analyze, and understand their proprietary data, are swimming blind.

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