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Marketers know that big data is a big deal for their organisation and for the future of their role – but given the hype and sheer wordcount on this subject, it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what steps marketers need to take to implement a truly effective (and empowering) big data strategy.

Big data is here to stay

Our recent report based on interviews with over 50 enterprise marketers, “When will marketing be promoted to the boardroom? The reality of big data’s promise”, revealed that big data is now mainstream for enterprise – over 80% had already invested in big data as a marketing tool or had plans in place to do so within the next 3 years – a convincing majority you might say.

It’s already delivering results

Furthermore, our research found that those marketers already using big data are reporting 41% heavier usage compared to just 18 months ago, suggesting they are deriving ever greater value and return on their considerable investment in this technology. This in turn is propelling more CMOs to unheard of levels of influence within their organisations – there are numerous recent high-profile examples of organisations across all sectors who are promoting marketers to the top job; Burberry, Mozilla, Audi US, Royal Dutch Shell, and the Gilt Group, to name a few.

It’s a game changer

Of course the relatively recent rise of the CMO is not only down to the unprecedented opportunity that big data offers, it’s also due to the commonly perceived ‘right brain’ attributes of the marketer as a species –creative storyteller, calculated risk-taker, and cross-function leader – and the fact that they are conditioned to operating under constant pressure to meet lead and revenue targets. These are all traits which have served marketers well and brought about increased respect and influence, but for many marketers big data has become the final catalyst to boardroom influence – allowing them a level of insight and targeting simply not available pre-digital data, and giving them the opportunity to carry out almost 1-2-1 personalised responsive marketing, on a mass scale for the first time.

However, whilst most marketers would not dispute the power of harnessing deep customer insight to deliver more precise targeting and shape better-informed marketing strategy, most report that they are unclear on the specific steps they need to take to join this up and ensure that big data translates to a better marketing contribution to the business bottom line, and puts them on the pathway to boardroom recognition.

To capitalise fully on the benefits of big data to the marketing department, marketers need to act decisively in 5 key areas:

1) Identify the right data – not all data is equal, and focusing on wrong data can be a costly distraction. Marketers need to allow time to think hard about what they really want to find out about their customers, and then identify the data that can deliver the specific insights they need.

2) Own their big data role – our research shows a lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities around big data between the IT, Data, and Marketing departments. Marketers need to stake their claim in the big data play, and take ownership as custodians of customer insight.

3) Broaden their usage of data – marketers need to develop a better understanding of how to apply data to different and beneficial applications, thinking outside their mission-critical marketing objectives and future-proofing their marketing strategy by focusing on data predicting future trends.

4) Learn to speak the language of IT and Finance more fluently – to be clearer about what they need to get out of big data to achieve the right businesses results and increase their internal credibility. They must also invest time in working with other departments to put the right processes in place in order to achieve this.

5) Train – big data will only empower the marketing department once they are trained in how to extract the right ‘small data’ to guide strategic decision making.

It’s a fact, ignoring Big Data is not an option for marketers with boardroom ambitions. And whilst there is no doubt that marketers’ reputations are benefitting from the positive effects of using big data, they need to get to grips with taking ownership and direction of big data strategy to reap maximum benefits.