Erin Hogg

Big Data: No longer a big buzzword

December 16th, 2014

This week in the MarketingSherpa Book Giveaway, we’re giving out five free copies of The Big Data-Driven Business: How to use big data to win customers, beat competitors and boost profits.

In this MarketingSherpa Blog post, we interviewed one of the co-authors, Russell Glass, for his insights on leveraging big data and what’s on the horizon for this much-discussed topic.

Russell currently serves as Head of B2B Marketing Products at LinkedIn and previously served as Founder, President and CEO of Bizo, acquired by LinkedIn this year for $175 million.

Sean Callahan, Senior Manager of Content Marketing, LinkedIn, and former Marketing Director of Bizo, served as co-author of The Big Data-Driven Business.

Read on to discover how big data has brought Marketing and Sales closer than ever and what marketers can do to use big data effectively and ethically.


What really is big data?

“One of the reasons we wrote the book is that we saw a big discrepancy between those who understand big data and those who were either skeptical of it or didn’t know what to think about it,” Russell said.

For a marketer just getting started in understanding and leveraging big data, Russell explained that it’s all about knowing your customers much better than you know them today through technology.


Why is big data so valuable?

For CMOs and marketers driving success for their company and achieving huge gains by using big data, they are putting a culture in place that is asking deep and insightful questions about their customers.

“They are understanding what makes a customer tick, what their customer is looking for and how can marketers create more relevant experiences for that customer,” Russell said.

Then, these marketers using big data are putting the systems in place to answer those questions as well as using all of those increases in processing power, storage and technology to create a better experience for their customers.

“These CMOs, because they are so close to the customer, they become the person in the organization that’s most likely able to move shareholder value,” he explained.


How can big data break down the walls between Marketing and Sales?

According to Russell, if you look back in history, before the Internet and before mass communication vehicles, the salesperson had the most direct connection to the customer.

“It was much more one-to-one,” he said, citing an example of a customer walking into a brick-and-mortar store.

Back then, the customer would interact and ask questions with the salesperson in-store, creating a dialogue and, ultimately, ending with a purchase.

However, in the past decade or two, the customer is doing a large percentage of research before they even get to the salesperson. Through Google searches for product reviews or turning to social media networks for recommendations, the implication is that Marketing is now the department closest to the customer.

“They have to make sure that they’re putting content out there … and that they have the right information across the Web when a customer or prospect is looking for it,” Russell said.

With so much of the buyer’s journey now a marketer’s responsibility, Sales is increasingly reliant on Marketing to understand the customer as well as to ensure the customer is getting what they need before they speak to a salesperson.

“Marketing is much more central to the conversation,” he said.

Furthermore, marketers are now in the best position to score leads and determine when those leads are sales-qualified, and they’re doing so using big data insights.

“Salespeople now are getting more qualified leads, and they’re closing more often. That starts to create a cycle because data is more entrenched with what Marketing is doing,” he said. “Marketing gets more budget to drive more leads, and you start to see this collaboration happen in a more effective way.”


How can marketers leverage big data ethically?

Russell explained there are two camps regarding issues with privacy: those who would prefer to have all tracking shut off and those who are using that data have the ability to collect it everywhere.

Russell explained there is a middle ground to this debate, and it involves creating mechanisms for transparency.

“Make sure prospects and customers know what you are doing, and offer control so that your prospects and customers can make changes to how you’re using their data if they would like to,” Russell said.

At LinkedIn, a cross-functional group called the Trust Council meets on a monthly basis to discuss issues ranging from new products that are getting released to complaints that are received and how the teams are designing privacy systems to combat those challenges.

“We make decisions as an organization that are consistently members first, and [we are] consistently thinking about how the member is being treated in their experience on LinkedIn,” he said.

On the flip side, data security is another big issue for marketers leveraging big data. With recent breaches of big box retailers, these issues have come to the forefront in both the customer’s and the marketer’s mind.

“It’s critically important that if companies are going to be storing data about customers and they’re going to be using that data online … they have to have a very thoughtful approach to security,” he said.


What’s the future of big data?

For Russell, he believes that it’s easy to think of big data as a fad or the next buzzword everyone is talking about. However, because this is how marketers are going to increasingly understand their customers, this is a strategy that will continue to grow and evolve.

The Internet, which is the fastest growing media channel of our time, is increasingly a part of everyone’s lives. Now more than ever, it’s being accessed on mobile devices and wearable tech — even cars are Internet enabled.

“At the end of the day, just about every piece of consumer information is going to be available to a marketer to create better and more personal experience for those people,” Russell explained.


Read more about The Big Data-Driven Business, and be sure to enter to win a free copy through the MarketingSherpa Book Giveaway.

The LinkedIn team will also be speaking on their email program and dynamic segmentation method at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, held Feb. 21-26, 2015, in Las Vegas.


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Marketing Data: Using predictive analytics to make sense of big data [More from the blogs]

Content Marketing: IBM creates dynamic website, lifts social referral traffic 291% in one year [MarketingSherpa case study]

Sales-Marketing Alignment: Marketing-qualified lead lift of 25%, lead rejection reduction of 20% with data-driven marketing strategy [MarketingSherpa case study]

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  1. December 29th, 2014 at 12:43 | #1

    My insight from this piece – Marketing is taking responsibility for most of the customer journey. Something I knew, but appreciated hearing it put so succinctly. Thanks.

  2. January 26th, 2015 at 18:56 | #2

    Simply put – big data is just another marketing buzzwords created to get people to pay more attention. Maybe it’ll work, or maybe it won’t. Only time will tell.

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