As a marketer of data storage and data management products, including those for the emerging “Big Data” market, I was immediately attracted to a a new report called “Marketing ROI in the Era of Big Data.”

This 2012 report by David Rogers and Don Sexton of the Columbia Business School and New York American Marketing Association is not about how to market Big Data products (a topic my firm, Marketingsage, is happy to address). The report is about using Big Data analytics to drive marketing decisions. As the report notes, Big Data analytics is different from “the quarterly omnibus survey panels of traditional market research” that rely on periodically analyzing structured data such as a surveys, click data or sales.

Big Data analytics is “predicated on access to frequent and recent data” from many sources. For many this means analyzing data at near-real-time speeds. It also means the combining of data from various digital media — page views, time-on-site, revisits, clicks, opt-ins, opt-outs, purchases, shopping cart abandonment,  search engine page ranks, keyword usage, link-backs, demographics, perceptions, tweets, likes, shares, etc. It means combining data from traditional marketing tools such as event sponsorships, print advertising, direct mail, TV and radio adverts with digital tools such as email, social network accounts and mobile adverts/apps.

If you are a hands-on marketer, your brain may have just melted down when you thought about what it would actually take to make sense of all that diverse data…even if you had it available to you in real-time. If so, you won’t be surprised to learn that while 91% of senior corporate marketers (at large firms) believe that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions, it’s not happening near as often as some might think. And, if it isn’t happening in the large B2C firms surveyed, it sure isn’t happening in smaller B2B firms with small marketing teams.

Here are some statistics form the report:

  • 65% of marketers said that comparing the effectiveness of marketing across different digital media is “a major challenge” for their business
  • 39% say their own company’s data is collected too infrequently or not real-time enough
  • Large firms are much less likely to collect new forms of digital data like mobile data (19%), than they are to collect traditional customer survey data such as on demographics (74%) and attitude (54%)
  • 22% are using brand awareness as their sole measure to evaluate their marketing spend
  • 42% of marketers report that they are not able to link data at the level of an individual customer
  • 45% of marketers are not using data to personalize their marketing communications
  • 57% are not basing their marketing budgets on any ROI analysis
  • 37% of respondents did not include any mention of financial outcomes when asked to define what “marketing ROI” meant for their own organization

Not surprisingly, the report notes that marketers who are satisfied with measuring marketing ROI tend to use more metrics than organizations that are less satisfied. Additionally, their leaders set measurable objectives for marketing actions.

Accordingly, the authors go on to recommend that marketers should get started with the basics of determining marketing ROI and then move on to ROI best practices.

A Personal View

Although it’s a long way in the future (maybe a decade), I’m looking forward to the day when a marketer can look at a dashboard that reveals what’s going on everywhere, in real-time, especially if coupled with artificial intelligence that  offers some insights into the data. However, lets not forget that such a dashboard is no different from the one in your car. You still have to do the driving. Even with a navigation system that gives you step-by-step instructions you still need to decide where you want to go and avoid all the obstacles along the way.

In reality, the data is only helpful if you define it appropriately, understand where it’s coming from, know what’s driving it and how to act upon it to meet your goals. That’s not a given. I’ve seen many instances where firms analyze marketing data only to draw poor and very costly conclusions because they lack perspective and experience.

For me, the “Marketing ROI in the Era of Big Data” conclusion rings true. It states: “Chief Marketing Officers face a dynamic and challenging environment for marketing today. They will find no simple answers to effectively measuring marketing ROI amidst the growth of big data and new digital marketing tools. Innovative marketing and effective measurement will both be works in progress that require leadership, agility, and constant learning.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

  1. One of the big reasons I think the research neglects is data quality. As a small consultancy dealing with lots of web and customer data…cleanup is critically important upfront.

    Good writeup and insights,


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