I thought I was a marketer, but I’m a data scientist

Big data has been abstract to me for a long time.  Sure, I understand it in the context of things data science 101010like “genomic research” and applications in Oil and Gas.  But how my own field of Marketing as a discipline is changing because of Big Data – that was not so clear to me until about a week ago.

Using (little-d) data in marketing is nothing new.  Through tools like Hubspot and Salesforce, it’s easy to track things like “ratio of qualified leads to leads for different marketing tactics” and answer questions like “what is the point of diminishing returns for the number of times we call someone?”

At Infinio, we are very data-driven.  We make nearly all our marketing budget decisions based on data.  I’m not sure how you’d do it otherwise. A few of my vendors have recently commented that we have a lot more data and track things a lot more carefully than most of their other customers.  But again, I’m not sure how else you’d do it.

But that’s “little-d” data, now onto Big Data.

In budgeting for 2016, I decided to look at 10 new vendors that are doing innovative things in marketing.  I’m pretty new to demand generation and online marketing (my background is in product marketing) so I thought it would be a good exercise to look at vendors with leading-edge technologies around things like demos, landing pages, retargeting, social advertising, and improving abandon and bounce rate.  I unscientifically picked a handful that looked interesting and started investigating what they do.

Nearly each and every one of them was trying to differentiate their value based on using data to drive decisions and actions.

  • “We use data about the people on your website and where else they go on the web to find other people who go to similar sites and might be interested in your company.”
  • “We track what people are doing on your website and show them content that other visitors who completed similar actions were interested in.”
  • “We look at all the conversion rates for landing pages across all our customers’ sites to dynamically adjust your page design to increase conversion.”

Marketing is not about the “next big thing” right now.  There’s no new way to market, or new medium.  It’s about harnessing the power of data to get better results.  And I sound like an ad for something right there “harnessing the power of data” but it’s true.

It’s been suggested in several places that the CMO is the next CIO, and I think there’s something to that.  That article quotes a recent Gartner report predicting that in 5 years, Marketing will be spending more on technology than IT will.

Our company isn’t an “online” company, we don’t complete transactions online, for example. But the success of our company in the next 5 years is likely going to be attributable somewhat to our ability to leverage data about our customers and prospects and their online activities.

It’s creepy.  Knowing more about what these companies do, every time I hover over my mouse or choose a particular menu item on a website I think about how someone is tracking me. Even incognito browsing isn’t untrackable.  If you haven’t read The Filter Bubble, go read it, then think about these tools in that context – your activities (and various vendors’ budgets) determine what you see on the web.

What it boils down to is that this is the next generation of what marketers are doing. When I started in marketing, “Inbound marketing” (making good content available, becoming thought leaders, and attracting buyers to interact with you) was all the rage. This is what’s next.  It’s still about putting out the right messaging, but it’s doing it using technology and tools to automate finding the right people.

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