What is Big Data?
Ask 10 people, and you may get 10 different answers. Big Data can be generally defined as data from multiple sources that is combined in ways to make it informative and actionable. By combining data from disparate sets, patterns and insights emerge, and this actually creates more data! As patterns and trends are recognized in the data, these relationships, not previously a part of the data set, become new bits of data ripe for mining and analysis.

As time goes on, bigger data sets are also being generated because information is being collected from social media, smart phones, cameras, satellites, remote sensors and other newly emerging technologies. 90% of the world’s data today has been created in the last 2 years alone. Every day, we create an estimate of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. That 2.5 with 17 zeroes behind it! Needless to say, there’s an enormous amount of data that marketers or fundraisers can take advantage of.

What does Big Data mean to the marketer or fundraiser?
To the marketer or fundraiser, Big Data is the ability to see each consumer or prospect in a 360-degree view, and to personalize messages and interactions with that individual to create the ultimate purchasing or donating experience. We all know relationships are the key to successful marketing. Making sure that our prospects have the best experience they can have with our organization, whether it is a luxury brand selling luxury goods, or a nonprofit seeking funding for their mission, will improve their results.

One of the key buzzwords in marketing these days is “relevance.” Companies and organizations are generating content and practicing content marketing, but the key to making content marketing work is to be sure that the content we put forth is relevant to the audience we are targeting. That’s where big data comes in. Knowing your customers’ likes and dislikes, buying and donating behaviors, relationships with others in your universe, and importantly, their wealth and buying or investing power, allows you the ability to make your messages truly relevant on an almost individual basis.

How can I harness the power of Big Data?
Big data is all well and good, but given the sheer volume, and the barriers to accessing and processing, how can a marketing or fundraising professional reap the benefits?  To leverage Big Data, the marketer or fundraiser must:

  • Capture
  • Curate
  • Transform
  • Normalize
  • Parse
  • Combine
  • Analyze
  • Report, and
  • Visualize

These actions and activities would require more resources than most small to mid-sized businesses and nonprofits have at hand. So how can the small shop, or the mid-sized business, leverage Big Data without investing inordinate resources on data collection, curation and analysis?

Selecting the right Big Data partner
The answer is finding the right partner. Choosing the right Big Data partner can make your marketing and fundraising messages resonate with your unique audiences. When you’re shopping for a data partner, consider the following questions:

Does this partner understand wealth?  While behavior is an important element, wealth is the true driver for both purchasing and donating.  Does this partner have experience curating data?  For all of us who have tried to merge two spreadsheets of different sizes, or import data into an existing structured CRM, or transform text into numeric data, we can begin to glean the many challenges of working with huge data sets that require many steps to massage into a meaningful whole.  A Big Data partner who routinely works with data sets of all types and sizes is a best bet.

Is the potential partner willing to work with you to select the data you need to append, and to customize a data solution for your needs?  Too much data can be as bad as not enough data.  Make sure you get the right fit by selecting a partner who can assist by understanding your needs and providing a customized solution.

Does the partner add value? Data is the foundation for knowledge and insight, but you need a partner with a robust analytics understanding who can add value to your data with ratings and scores, predictive modeling, clustering analysis and other techniques.  Analysis is where the true value of data is derived.

Will the partner work with your data? Much of your most valuable data resides in your own CRM or DMS.  By combining the data you have with additional Big Data sets, you can extract the most value. Having a partner who can work with both, and who understands your business needs and challenges will reap the best results.

Does the partner have all the data you need?  Shopping piecemeal for data is time consuming and difficult.  Finding one partner who has wealth, demographic, lifestyle, behavioral, and biographic data at the individual and household levels, can parse, normalize and combine it will save you hours of aggravation.

Organizations of any size and any level of data competency can harness the insights of Big Data with the right partner. If you’d like to learn more about the power of Big Data and how you can use it this holiday season, check our blog post: Drive 2016 Holiday Strategies with Big Data.

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