Interview: Big Data Marketing Ain’t Just For Big Business Anymore
I first met Kevin Milani of Mendicant Marketing at a conference that a number of high level AdWords consultants were attending. So when he introduced himself as a “World Class AdWords consultant” my initial thought was “Yeah, okay buddy, we’re all pretty good here!”
But after spending a lot of time with him at the conference, it became quite clear he’s a cut above the rest. Kevin is doing stuff with AdWords, and digital marketing in general, that not many people can pull off.
And a part of the reason why is how he’s been able to leverage Big Data in digital marketing campaigns for his clients. His innovative use of Big Data is producing phenomenal results.
In this interview, he’ll share some of his insights into what Big Data is, how it’s now within the reach of many small to mid-sized businesses, and a few ways to leverage Big Data for marketing campaigns.
There’s a lot of buzz about Big Data, but it seems to mean different things to different people. From a marketing perspective, how would you define Big Data?
From a marketing perspective I would say Big Data allows us to analyze massive data sets and quickly return meaningful patterns and results that are actionable and can be applied to marketing campaigns.
Anytime you have large amounts of customer information, there is an opportunity to use Big Data Analytics to discover new things about your customers and your business.
Just about any type of data — structured or unstructured — can be analyzed, and the results can be used in a variety of ways.
What’s structured and unstructured data?
Structured data is data that fits into nice neat rows in a traditional database. Things like Cost, Price, Location, Address, Name, etc.
Unstructured data is like what you might find in the Social Media universe. You could actually capture billions of Tweets and analyze those. What people say in those Tweets is pretty random and it could be about anything. But it’s pretty powerful to have a tool that can go through those billions of Tweets and find patterns.
The Big Data platform we use can merge unstructured and structured data.
What are some of the ways you can leverage this data in developing marketing strategies for your clients?
One way is in developing creative strategy. This is where we can analyze a company’s customer file to identify their top customers. We can then analyze those top customers using clustering technologies to determine who they are (i.e., elite families, young urban couples, middle aged two-income families).
Once you know who they are, you can develop your creative strategy around that cluster. If you’re trying to reach elite families, your messaging is going to be very different than if you’re trying to reach someone fresh out of college.
Another way to leverage Big Data is in developing a segmentation strategy. Here we can analyze your best customers and identify the things that seem to make one customer better than another. We can segment based on geography, demographics, psychographics or behavioral patterns. By using Big Data to analyze a customer list across all these different segments, we find which ones have the greatest impact on the value of a customer.
We can also use the data to directly target the right message to the right customer at the right time. There’s some really cool stuff in the database that can allow you to do this. For instance, if you’re selling a product that’s good for people who recently moved, there’s a flag in the file that we can use to target that group.
Traditionally, it’s mostly been the large companies that have used Big Data. How come?
There are a few reasons that typically only the largest of the large companies are able to access and utilize Big Data.
1. The Big Data software platforms cost $250,000 or more per year. This software provides the analytical number crunching capability you wouldn’t be able to get with other platforms. For instance, a job that a Big Data platform could run in 5 minutes could take a standard SQL platform 2-3 weeks to run.
2. Big Data software typically comes bundled with some data, but you’ll want to get additional data to make the software even more useful. And this additional data is expensive and has to be licensed from Big Data providers like Acxiom, PersonicX, Neilsen, etc.
3. Once you have that in place you need what we call a “Data Artisan” who knows how to use the Big Data software to analyze the data. These are the people who know how to actually get the useful insights out of the data. Data Artisans are hard to find.
4. Then, once you have the analysis, you also need skilled people who have the experience and the knowledge necessary to implement what has been learned from the analysis. This is where we take the insights provided by the Data Artisan and do something with them.
So, in a nutshell, there are issues with both cost and finding people with the skills to make it happen.
The only way around these limitations for small businesses is to go through a service provider that can provide the data analytics and the skilled resources to make it happen for a small company at a price that’s affordable for small- to mid-sized businesses.
You work primarily on projects with small- to mid-sized companies. Is access to Big Data now within any company’s grasp? Is there a minimum budget (or other requirements) a company needs to use Big Data for marketing?
Minimum costs are around $15K. So it’s not within the grasp of mom and pops, but is affordable for many small- to mid-sized companies. And besides money, a company wanting to use Big Data should have a customer database with at least a few thousand names that can be used to run the Analysis on.
Your expertise is in Digital Marketing. Can you share a few examples of how you’re merging Big Data with your digital marketing expertise for clients?
One example comes from a Google AdWords Display Ad campaign. We downloaded the 284 million geographic records from an AdWords ad campaign for a supplement company. Because each record has many attributes associated with it — clicks, impressions, geography, cost, conversion, etc. — there were well over 1 billion data points in the analysis!
We loaded this data into our Big Data platform and performed an analysis on which geographic areas were producing sales and which weren’t.
What we found was that by not advertising in the geographies that were losing money and reapplying the savings to the geographies that were profitable, the client was able to get 160% growth in the profitability of a campaign that was generating more than $500K per month in sales.
Can you share one more example with us?
Sure. Another powerful way we use Big Data is to identify who the top customers for a company are. What we basically do is profile a customer database using clustering technologies like PersonicX® Clusters or Prizm Clusters (PersonicX Clusters segment households into 70 segments within 21 life stage groups based on behavioral and demographic characteristics).
After the best customers have been identified, it becomes possible to directly target your advertising to other people who are exactly like your best customers.
For example, we can go into the Big Data database and pull out all the people who match the cluster, get their mailing address and target them with direct mail. Or we can get their email addresses and do email retargeting.
We can even use this information online in places like the Google Display Network where you can target your ads to run on websites that your cluster is most likely to visit.
If you’d like to find out more about how to leverage Big Data for your business, you can contact Kevin through his website at mendicantmarketing.com.