Now that the age of “Big Data” is upon us, it’s no longer possible to relegate data analysis to just one segment of your marketing strategy. Today, data analysis must inform your entire strategy, because the data you collect on your customers tells you what they want, what their influences are, and how they make purchasing decisions. Consumers want companies to anticipate their needs, and have come to expect a fully personalized shopping experience. With the right data-driven marketing strategy, you can give them that experience. Nevertheless, the prospect of analyzing data and implementing findings into a marketing plan is one that intimidates many marketers. The technological tools at your disposal allow you to glean more information about your customers than ever before, but it’s important to know which information is useful and which isn’t. Start by taking stock of your company’s present data analysis capabilities, determine what consumer data will benefit your company the most, and then implement that data in your company-wide marketing plan. Take Stock of Your Current Marketing Plan The first step to developing a successful data-driven marketing strategy is to know where you stand right now. Assess your company’s marketing strategy to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are at present. You may need to update your IT architecture and support, since your existing IT structure may not allow you to manage the huge amounts of data at your disposal. While completely revamping your IT architecture can be a long and arduous task, there are plenty of short-term options you can implement to get your needs met immediately while still working on overarching solutions. Talk to a CIO to learn more about what requirements you should push to the front of the queue, and how to meet them. Building a company website, if you haven’t got one yet, should be at the top of that list of immediate solutions. A company website puts in your hands the tools you need to interact with your customers and gather information through online contact forms, surveys, and others means. These days, any company can build a website, and you don’t need to be a programming genius to pull it off – you just need to use one of the many website building services available. Like many companies, you may already have a lot of useful data on hand, but your managers or executives may simply not know how to use this data to make valuable business decisions. You probably already have manufacturing and customer service data at your disposal, you just need to find the person or people who can make sense of it for you and help you use it to grow your business. Some of these people may already be working for you. So, take stock of your personnel — who at the company has the skills needed to interpret and make use of consumer data?Learn about all the possible data sources at your disposal, and work on setting goals that can help you collect the right data for your needs. The more specific you can be about the problems your company needs to solve, the more opportunities a comprehensive analysis of your existing data can provide. Determine What Data You Need These days, there’s more consumer data available to companies than there ever has been — and that means that much of the data at your fingertips won’t be very useful to your company. In fact, collecting the wrong data can be directly harmful to your organization. It could leave you uncertain of your next marketing move, or send you off to court the wrong markets. To collect the right data, decide what your company most needs to know. Since you’ve already taken stock of the data you already have at your disposal, filling in the gaps should be easy. Do you need information about your customers’ buying habits? Do you need to know what websites your customers visit when they’re browsing the Web, what social media sites, and what online stores they purchase from most often? What about the people and things that influence their buying decisions? Other information you may or may not find useful could include customers’ email addresses, ages, or addresses. Just be aware that while you may be able to harvest a glut of information about your customers, many still want their privacy respected. Try to collect information unobtrusively, and in a way that respects your customers’ privacy and the law. The CAN-SPAM Act, for example, governs how you can communicate with customers, and even other businesses, using email. Most customers don’t really mind when companies collect data about them, especially since most companies use this data to enhance the customer service experience. But if you’re not upfront about your data collection or harvest data in a way that disrespects your customers, they’ll get miffed, and that could cost you valuable relationships. Collect Your Data and Implement It Once you’ve decided on the right data, it’s time to collect and implement. It’s a good idea to run out a smaller-scale test campaign before investing a lot of time and effort into collecting huge amounts of consumer data that may turn out not to be as useful as you thought it would. Many companies create “buyer personas” to generate more realistic test results. Once you’ve run your test campaign, you can review the results and decide whether you want to implement that campaign on a larger scale. Make sure your new data-driven marketing strategy goes into effect company-wide — you want to make sure everyone who needs the data has access to it. Siloed data can make it hard for your marketing team and other employees to anticipate customer behavior and understand customers holistically, and that can make it difficult to close sales. It can also be hard to measure ROI on new data-driven marketing campaigns, so you’ll want to look for things like an increase in page views, a boost in new downloads, enhanced loyalty among existing customers, and the presence of new customers. Of course, you’ll need to keep tweaking your new marketing plan and making improvements to keep your data-driven strategy relevant in the real marketplace. It no longer pays to avoid implementing a data-driven marketing plan. The data you can mine from your customers helps you provide them with the experience they want, increasing sales and boosting your bottom line. Images: “Technologie Word Cloud with Terms of Big Data / Shutterstock.com“ ________________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.