Overcoming Your Big Data Fears

savvy versus getting too complex too quickly. Following is a general road map of how to get going in the right direction:

Start small. Start with organizing and analyzing your proprietary customer data to get your house in order. By starting with the data you have, you can determine what data is missing and what you may need from other sources.

Get support. Establish a strong partnership with the CIO and IT department and leverage their expertise as needed. This is key. Seventy percent of top-performing companies have strong CIO-CMO relationships, versus just 45 percent for non-top performers, according to PwC.

Hire smart. Establish or expand data analytics capabilities within the marketing team—in other words, hire good people with the right skills.

Get up to speed on marketing technologies. The CMO should take the lead in selecting and implementing marketing technology tools, including CRM, marketing automation, inbound marketing, resource management, and social CRM tools.

Be collaborative. Work with other departments that touch the customer to be sure technology investments can capture their data, too, and will integrate with legacy systems. Otherwise, there's no way you'll capture anything close to a 360-degree customer view. Not to mention you'll also probably blow your budget with nothing much to show for it.

How technology helps marketers apply customer data

Technology tools are a key component in putting customer data to work for your brand. You really can't do without them. That's why it's important for marketers to better understand what marketing technology tools are available and how they can be applied to achieve specific goals. Don't leave it to IT to figure it out.

The most exciting application of customer data today is real-time personalization—essentially 1:1 marketing at a mass scale. Self-learning marketing automation technologies combined with CRM tools allow marketers to serve up relevant promotions or information to customers in real time as they browse at any time on virtually any channel. Imagine delivering an email offer that automatically changes according to an individual customer's online behavior—so when it's clicked, it's as relevant and enticing as possible at that moment. Or making comprehensive customer profiles instantly available to customer service agents and delivering prompts so they can intelligently cross-sell or add value based on up-to-the-minute customer behavior. It may sound far-fetched, but it's not. The technology is very mature and now available to all marketers via the cloud. It's critical for marketers to educate themselves and start making the shift to more intelligent, data-driven marketing.

Grant Halloran is the global vice president and general manager at Infor. Previously, he was the cofounder of Orbis Global, an SaaS-based market resource management company, which Infor acquired in December 2012. Following the acquisition, Halloran joined Infor as vice president of Infor Orbis MRM,

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