Big data hype obscures the big impact that small data and advanced analytics can have on a business. A cursory review of marketer surveys during the last two years makes it clear most companies really don’t know what big data is or what to do with the data they collect. More importantly, they don’t understand how to apply insights from their own transactional and customer data, small data if you will, to the big, strategic solutions that will grow their business.

In support of this point, findings from The CMO Survey recently found that marketers currently allocate only 6.4 percent of their budgets to analytics. While this level of investment is expected this to increase to 11.7 percent by 2018, these numbers suggest that many companies find it hard to place a value on what they don’t understand.

According to Christine Moorman, a professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of The CMO Study, “Companies under utilize the marketing analytics that they’ve requested and have available for decision making.” She concludes, “Marketing analytics remains a distinct challenge for companies – beyond the production of these sophisticated data.”

So what’s a “bring-your-lunch-box-to-work” marketer to do?

  • Educate yourself so you can separate the signal from noise. There’s no harm in admitting you need to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. There are some great books and workshops out there dedicated to making the power of data analytics accessible to the rest of us. One of my favorites is Data Science for Business and the website can connect you to resources that will help you implement what you’ve learned.
  • Don’t let high tech convince you to go it alone. Eager to sell the next big data SaaS solution, marketing tech companies muddy the conversation and lead companies to invest in tools before they have the talent or expertise to leverage them. Try before you buy, and get a suitable analytics consulting firm to work with you to implement the data-savvy discipline you’ll need to make the most of the available technology.
  • Small data can have big impact. I admit I’m on a crusade. Small data may not seem as sexy as big data and Nate Silver, but when your transactional data and customer data are combined with available syndicated data (we use Acxiom to great effect), you will take the first step to understanding and predicting what customers and which marketing activities drive more sales and have the biggest impact on the future of your business.

Follow those three points and join me on the small data crusade.

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