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How to Navigate the River of Marketing Data Don't drown while your competitors have taken command of their marketing data using these tricks.

By Derek Newton Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Every startup entrepreneur, at some point in the life cycle of their venture, dreams about franchising, having millions of customers and going public or going global. If those ideas are in your head -- especially the part of having millions of customers -- there are some marketing concepts and ideas you should be thinking about too.

To really big companies and global brands, marketing is everything you'd expect: big ad budgets, elaborate public relations campaigns, celebrity branding -- the big time. But just as important, perhaps even more so, is the less-glamorous side of mega marketing efforts: data management.

Related: Marketers Now Need to Think Data First

It's not too surprising that the world's biggest companies have, over the years, turned marketing data science into, well, a science. Having hundreds of thousands or hundreds of millions of customers, after all, means not only keeping them straight but managing your outreach to them. The best global marketing campaigns are major data managers. They squeeze every dime from every potential customer, return visitor and repeat consumer. And they find new customers too.

If you're in a business in which it's even possible to have big data on your customers and targets, being ready for the big tricks and tools can be a big help. Even more, as your company grows, sorting and leveraging your data will be easier and perhaps less costly if you can do some early, basic preparation from the start.

"Data management that drives marketing and sales continues to evolve and get better," says Paul Becker, CEO of Pinpoint Systems Corporation. "It's not just about segmenting and studying anymore -- more and more, good marketing is about using your data to understand your customer and seamlessly and instantly adapt to their desires and demands."

And Paul knows what he's talking about. His products and tactics have helped spike revenue more than a billion dollars for some of his big name clients.

"We want to know, for example, not just who is responding to a product or promotion but what it is about those people that made them respond," Becker says. "Know that information not only helps us target existing customers more effectively, but it allows us to identify and motivate potential new customers with similar metrics."

Related: Turn Your Data Into 'Lessons Learned' to Guide Your Marketing Plan

That's a key point -- especially for entrepreneurs and startups. The lesson is: Even if you don't know how to use all your customer data yet, get it. And protect it.

Especially if you're selling products online, where data collection can be slightly easier, it's good advice to consult with a data marketing expert early to make sure you're asking the right questions -- not just about what your customers are doing but who they are and why they are doing it. A few early hours with data experts can also help you make sure that your company is marking and storing the data in ways that will make it most useful later.

But even if you're not ready for that, there's no excuse for not getting a handle on your marketing data. There are some great tools available to put a few big-league marketing tactics to use for your small or medium-sized business or startup.

"We give dynamic marketing tools directly to marketers," Satish Bapatla, co-founder of ConnectCust told me. They are a marketing company aimed at mid-level retail businesses who don't want to invest in infrastructure. "It's still possible to get effective intelligence on your consumer segments and product recommendations too -- even if you're not a Fortune 500 company yet. You just have to make it a priority."

For entrepreneurs and startups, money is always tight. But early, long-range investing in your data acquisition strategy and tactics may pay off handsomely in increased sales and future cost savings.

If you see your business as having a roadmap, the river of marketing data is just one of the things you're going to have to navigate. So it's a good idea to know what types of boats people are using -- especially those who cross that river every day. If you don't know, you may just spend time on the river bank scratching your head. Or drown.

Don't do that. Study what the big companies are doing and take a few minute to talk to data and marketing experts early.

Related: 4 Marketing Analytics Tools That Are Shaping the Industry

Derek Newton

NYC based communications and public relations professional

Derek Newton is a communications expert and writer based in New York City. He has been working in nonprofit, political and policy communications for more than 20 years and helped launch several startups. 

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