Big data is a powerful tool for marketers (and, indeed, the entire organization). Several options for collecting, storing, and analyzing data have come forth, not the least of which is the data lake.
What's a Data Lake?
Data lakes are enormous repositories for collecting and storing data in its native format. The operative term here is 'native format' because that is what makes the data lake so much more valuable and potent for the purposes of marketing.
Where Does All the Data Come From?
Ideally, the data lake is where all of your internal data will stream to. It should include data from both internal and external sources. Data from your legacy systems and other software applications, including those in the cloud, need to be housed in the data lake. This normally requires a process of offloading the data, or ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) to get your internal data into the data lake. All the data from your website, CRM and marketing automation systems, email marketing tools, and other internal data sources need to be a part of your data lake.
Other internal sources that can benefit the marketing team include data from customer service, tech support, finance, production, and even R&D. Some of this data doesn't seem so critical to marketing, but when combined with other data, it becomes a valuable resource for digging deeper into who your customers are, what they want, what they're willing to pay, and what messages resonate with them most effectively.
External data sources to feed into the data lake include social media data, data relative to the market or industry, government reports, research findings, and more.
How Can the Data Lake Benefit the Marketer?
The benefits of a data lake are that it includes an immense volume of widely disparate data. This variety of data, when analyzed, gives you a more complete, holistic view of your customer, as well as the marketplace as a whole. Data then becomes useful for more than mere market analysis -- it yields tremendous insight into customer behavior and becomes useful for predictive analytics and even machine learning applications. The marketer with a well-stocked, well-managed data lake stands head and shoulders above their competitors.
How Can We Assure Our Data Lake is Useful and Delivers an ROI?
The flip side of the data lake is that all that unformatted, raw data becomes lost and irretrievable if it isn't carefully governed and managed. Managing a data lake should be a company-wide initiative, not something the marketing department has to do all on their own. A good data lake will be overseen and managed by the marketing department together with IT, the data science team, and other departments across the organization.
Smart data lake management includes:
• A good data governance plan
• Excellent metadata so that the data lake maintains its usefulness for a variety of purposes
• A means for keeping data both in its native format, as well as in any new formats that the data is converted to during the process of analytics
• A means for collaborating across departments so that everyone assumes responsibility for data management and governance
Don't be fooled into believing that a data lake means dumping data in there indiscriminately. A useful data lake is well-managed with data cleansing, de-duplication, and means for auditing, validating, and securing the data.
ReachForce helps marketers increase revenue contribution by solving some of their toughest data management problems. We understand the challenges of results-driven marketers and provide solutions to make initiatives like marketing automation, personalization and predictive marketing better. Whether you have an acute pain to solve today or prefer to grow your capabilities over time, ReachForce can unify, clean and enrich prospect and customer lifecycle data in your business, and do it at your own pace.