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I started giving talks about Big Data and Digital Marketing in January 2017 when I gave a TEDx Talk in Durham, NC. I also talked about it when I spoke at the 35th International Dental and Dental Marketing Conference in Las Vegas in October 2017. I know many of you were not able to attend so here is a little recap.

What are the characteristics of big data? It’s way too big for human beings to manage without the help of computers. It’s incredibly diverse. It’s not just text. It’s video, images, sound, etc…It’s also exponentially growing at what seems to be an ever-increasing pace. It’s scary just how quick it’s growing.

It’s created through businesses entering their customers’ data but most prevalently through users actively or passively generating data about themselves. Anytime someone logs into Facebook or any other social media platform, they generate lots and lots of data about themselves. It can include relationship status, check-ins at their favorite business, etc…

We leave all kinds of data about ourselves. Of course, we reveal basic information such as our age, our gender when we sign up for social media accounts, website applications, etc…

However, we reveal much more than just basic information. A lot of web applications ask about our interests, our location, or even our income tier. This is obviously not innocent. Data is gold.

We live in the information age. A lot of online services are free for the users but the user agrees to give out lots and lots of information either passively or actively. This information is then collected and mined by digital marketers.

We already pointed out that data is no longer just text. Data is incredibly diverse. So are the ways data is collected. Every time we use our smartphones, we agree to give apps permissions. Such permissions vary, but often include our location through the use of our phone’s GPS or WiFi signal. They can also give the app access to our pictures, our other apps, etc…

Everytime we visit a website which has some kind of tracking code or cookies feature, we also leave some information about where we’ve been on the internet, etc…This is why the website can recognize we are not a new visitor when we come back and adjust to our preferences. There’s an element of convenience here. This is what we get. However, marketers also get to know a bit more about us when each time we visit a site with a tracking code.

At a more basic and less technologically advanced level, we also leave some information about our shopping habits every time we use a loyalty card at a grocery store. Our shopping habits can then be associated with marketing avatars and indicate if we have more or less discretionary income to spend at a cosmetic dentist for example.

According to a survey by a company called Clutch, based in Washington, DC, only 46% of businesses had a website in 2016. We are not even talking about websites with tracking code. We are just talking about having a website even just a 1999 website. There is so much missed opportunity here.

How can your practice/business use big data tools? The short answer is that big data can help you to be more precise and more relevant. Big data for digital marketing could not be possible without precious tools and methods. Predictive analytics can help you to forecast who your best potential customers would be and what your best channels for such customers are. It can be used for both structured and unstructured data. There are a lot of vendors who provide great predictive analytics software.

Another targeting digital marketing method is geofencing. Big data also includes location, which is called geo-data. It basically allows digital marketers to target people based on where they are and where they’ve been. It uses GPS, Wi-Fi and other technologies to determine where the potential target audience has been. Location data can tell you a lot about whether or not someone is interested in a product or service and is ready to buy.

Ultimately all this data is going to be useful to cultivate relationships with your prospect. Here comes retargeting. Showing ads to people who have already engaged with any of your content online helps to cultivate a relationship with a prospect. Cultivating the relationship can help transform the prospect into a client. Nobody gets married after the first date. Why would they buy from you after seeing your ad once? People almost never buy from you the first time they see your ad.

At this point, some of you may think that they really do not like change and they just prefer to maintain the status-quo. It could be that business is good right now so why bother. Your competition may be using some of those techniques and it’s just a matter a time until they catch up to or overtake you if you don’t use the right tools in your own digital marketing. There are alternatives to change, but usually not good ones.

Using big data in digital marketing gives you the opportunity to market more like a human and less like a robot. Indeed, you’re not using the one-size-fits-all approach. You are showing the right ads to the right people at the right time. You’re cultivating relationships. You can finally treat people like individuals and not just vast marketing segments like males age 25 to 35. Most people don’t collect data on themselves. A lot of people don’t really know what they want, because they don’t know themselves. You can help them to make a choice by offering them the right solution at the right time. Big data in digital marketing is a unique opportunity to market to people like a human. The latest advances in technology can finally help us to use digital marketing to treat each other more like humans.