Marketers talk about leveraging data for everything from loyalty programs to identifying influencers, but what makes Big Data actionable? David Norton says it’s being close to the customer, and as a leading marketer in the entertainment industry he should know. Norton’s experience spans from accolades in CMO Magazine to holding the title of SVP of Caesars Entertainment. As a thought leader in the rapidly changing field of entertainment, Norton has developed some tried and true maneuvers for leveraging any industry’s Big Data to garner company-wide benefits. Here are what Software Advice, a company that creates BI software buyer’s guides, calls “David Norton’s 4 Secrets to Understanding Customers Through Analytics“. 1. Create Simple Customer Segments First things first: to improve marketing initiatives, organizations need to understand who their customers are and what they want. While focus groups and market research can be a good start, Norton says the best source of insight doesn’t come straight from the customer’s mouth–it comes from looking at existing customer transaction data. So trust the data, not the customer. But it’s important to keep both segmentation and analysis organized – driven by simple hypotheses and straightforward data – before exploring new customer segments hidden within Big Data. Otherwise, companies can lose focus. 2. Prioritize Data Collection Projects Customer analytics are only as good as the data the company collects, and the resources it has to learn from that data. Many organizations still struggle with understanding their customer data, due to the data being disorganized, outdated or impossible to access and integrate with other data sources. Norton explains that, while it can sometimes take years to create the perfect data management system, using an iterative process that gets smaller portions of data to marketing sooner rather than later is a company’s best bet. To determine priorities, Norton uses a low/medium/high bucketing system that assesses the expected value and relative complexity of getting data to a useable state. By starting with the high-value, low-complexity initiatives, the company has a greater chance of impacting the business quickly. This process builds momentum for the initiative. And importantly, it helps organizations paint a clearer picture of how customers act today –- so the company can influence this behavior to their advantage in the future. 3. Abandon Intuition Norton is a big advocate of creating customer segments, scientifically testing offers and rewards for these segments, and measuring results to find which initiatives drive the greatest satisfaction, loyalty, and eventually, revenue. By learning from and refining these tests, marketers are able to determine which incentives, messages and interactions are best for different segments of customers. And segment marketing, rather than personalized marketing, is often the most effective method to improve marketing initiatives. 4. Ensure Marketing Analytics is Built-in At Caesars, Norton and his team spearheaded a major technology project to organize all of its data across all properties into a single database, creating a central view of every customer throughout over 50 casino properties. But while Caesars centralized its customer data, it distributed its marketing analytics function geographically so they could be near those in charge of marketing decisions throughout all of the company’s properties. The marketing analytics function at Caesars was built around a team of MAMs, or marketing analysis managers. To Norton, embedding these analysts within operations was crucial, as it meant these employees were already familiar with key market and business issues before diving into the data. “Being close to those they serve helps facilitate turning insights into action quickly,” says Norton. What do you think? Would these secrets work for your business? What tactics have you used?