Imagine a world where you could create an ad that would only be seen by blonde, expectant 23- to 25-year-old mothers and 45-year-old bald men born in the month of November.

What would you do with your newfound marketing powers? Would you target your most desired audience and grow your brand? Would you sell your services to other brands?

I’m here to tell you it’s 2016, and you absolutely can target your audience that specifically. Why aren’t we doing it more? As a business community, we move slowly and stubbornly, and most of us haven’t stopped what we’re doing long enough to take the time.

Big data is one of the carrots big marketers have used to draw us along, just like marketing to millennials through social media. The promise (or threat) of big data has crept around the corner of marketing conversations for most of my career. The reason it’s still creeping around, touted by some and discarded by others, is because it’s just another tool — one likely to be found in a dust-covered toolbox under the workbench.

Each year a new list of marketing trends to watch pops up. Big data has been on that list for more than a decade alongside things like social media, online shopping, search engine optimization, content marketing, inbound marketing, etc.

For each “next big thing” I just listed, I could point to a very successful marketing campaign or business that doesn’t use it. I could also point to many successful campaigns taking advantage of the “next big thing.”

Adoption of these tools is fully dependent on whether you’re willing to open your mind to take the time to use them. We can operate without big data, but we can also take the time to figure it out and not only enhance our marketing but strengthen the positive relationships we have with our customers.

A significant portion of potential clients I meet have stores of data sitting on hard drives — ready to use. This data could be used to profile the next generation of consumers. It could be mined to unearth opportunities to sell deeper to current clients.

But many times, it goes unused.

Why?

Because it’s really tough to stop what you’re doing to adopt new ways of thinking — new technology. It’s almost as if it’s ingrained into our character as a species.

We’ve been telling this story so long it’s become intertwined in our legends. John Henry refused to work with the steam drill. We tell the story of his challenge to the newfangled machine, how he worked himself to death to defeat it.

Would the legend have been better if he would’ve taken the time to learn how he could work alongside the steam drill or find a way to use it to his benefit?

Refusing to use data might not kill your business, but refusing to update your marketing tool belt will definitely hurt you.

A business owner recently came to me with lots of questions, confusion and doubt about using data in his marketing. The more we talked, the clearer it became that he didn’t have a marketing plan at all. He was right about not needing the big data tool — he didn’t even have a tool belt.

There are a lot of marketing tools available to you, whether it’s something as simple as Twitter or as complex as managing customer relations through in-depth demographic databases developed through online shopping and in-store interactions.

You don’t have to have a Facebook page, online shopping cart, email list, blog, Instagram account or psychographic study of your three most common customer profiles, but you do have to do something.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Just do something.

So what does all this talk about big data mean for your brand? Well, thanks to analytics now being provided by most social media outlets, your brand can benefit from big data with little or no data collection experience.

If you’re looking for a new, easy-to-use tool for your marketing tool belt, try out Facebook for Business. You would be surprised how simple it is to identify your brand’s most receptive audience (albeit within the bounds of Facebook users) and the types of content or advertising to which they most often respond.
Try posting an ad on Monday and then repeating the same ad the next Monday, but with a different background image. You can now parse through your views, clicks and shares to see which posts garnered the most likes, and which types of people like which types of posts.
Running A/B tests on Facebook is a great way to target the focal point of a larger paid campaign.

Does your brand require data-driven marketing campaigns to be successful? Probably not. But your brand will benefit from some marketing tools — especially the tools you feel most comfortable wielding.

Whether you’re planning to target highly specific demographics or just get to know your audience a little better, you can do it, and in 2016 the tools have never been easier to use. Don’t be overwhelmed. Just do something.

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