Innovating The Marketing Process With A Data Lake

Like many global companies, EMC depends heavily on a CRM to manage sales and purchasing data about its vast global installed base. Over time, we realized that without big data analytics, this customer data was trapped inside our systems and providing limited value.


EMC decided that offering analytical capabilities through a data lake architecture would substantially increase the value of this data. To get there, EMC hired Todd Forsythe, EMC Vice President, Corporate Marketing, to create the Marketing Science Lab. I spoke to Todd about why he is so excited about the impact of big data and the Marketing Science Lab on sales and marketing:

1. What is the Marketing Science Lab?

The EMC Marketing Science Lab funnels CRM data into EMC’s data lake solution for predictive modeling, segmentation analysis, and customer profiling. By marrying our internal data with external, unstructured data sources, such as social media conversations, we’re able to find individuals who are talking about progressive views on IT and business transformation.

Mix in analytics and we’re suddenly talking about targeted up-sell and cross-sell programs that drive far more engagement and sales than ever before.

With a 360 view of our customers using all of these digital breadcrumbs, our campaigns are getting to a higher level of personalization and precision targeting. Ultimately, we’re lowering acquisition costs and improving conversion rates—all music to the ears of anyone in marketing or sales.

2.  What were the key business drivers leading to the creation of the Marketing Science Lab?

As we’ve moved to a digital, social world, we found that highly predictive customer data often does not sit within the walls of our company. Instead, it resides in conversations across social media, community forums and so on. This has meant that the volume of data available to marketing has exploded. We needed a big data solution to store, analyze and visualize all of these social digital touch points with customers.

3.  What excites you most about the data lake and Marketing Science Lab?

Early in my career, I realized that data, especially customer data, was a magical lever that you can pull to improve marketing effectiveness and gain a richer understanding of your customers. Marrying modern social data with legacy data is exciting to marketing because it opens up a completely new way of looking at and interacting with our customers.

Traditionally, marketing organizations create a message, design a creative concept, identify the target market and use data to execute and measure. We now realize that big data should come first. It completely flips the marketing process upside down. Your customers’ behavior should drive your messaging, creative, and execution.

4.  What other organizational changes were necessary?

We’ve needed build up completely new skill sets in marketing. big data experts and PhD statisticians who can apply mathematical methodologies to large data sets have joined our team. We hired data scientists to manipulate and visualize large data sets. Having this layer of visualization is key so that marketers can easily consume and understand the findings and insight.

5.  What challenges did your team face with creating the Marketing Science Lab?

When we embarked on the Marketing Science Lab project, the biggest challenge was speed. We went from tumbleweeds to a full team with an operational big data solution in six months. Finding data scientist talent with experience in marketing also was hard to come by and took longer than we anticipated. And when marketing got wind of our new analytics capability, demand quickly outstripped our resources. So we needed to revamp our process to focus on the biggest priorities.

6.  How is EMC’s business benefitting from the Marketing Science Lab?

The results have been tremendous. When we apply models that identify customers with the highest propensity to buy in our marketing campaigns, we see response and conversion rates up to 10 times higher than before. Delivering more relevant offers to our customers improves sales productivity because better conversion rates means that the selling process is more effective. And it increases ROI because we’re spending less while creating greater yield.

7.  What are some of the best practices you would recommend to other organizations embarking on a big data project?

If your organization wants to tap into the power of big data, you first need to look closely at your end process and understand clearly how big data analytics would affect your process at every step. Second, determine how to scale insights to create the greatest impact. For example, as we build these predictive models, we embed them into our CRM environment in a way that makes it easy for marketers across the globe access segmentation and propensity to buy information and engage in data-driven decision-making.

About the Author: Mona Patel