As 2011 winds down and you find yourself thinking about everything that is good about the holidays, it's also time to consider the 2012 marketing trends on the horizon—and how to take advantage of them in your marketing plan.

It may or may not surprise you that the one "forever" trend, real-time marketing, won't make my list. But one 2011 trend will continue to be huge in 2012, and all marketers need to embrace it and harness its power. That trend is Big Data.

Here are my picks for the Top 5 marketing trends for 2012, and all five are related to Big Data.

1. Big Data

Though "Big Data" may be a hyperbolic term, when you think about it, every marketer accumulates customer data every minute–whether from the Internet, from sales conversations in their customer relationship management (CRM) tools, or from ongoing service history. That's what Big Data really is: customer interaction history. Every minute you are not using Big Data means a lost buying opportunity.

A recent IDC study found that digital information is doubling every two years. That kind of information growth is what Big Data is all about. The information available about buying behavior across many, many channels constitutes real opportunities to engage potential buyers in different ways to drive revenue at every stage of the customer lifecycle at the right time.

Big Data is not going away, it's just getting bigger.

2. Marketing Automation 3.0 (or the Rebirth of the Marketing Data Mart)

EloquaAprimoAlterian, and others are building a very hot market and supplying very useful marketing-automation functionality via their platforms. All three platforms are enhanced with social media integration and automation, which is what Marketing Automation 2.0 is all about. That's useful, but it's not strategic; and it doesn't create sustainable competitive advantage.

Marketing Automation 3.0 is about the rebirth of marketing data marts and their integration into your marketing automation platform. That integration creates a true closed-loop sales-and-marketing system between your marketing automation platform and CRM systems that harnesses and extends your Big Data.

Why? Databases in marketing automation systems do not capture your offline and online customer-interaction history; therefore, they cannot create a complete customer profile for you to use in your marketing campaigns at each stage of the customer lifecycle. When you use today's marketing automation platforms, you get boxed into what I refer to as surface-level segmentation. The marketing data mart enables you to go much deeper on segmentation, and hence really drive revenue performance from your campaigns.

3. Customer Intelligence

We're not talking about marketing analytics here; that's yesterday's trend, characterized by static dashboards that typically report on campaign performance and basic levels of buying behavior.

Customer intelligence makes your customer-interaction history actionable, using the marketing data mart and enabling you to conduct far more sophisticated forms of segmentation and profiling that drives new customer acquisition and creates upsell and cross-sell opportunities more efficiently.

Embracing customer intelligence and making it part of their closed-loop sales-and-marketing systems will enable B2B and B2C marketers to sift through huge amounts of complex customer data to identify buying opportunities at the right time throughout the customer lifecycle.

4. Customer Lifecycle

It's an old concept, but the customer lifecycle has new implications in the age of Big Data and customer intelligence.

Just as the cell phone revolutionized telecommunications with anytime, anyplace communications, the application of customer intelligence to the customer lifecycle now creates marketing opportunities that have never been realized before. Marketers can now use the customer lifecycle as a dynamic means to engage prospects and customers at the right time, with the right offer, in the way they choose to buy.

The customer lifecycle brings the capability of anytime, anyplace marketing to the forefront in a nonintrusive way.

5. Right-Time Multichannel Marketing

Social media is on the cusp of being monetized via right-time multichannel marketing.

Right-time multichannel marketing takes conversations and customer interactions—obtained via social media listening platforms and marketing data marts— and makes them part of customer profiles that can be contextualized in campaigns that drive the right offer to the right buyer at the right time.

What marketers need is a commitment to a closed-loop sales-and-marketing system that treats marketing automation, customer intelligence, CRM, social media listening platforms, and any data source as a holistic environment all driven on the basis of the customer profile.

* * *

The drivers of these trends in 2012 will be the economy (based on the need to squeeze every dime of revenue), the global markets that are extremely accessible, and the great equalizer of marketing capability—the Internet.

Together, they will be the force behind the most important trend in 2012 that'll ultimately drive marketing strategy: Big Data. When you transform Big Data into customer intelligence, and then use it across right-time multichannel marketing, your opportunities for driving revenue throughout the customer lifecycle become enormous.

So, as you unwrap your holiday gifts this year, remember the potentially large number of Big Data customer interactions, across a number of marketing channels, that potentially precipitated those buying decisions.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Business Vision.)

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Joe Cordo is chief marketing officer of Extraprise, a leader in right-time revenue optimization for B2B and B2C enterprises, providing database marketing and demand-generation services. For more information, contact Joe via or call +1(888) i2iMKTG.