"Big Data," "small data," "real-time marketing," "data-driven marketing"—if you were to string together the terms marketers use to describe how they use data, the result would read like a Doctor Seuss book. But whatever you call it, using data to inform your marketing is smart business.

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In the midst of the current data frenzy, companies and agencies have sprung up to help marketers turn data into actionable insights that can improve the impact of their marketing efforts. One company delivering insights is Zignal Labs, a San Francisco startup that provides a cross-media analytics platform.

Zignal Labs Vice-President of Marketing Tim Hayden has more than 15 years of experience leading high-growth technology firms and marketing agencies, creating business strategies for Fortune 50 brands. Before joining Zignal Labs, Tim led the mobile program for Edelman Digital in North America.

I invited Tim to Marketing Smarts to talk about data-driven marketing, how "real-time" isn't fast enough anymore, how you can use data proactively to inform you marketing efforts, and what the continuing role of traditional channels is in modern marketing.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Email and Twitter are so not dead (05:32): "Email is still the currency of the Internet. You can't log into half of the applications, the systems, the social networks that you use without an email address, and so much of the advertising world right now is based on email addresses because it's a unique identifier. It actually empowers a lot of the peer-to-peer connectivity, peer-to-peer communications, or advertising that is available today. That's email....

"The other side of it, Twitter.... If Twitter didn't exist, somebody wouldn't invent it tomorrow. I would agree that it's not the cocktail party that it used to be. You and I both have been in digital media long enough that we remember the days that it was one massive chatroom and we'd use it before and after events and during events to have conversations with each other. We don't do that as much as we used to.... But still, Twitter is the primary connective network between all media. More or less, if it happens, it's going to get shard on Twitter one way or another. It's just the simple truth."

"Big Data" might not be the right way to describe what you need to stay ahead of the game (07:16): "We try to stay away from using 'Big Data' as a descriptor for what we do. I firmly believe that you can have all the data in the world and it won't make sense to you unless you know exactly what it is you're looking for or you have the ability to drill deep or listen deep to what's happening from all these various signals that are coming from many different media networks, devices, people and other systems.

"For us, it's about working with our customers to help them hone in on the topics, the trends, the issues, the stories, the people that matter to them most, and then being able to monitor and be able to derive analytical insights, a prescription on things such as share of voice or sentiment or velocity of stories.

"These are all things that are really more insights than they are the pure, raw data itself. It all boils to knowing what questions you need answered, and being very respectful of the things in your situation or your market that can affect what it is you're doing from a marketing standpoint or a customer service or even a public relations standpoint."

To learn more, visit ZignalLabs.com, and follow Tim on Twitter @TheTimHayden.

Tim and I talked about so much more, including the importance of unplugging (and encouraging your team to do the same), so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by GoToWebinar:

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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