Turning Big Data Into Big Knowledge – SQL and Database Marketing

Jonah Hill in the baseball blockbuster, "Moneyball"

Jonah Hill in the baseball blockbuster, “Moneyball”

From information on transactions, customers, clients, suppliers and employees – businesses (or at least smart ones) collect massive amounts of data. This data is stored in database management software systems such as Microsoft Excel, Access and MySQL. Collecting the data is hard enough, but making sense of it and translating it into future actions and strategy is even harder. Structured Query Language, or SQL, is a programming language that helps businesses manage and edit their massive troves of data in hopes of uncovering actionable knowledge that can improve the future practices of the business. 

Sure, managing and editing information contained in databases may not sound like the most exciting thing, but its practice has important marketing implications that some of the best businesses take advantage of every day. To understand why database management is important, we first need to examine the differences between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. The relationship between the four is elegantly displayed through the DIKW (data, information, knowledge, wisdom) Pyramid, courtesy of fellow blogger Karim Vaes.

The DIKW Pyramid

The DIKW Pyramid

As you can see, without the appropriate collection of data and an effective system for analyzing and converting data into information and knowledge, it would be nearly impossible for businesses to plan for the future with any degree of certainty or confidence. Since SQL is the language through which businesses make sense of their data, it is an extremely tool for any aspiring marketer.

Why Marketers Should Be Familiar With SQL

Analytics proficiency is increasingly becoming a must-have skill for modern marketers and SQL helps navigate through and uncover important analytics within your company’s databases. In the ever-changing, increasingly complicated world that is marketing, the ability to use SQL effectively is just another important skill that can help set you above your competitors. Jamie Stevens of  the Seattle-based SEO consulting company, MOZ, says that “to be successful nowadays, you need to have both a breadth and depth of skills. You have to know what to ask for and how it’s done. Without both of these capabilities, you’re prone to be less efficient than a colleague or competitor who does.”

What SQL Can Do And How It Does It

From w3schools.com:

SQL can…

  • execute queries against a database
  • retrieve data from a database
  • insert records in a database
  • update records in a database
  • delete records from a database
  • create new databases
  • create new tables in a database
  • create stored procedures in a database
  • create views in a database

SQL, like all programming languages, has a unique format. SQL scripts allow marketers to communicate directly with their databases, extract particular information, sort information by various fields or values as well as add or delete database content. SQL scripts are also easy to save and run at a later time for repeat operations (ex: a monthly promotional email blast to customers who haven’t purchased within the past three months can be programmed, scripted and automated using SQL). Here are some of the basic SQL commands and the format they are scripted in.


Companies With Excellent Database Marketing

1. Amazon


I consider Amazon to be the king of database marketing. The retail giant collects massive amount of data on its customers and their purchases and mines this data to see what purchases are commonly made together. This is how Amazon is able to suggest unique products that you might like to checkout after you purchase an item on the site. Amazon also keeps track of your unique purchase history, making it so that the more you purchase, the more products Amazon is able to recommend you. A textbook example of turning big data into big knowledge.

2. The Oakland Athletic’s (Starting in 2002)


Yes, the picture of Jonah Hill from Moneyball at the top of this blog has a purpose after all. In the movie (and the real life story), Hill’s character, Peter Brand, was an economics graduate from Yale who analyzed statistics (data) on baseball players and came up with a system that determined many aspects of the A’s 2002 season – from which players would be drafted to where the pitchers should pitch the ball for the highest percent chance of striking out a certain hitter. While this may be a less conventional view of database management and marketing, it still represents a system of turning data into knowledge which the majority of MLB teams practice to some extent today.


One thought on “Turning Big Data Into Big Knowledge – SQL and Database Marketing

  1. Pingback: Winter Is Coming: The End of Digital Marketing…..class | DIGI MARK(man)ETING

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