We've heard a lot about Big Data recently, but Little Data is being greatly under-used in the battle to deliver true one-to-one marketing, according to Pamela Bath, founder of CRM and data agency The Blueberry Wave, who here explores the relevance of Big Data versus Little Data in modern marketing practices. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The whole issue of Big Data versus Little Data revolves, perhaps ironically, around a very old concept: CRM. The question is, what is CRM in today's marketing environment? It used to stand for Customer Relationship Management - in other words, the way in which businesses manage the communication and messages to and from their customer base.

But with the onset of the marketing world's current favourite buzz term, 'big data', marketers are at risk of losing their way amongst the plethora of channels to market and media. 'Big data' simply refers to capturing or channelling the mass of data that exists to track our customer's journey to us, and the way they behave with us.

But 'relevance' is the keyword that underpins all CRM thinking, and as marketers we need to focus more on the 'little data' that we already hold to get a clear transactional and demographic understanding of our customers, the permissions they have given us and their channel choice.

It's sad to see that, with all the wonderful advantages technology can bring to us, we rarely see CRM in action, and we certainly don't experience it as a consumer.

Here's a case in point: As Bath says, "I have two cars of different marques that I service with different dealerships, owned by the same large chain. In the last two weeks I had need to take both of my cars into the dealerships and I have subsequently received, to date, 13 voicemail messages from the customer service department to check if I was 'completely satisfied with my experience'. I was completely satisfied - until I was bombarded by umpteen phone calls! Why don't they know that I have two cars and require one service call? I am one person, not two cars. If they used an effective CRM system, they would know that already, and a call log should have kicked in to ensure dealerships don't end up overzealously quizzing their clients."

Why spend time and money on customer service if it achieves nothing but an irritated customer? And that's exactly the point. Not enough companies have actually integrated their email marketing with their outbound and their mailing, perhaps because 'cheap email' and broadcast platforms have got in the way of integrated marketing.

Think about your CRM system: Is your email suppression file sitting somewhere in the digital ether, rather than held against your customer record? Do your emails actually reflect what your customers have just bought? And if they haven't opened your last five emails, will you keep blasting them with clearly unwanted communications or drop them from your list altogether?

As marketers, it's our responsibility to capture and reflect upon our customers' behaviours, and ensure that the simplest of CRM opportunities are delivered through structured, targeted communication programmes. No relationship can last if one partner ignores the other.