Companies that have a strong understanding of what their data is telling them are typically able to see much better results when it comes to crafting their marketing strategies, a new study has found.

Research by Forbes Insight found that overall, companies that say they know about big data and its potential significantly outperform those that do not across a range of key objectives. Those who are up to speed on the technology have far keener insight into who is engaging with their products and which customers like or dislike their efforts. They are also far less likely to feel they are wasting money on marketing initiatives. 

Nearly half of respondents to the survey said their organisation is currently wasting money in its marketing initiatives, by targeting the wrong people and failing to understand what will work. This view is particularly prevalent among chief executives and in the insurance and healthcare industries.

Common problems include failing to understand who is engaging with their products – named by over half of respondents as a problem – and not being clear on who likes or dislikes their products (50 per cent).

Therefore, effective use of data will be needed in many organisations in order to come to the rescue and improve overall performance. And the good news here is that familiarity with big data and what it is capable of is on the rise.

More than three-quarters of respondents (77 per cent) said they had a good understanding of big data and its benefits – up from 52 per cent in 2013's survey. What's more, 91 per cent of respondents agree that the ability to rapidly collect and analyse data in an increasing number of ways is becoming more important. 

Companies that have a solid grounding in big data analytics are also likely to take advantage of more sources when searching for insight into their customer, with technologies such as machine learning playing an increasingly-central role.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they are actively engaged use the use of machine learning to evaluate and derive value from very large data sets. However, among companies that rate themselves as having a good understanding of big data, this rises to 96 per cent.

Interest in machine learning is only set to grow in the future. More than four of of ten professionals with an understanding of big data surveyed agreed this technology will be critical to all their firm's initiatives in the next two years, with a further 48 per cent stating it will become important to most activities.

Forbes Insight's report concluded that even if many businesses believe their current marketing initiatives are delivering satisfactory results, there is so much more they could be doing if they are able to leverage big data effectively.

"But as those who 'know' big data demonstrate, the value is not in its collection, but rather, in mining data to reveal key insights that in turn can drive specific actions to create value," it stated.