It is not news that the world these days is drowning in data. It permeates our lives in expected, and even some unexpected, ways. Every time you do something electronically, whether it is transacting with your credit card, watching television, sending an e-mail, or posting a status update on Facebook, you leave a data trail behind.

But data isn’t just created by the computers, phones, tablets, smart televisions and payment methods we use, as most people may think. Even many buildings these days are sensor equipped. So are trains, buses, aeroplanes, ships, and some cars – and they’re all releasing data. Which is why it doesn’t come as a surprise that a reported mind-boggling zettabyte of data has been created in the past two years alone.

“While this bombardment of data, which is flooding the ether and surging through networks, might seem completely overwhelming, it actually provides companies with a wonderful opportunity,” says Louise Robinson, Managing Director of CG Consulting, a strategic marketing consultancy specialising in lead generation and database creation. “In fact, the more, the better. They can actually use all that data to gain valuable information about their prospective and existing clients, as well as to hone into their exact target market, which in turn will allow them to generate even more leads. Because it does not help to have all that information and not do anything with it.”

But where and how does one even begin to wade through such a massive and ever expanding quantity? That, Robinson says, is where data mining comes in. She explains that while most data mining is conducted electronically, making use of algorithms, statistical analytics tools, and artificial intelligence techniques to reveal patterns, links, existing and future trends in the data which might otherwise have gone undetected, the key to extracting valuable, usable data from those results lies in verification of the data’s accuracy, which is a manual process.

She notes that most individuals and companies are already processing big data – albeit unwittingly. “Even if they are merely using the Google Analytics tracking system to measure web traffic to their websites or blog, that is still a form of data mining.”

However, she points out that while using automated data mining techniques simplifies the process, double-checking the data is essential. “Phoning to verify that the details on a database are correct is not something that can be left out of data mining. People often forget to update their details, or they move companies and the company website still reflects them as contacts, and it’s only through people physically phoning and double-checking that you can get the kind of accuracy that will allow your database to bring you the results you need.”

The Herculean task of digging through all your company’s databases and other information to sniff out more leads, could actually seem even more overwhelming than the amount of data there is to work through. Robinson concedes that it is certainly a time-consuming job.

The solution she suggests is to outsource the job to experts in the field. “It might be useful to hire a consultancy firm which specialises in lead generation and provide a data mining service. This will free up your employees to actually follow up on the leads that are found via data mining. Because having the information only gets you so far. You need to follow up to turn it into gold.”

She says an increasing amount of businesses are realising the importance of data mining. This certainly appears to be the case when one looks at the statistics gathered from surveys and social media.

According to the latest Data Miner Survey which was conducted by Rexer Analytics among more than 1 200 analytic professionals from 75 countries, there has been an increase among data miners concentrating on customer-focused analytics, with respondents saying they are mining the information in order to better understand their customers.

Kdnuggets, the popular website which covers topics such as Business Analytics, Data Science, Big Data and Data Mining, conducted an analysis of the Top 30 LinkedIn Groups for all those aforementioned groups. The site found that the largest groups in terms of membership included Data Mining and Predictive Modelling. Data Mining also enjoyed the second highest growth of all groups.

Robinson says the reason for this surge in data mining is simple. “Data mining is an indispensable tool when it comes to lead generation, because it can help you discover and focus on all sorts of valuable information, such as what your customers purchase the most often, thereby paving the way for you to better service them in the future,” she says. “And happy customers are returning customers, which means growing revenue. By combining automated systems with a specialist data mining team, companies can grow their customer base, and revenue.”