“Nobody gets into marketing because they love math.”

That sentiment came from Erik Severinghaus, founder of SimpleRelevance, at the April 25th Evening With An Expert event hosted by the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association at the 1871 tech incubator.

Math may not be the inspiration for marketers, but now it’s become a necessity. There’s simply too much valuable information buried in big data for them to ignore it any longer. Severinghaus was part of a discussion on how marketers are using big data. He was joined by Doug Laney of Gartner and Dan Neely of Networked Insights in an evening that would leave Don Draper sprinting for the cocktail bar.

From an evening full of great takeaways, here are the four concepts that stood out:

1. “The Mad Men are giving way to The Math Men”

That’s a quote from Severinghaus, but it could have been the title of the evening’s program.

“Too much marketing is intuition, or based on dated data,” Neely said. “That’s why it fails.”

There’s so much data available today, and so many great companies analyzing it to find its incremental value, that there’s no excuse for the level of guesswork advertisers are accustomed to.

Severinghaus, whose company specializes in automated email personalization, sited the “batch and blast” email technique used by so many Fortune 500 companies. He argues that these companies are losing millions of dollars in the form of degraded email lists because they’re sending people information they don’t want, and/or at times they don’t want to see it.

“We know that women purchase more often over lunch hour and men purchase after work,” he said. “Why don’t we use that?”

2. Don’t be afraid

Data is created constantly.

Companies are racing to find the best way to use this information trail we’re leaving behind everywhere we go in the digital world—our website visits, our check-ins, our social conversations, our eye-tracking.

To many of us, this is a scary notion. A couple of years ago, I clicked on a link for Clarks desert boots. Soon, ads for the boots were popping up on every site I visited. I thought I had stumbled into the early roll of a fashion wave– until I realized it was a personal wave created for me based on the user trail I left behind.

This specter of the corporate Big Brother, powered by big data, is hard to shake. Neely acknowledged those fears, but argued that this omnipresent data farming produces far more good than evil.

“Some of it’s bad, but most of it is good,” he said. “My life is much easier because of the amount of information Delta Airlines knows about me. I like that they re-book my flight for me because they know I’m not going to make my connection. I like not having to wait in line.”

Personally, I’m not all in. I don’t want to be a member of the choir (see Eli Pariser’s great Ted Talk on Filter Bubbles), but for the marketer or the entrepreneur, there’s no excuse for waiting.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: though I don’t like being sold to, I did buy those Clarks boots. And I love them.

3. Get used to this phrase: “Pre-informed”

“Pre-informed” is a term Neely used, as he bemoaned the inefficiencies of the campaign creation process. “It is not an efficient process to do marketing,” he said. “It’s a very inefficient thing. When you think of the rigor that goes into planning a campaign, does all of it really need to happen?”

Traditionally marketing has been 80 percent hunches and 20 percent testing. Neely predicts that smart data use can flip this equation. “That’s pre-informing your decisions,” he said. “We’re going to get more efficient at what we do, and better at spending the money we have.”

4. Experiment more

Wait, doesn’t experimentation contradict the idea of being pre-informed?

Not really. We still need to follow some hunches and take some risks. That’s how we flip this data on its head and create new, incredibly valuable insights (Matthew Hartman touched on this just the other day.)

“Too many companies,” Laney said, “are scared of experimentation. Instead, they stick to their silos.” Laney pointed to Google, a company that runs thousands of experiments each year, and is famous for giving employees “20% time” solely to experiment with new ideas. Google isn’t afraid to fail with new service launches if it’s in the name of innovation.

“We encourage organizations to experiment constantly,” Laney said. “We look to other industries for great ideas to use big data. After all, if someone in your industry is already doing something, do you really want to be the second one in line?”