Tips for managing your data


Data is the building block of scientific research, which is why it’s useful for backing up claims. Data also is a resource that becomes more valuable as it becomes smarter. Your data systems can work day and night without bathroom breaks, gaining insights about your business. You just have to plan for it.

People assume Amazon.com revolutionized retail by accelerating delivery and reducing product pricing. But what really drives Amazon’s growth is data—the contextual ratings and reviews that help buyers make smarter choices. Facebook and Uber also are data-driven companies. Sure, they offer products and services, but what makes them billion-dollar behemoths is the potential for data to unlock unlimited value for their customers.

“Data is the sword of the 21st century, and those who wield it well, the samurai,” says Jonathan Rosenberg, adviser to Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and former senior vice president of products at Google.

That could be you, capable of slaying competitors with data. The following three ideas will show you how to make that happen.

The trusted choice

Data makes your company the trusted choice. Early in my selling career, I learned a valuable lesson from one of my customers: The person with the best information has an advantage in every negotiation. At the time, I was working for a big oil company, selling petroleum products that were essentially commodities. It was a buttoned-up, suit-and-tie world that asked only one question: What’s your price? Deals were often made or lost by the narrowest of margins, often less than a penny per gallon. I was young, new at the job and scared—until one buyer showed me the power of tracking data to gain competitive insights.

Thankfully, the landscaping industry isn’t solely about the numbers; it’s about other types of data, too. Applying my experience, I developed a process to record every customer conversation in our customer relationship management system so all our team members had access. Then we made a cool discovery: Data doesn’t just back up your story, it is the story. Data is trusted, and because it collectively tells a compelling story, it’s capable of moving people to action.

During my days in the petroleum industry, I was surprised by how few buyers tracked pricing. As a result, I only had to be honest and back up my claims with data to make the sale. My landscaping business worked differently because pricing was seldom one of the primary decision criteria. More important were case studies and customer stories that were backed by data. Discovering this information put us on a path to mine our experience to capture the stories that were buried somewhere in the minds of our respective team members. You may wish to do the same before some of that data walks out the door forever.

Smarter systems

Data systems can be trained to be smarter. Accounting systems provide numerical data, such as project revenue, margins and labor hours. But does that glance into the rearview mirror help solve your most relevant business problems? If revenue and profits are growing, does that indicate everything is good and that it will continue? Not if there are problems with your customers. You have to keep in mind that some data is reflective of the past and other data is predictive of the future.

A business by definition exists to solve customer problems. What are they seeing, thinking, saying, and doing or not doing? That’s the kind of data I want because it makes me smarter about serving my customers. Human beings are emotional creatures of habit, and their future behavior can be predicted from previous actions. The challenge is to build a baseline first.

You need a documented business process that details precisely the path you want your customers to take: The path that will accomplish your goals. These are commonly known as the buyer’s journey. There are two simple tools that will help you map out this journey and make it better: buyer personas and empathy maps. Buyer personas are profiles of your ideal customers, their lifestyles, aspirations, fears, likes and dislikes and decision criteria. Empathy maps are planning tools for identifying what buyers are seeing, thinking, feeling and doing at every touch point along their journey with your company.

All of this should be in writing because you’ll refer to it as you use it to teach your systems to provide you smarter data that will make the buyer’s journey silky smooth. You’ll know you’re getting close when you can quickly answer these questions for every action you ask your customers to take: Why? What if? What’s next?

Predictable profits

Data makes your profits more predictable. Data is everywhere in your business. It can be acquired from website and social media analytics, email marketing automation and personal telephone calls and meetings. The question is: Are you drowning or swimming in this data?

The essential tool for managing data is a customer relationship management system. There are many excellent systems, but the quality of data it provides the business is the responsibility of the business. For example, you’ll need to create a system of tags to organize, segment and train your data to work for you. To do this, start by asking what data, if you could get it, would allow your business to be perfect for its current customers and attract more like them? That’s the data that will help you run a better business by making it more predictable and profitable.

Jeff Korhan

Jeff Korhan

Jeff Korhan is the owner of True Nature Marketing, a Naples, Fla.-based company helping entrepreneurs grow. Reach him at jeff@truenature.com. Jeff works with service companies that want to drive growth and enhance their brand experience with digital platforms.

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