Gathering data about customers, sales and online analytics is important for most businesses. It can offer invaluable information to guide marketing campaigns, product development, customer service and more. However, that data is essentially useless if you don’t know what to do with it.
Many companies invest a lot of time and effort into data collection, only to let it sit idle or not use it to its full potential. To help you avoid this situation, 15 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share smart ways for businesses to manage and use their data.
1. Conduct an audit to weed out unneeded data.
Start with an audit to find out what data you don’t need or that isn’t delivering ROI. Assume everyone is already at their brink of data collection capacity. If you want to add more data gathering that’s not automated, assume something has to go. Sometimes we keep gathering a dataset because we always have. If a one-off data set or tracking set isn’t strategic, eliminate it. – Joe DeSensi, Educational Directions
2. Tie your data to important questions and metrics.
Data should answer a question. Here’s an example: One of our internal dashboards asks five key questions, and under each question is a single metric. We have agreed on a pass/fail criterion so we know at a glance if we’re in a good spot or have work to do. – Justin Watkins, Native Digital
3. Set up scorecards for your data.
The digital world is great, but it can lead to data analysis-paralysis, especially for people without a specialized education. Managers should consider setting up critical reports or scorecards ahead of time to help their teams focus on the most important data. Once a year, evaluate what you will measure and determine the basis on which you will review it: quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily. – Lara August, Robot Creative
4. Regularly review your data.
Data requires a healthy dialogue. A simple thing businesses can do to ensure data is leveraged is to set a date for data review. The session can be weekly, monthly or quarterly — whatever makes sense in the business cycle. That meeting becomes the center point of data-driven conversation. From this point, data projects, KPIs, dashboards and more advanced techniques will emerge. – Patrick McCreesh, Simatree
5. Use data to create meaningful interactions for end-users.
With an influx of available data, it can be easy to overcomplicate things. We follow a cardinal rule: Use data to create a meaningful interaction that will add value for the end-user. If information isn’t relevant, communications can quickly become inbox abuse. Strategic segmentation and thoughtful, relevant information help build worthwhile relationships. – Tad Rzonca, V3Gate
6. Identify critical, actionable metrics.
Determine the critical measures that are relevant and correlated to your business success and avoid measures that are not revealing or don’t readily lead to action. Create a dashboard report — preferably one that’s auto-generated and updated — that everyone can see so you are operating from the same basis of data, and only dive into the details if needed. – Scott Lingren, Schunk Xycarb Technology Inc.
7. Start with your KPIs and work backward.
Working backward has proven to foster success in data usage. Starting with the ideal key performance indicator and planning how you will reach that milestone creates tangible goals and guidelines. It is important to stay focused on data gathering so you can home in on measuring what matters, not on creating a data overload. – Justin Mihalcin, Discount Dumpster Rental
8. Ask others for their insights on the data.
Let others present the data to you. Numbers don’t lie, but often the interpretation of those numbers does. Let others give their insight while interpreting data. Different people in different parts of an organization will see things from a different angle — often in ways that you either don’t see or dismiss because of your own biases. – Nathan Scherper, Sherper’s
9. Align data with your customers’ KPIs.
Know your customers’ key performance indicators. The data gathered should align with those KPIs so your firm can deliver value to your customers. You don’t want to change your own business goals, but you might alter your path to achieve them so you meet your customers’ goals along the way. If the data you collect doesn’t help you deliver value to customers you should consider seeking new data. – Matthew Johnston, Design Interactive Inc.
10. Organize your data in a centralized location.
Many businesses find that their data lives in disparate platforms, separated systems or various tools. To use data the “right” way, it’s important to organize, aggregate and analyze data in one centralized location. Once your data is organized in a single location, such as a dashboard, you can visualize important metrics to help make future business decisions. – William Balderaz, Futurety
11. Make sure you’re using ‘good’ data.
Tracking accurate, quality and specific data is key for business decisions. I recommend consistently monitoring a few key performance indicators based on good data. Target quality over quantity. – Matt Haiker, Q Consulting
12. Explore information about your customer.
From my perspective as an agency owner and career marketer, the most valuable business data focus on where a new customer originates, the lifetime value of that customer and how to optimize the cost-per-acquisition and lifetime value of customers by refining targeting and messaging as well as the customer journey. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.
13. Make your data digestible with a custom dashboard.
Businesses should build dashboards that make data digestible and, most importantly, the data collected should tell a KPI story. The story should be obvious, easy to understand and provide insight that enables senior leaders to make more informed decisions. Including too much information in the dashboard will complicate the inferences that need to be made, and the data’s value will decline. – Matthew Halle, Lead2Growth
14. Leverage time-tracking data to gauge productivity.
Use time-tracking data to create efficiency in daily schedules. You can’t get where you’re going if you do not know where you are. Having your team members — whether they are in the office or remote — track their time to specific tasks and projects allows your company to balance their workload, get a closer look into productivity and keep everyone on the same page. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
15. Go deep instead of wide.
Focus on the handful of metrics that make a big difference in ROI. Use the specified data meaningfully to measure growth and improved profitability for a specified period. After mastering one area, rinse and repeat to expand the useful application of data. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management