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Data For Beginners: What Do You Do With It?

We came across this article the other day, “In The Wild West of Digital Marketing This North Star Should Be Your Guide” and where a lot of the points make sense, particularly around metrics to be measured, it got us thinking about data and how we are told all the time about how much more accessible data is now and how we should be measuring everything. 


This is absolutely true if you're a business which is data-led or a big company with a lot of resource available (either in-house or external expertise). However, that isn't all of us. Some of us may have access to data but don't know what to do with it.



Data is only useful if:- 


  1. you know how to analyse it properly 

  2. you’re going to apply that new found knowledge to your promotions and 

  3. as a small business owner whether you are actually going to take the time to look at it and then take the time to implement changes. 


When you’re wearing all the hats and your main goal is to bring in steady revenue, it’s difficult to prioritise anything other than that which brings customers directly to your business. 


Everything else is a nice-to-have and anything you don’t want to do (or find challenging), however important, gets pushed further and further down the to-do list. 


So let’s talk about data


…and what to focus on when you’re starting out and/or don’t have the resources just yet to go full big-tech on your customers. 


As with everything, the best thing to do is to start simple. If you look at the whole picture and try to capture everything, you risk analysis inertia and then will do 100% of zero towards finessing your marketing and staying relevant to your customers. 


So where do you start?


Starters for ten


What do you presume customers like?

What do you want to achieve?

How else can you measure success away from clicks and impressions?

What are other businesses doing in your space that you like and seem to be having an impact?


If you're starting from scratch, you have to start somewhere so begin with a theory. Like any good experiment, having a hypothesis based on your own experience and knowledge gives you a solid starting block. From there, you can start to refine as you find out more through confirmation and debunking the theories.


If you haven’t got the energy, the time or the interest, don’t go above the effort that you can give. Do a few important things well. 


You could, for instance, start with your customers now.


  • Why did they join you? 

  • What do they like about you? 

  • Would they recommend you? (a classic) 


It doesn’t have to be digital data. You can just ask them straight out. It is all still data that can be used to help performance in other places. It’s starting with a hunch and having it validated. Better to know if something is wrong to be able to act on it or find out a completely different reason for businesses wanting your services. 


You can then hone in on that reason and shape your messaging more effectively.



If you feel uncomfortable asking or you don’t want to pester your customers, perhaps you have a lot of news, updates or re-signing to do, you can instead look at their past communications with you. 


  • What have been their main complaints? 

  • What issues were they having before you? 

  • What issues do they have now? 

  • Is it down to education (Can you help them with that?) or their systems being old (can you help them with that?) or something else (can you help them with that?) 


Can you help them with that?


If you can’t help them as you are, can someone else help them? Can you refer people/businesses? 


That might seem counterproductive but could that referral be another revenue stream , could it be a partnership opportunity or could you create the service that would help them? Is this another revenue stream? 


Maybe it’s a pivot - you realise that you were trying to solve one problem but could actually end up (and capitalising) by solving another.



Data: what do with it


The point of data is not to stand still but to keep going in the right direction. It is to transition and grow your business to become the very thing that your customers need. It may not even be what you started out doing but perhaps you have the functionality in your business and you didn’t realise the actual problem you were solving.


Maybe you’ve veered off the path somewhere down the line or maybe you were distracted by something else and now you’re a bit lost.  Maybe you’ve decided a different direction would be better - that’s why we use data. 


It isn’t for fancy reports or vanity reasons - it’s so we can keep moving forward, evolving, learning, developing. What is your data telling you?



How are you using data in your business? How did you start out with it if you had little resource or time? Share your tips, tricks and learning in the comments, we'd love to hear them.



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