How To Use Your Data To Take Meaningful Action

When people talk about it being the Information Age, our thoughts usually go  straight to the internet and the world -wide web, picturing the oceans of data produced, stored and shared in that virtual place.  We also tend to overlook the fact that that means a whole world of data, and that it is simply not possible for any one person on their own to be able to put all the information into a usable form at the snap of a finger.

Here’s the thing: We create and upload tons of data onto the internet every day. That is a lot of information, and there are special tools and analysis methods to extract usable knowledge from that sort of Big Data.

The people and the businesses that succeed in turning the odds to favor them are the ones who know what data to look for and how to mine that data intelligently. They take pains to understand the picture that results from the analysis, and they leverage that knowledge to make good decisions and reach their goals.

We have tools at our disposal that can collect any and all information we might be interested in, but without a way to put it into context, all we have are figures. The  most important thing to remember is determining what data is significant, and how  its significance translates to usefulness for making better decisions.

Business titles such as social media manager, virtual assistant, web analytic developer, information architect, cloud architect and  marketing technologist were unheard of just ten years ago . These job titles came from  the need to define new roles within the changed landscape of business.  It follows then that when the landscape changes, the maps must be drawn anew.

Imagine all those data points forming colored pixels. Now imagine all the data points that form information packets — the number of purchases a customer made at your online store, the items they bought, the frequency at which they shopped, the other items they looked at but didn’t buy, the number of times they accepted a recommendation and did buy the product.

All those colorful pixels form an image of the customer, one that can help you calculate ways and means to be able to assess their needs ahead of time, and make the shopping experience easier for them by tailoring recommendations, or sending just-in-time email promotions. Imagine being able to do that for your entire customer base, and imagine what  doing that can do for your business.

 

Technology has given us a new frontier to explore — all that information that tech lets us create, record and collect.  It is more and more evident that having data is not enough, we need to know how to use it.

Barriers to understanding:
Old-school mindset finds stability and comfort in familiar things. All the ‘new analytics’  can spawn discomfort in adjusting to the unknown, and having to give up old ways of managing and using information. We like our comfort zones, but unless we push ourselves into expanding them –even against our feelings– we run the risk of getting left behind.

This is the post-information age. Overlooking data right there at your fingertips is like ignoring a funny-looking pebble by not realizing it’s a diamond in the rough. Data is like rough information — it’s what you do with it that determines your success.  Business tangibles before counted things like new accounts, number of sales and subscriptions, and the rise and fall of profit and net worth.

Now it has expanded to include things like open rates, clicks, sign-ups, conversions and visits. With the right information in your hands, you can directly influence the outcome of your marketing and advertising campaigns, and make well-informed decisions for your business.  Remember,  the competition only has to be a little better than you to get ahead.

Kaizen is “the practice of continuous improvement.” A good translation would be “change for better.” For you to get ahead using your business’s varied data, you need to keep the practice going. It’s like a constant health check: To be more effective, you need to establish a picture of the whole system, and from there you measure and collect the data which can show you if you’re doing good, so-so, or falling behind.

Think of it like good healthcare. You want to know your system is healthy, you get examined, you get a baseline, then  you get your history over time — taking  information on a regular basis gives you snapshots of data from actions taken, examining the results, and  using them to get better incrementally.

Adapt or get left behind — don’t assume what you know will stand the test of time forever. You know what people say about assumptions.  Ignorance of what’s happening inside and outside your business can sound the death knell of your livelihood.  A vital skill you need to develop is learning to use information to assess the changing landscape and move through it skillfully and adeptly.

 

Business-wise, there seems to be no end to the many ways you can use data once you know where to look, what to look at, and use the information to test your business decisions.

  • What are your stats telling you? – Checking how much of your traffics derives from mobile devices can help you formulate better ways of capturing short attention spans with snappy, shorter articles, and redesigning your website to be more mobile friendly.
  • Split-testing – Lets you see  which landing page version pulls in more sales, or determine what words or subject line works better at drawing more responses in terms of visitors, sign-ups, enrollments (desired actions) and targets fulfilled from calls to action

 

Let’s put it in a more common scenario
You work to earn money, you want to know where your money goes, so you track your expenses. Depending on your financial goals and priorities, you set certain limits. You want to pay off all your debts so this determines how much you need to set aside to pay off debt installments, and that affects how much money goes to other areas, which are –or at least should be– also arranged according to priority.

Back to data: You have certain goals. You want to know if your activities are paying off — you monitor, collect and assess the data that you can track and see if these actions are contributing to the bottom line and  moving you forward in your goals.

That is how you use data.

The more you learn, the more you can do to increase the odds in your favor.
Before you can focus on the factors you can control, you can’t control what you don’t know and don’t understand.
You can’t control what you are not aware about.
You can’t control or affect what you don’t measure.

Again, if knowledge is power,  and knowledge is information that has proven helpful when put into action , where do you get the proof that it’s useful? From analyzing and testing the data you gathered.

For example, you can determine the best days to send email to get the vest returns, clicks and leads, and you can determine when would be the best time to roll out a new campaign to maximize returns.

It’s quite easy to be overwhelmed by all the information we are exposed to every day, and more so when it comes to managing the information we need to make good choices. Being able to understand and use relevant information about your business gives you a plan of action to move on based on what you find out. That way, you can assess all the options presented to you and the information will tell you the best course to take.

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