A lot of business owners are – well, I wouldn’t say resistant – but nervous and reluctant to get involved with their data. And when you look into what underlies this nervousness, you’ll get a bunch of answers that all ultimately boil down to: “I don’t want to do it because I’m afraid it’s going to be too hard for me.”
Data has a terrible reputation for being difficult to use and understand. Part of this is the language we use to talk about data – there are data engineers, there are data scientists. It makes it sound like you need to go to MIT before you can even begin to hope to understand data – and that’s just not the case.
When we talk about the data that will help you run your business better – the data that will help you figure out how to make more people aware of your business, the data that will help you choose the best marketing tools to attract customer attention, the data that tells you how well your online and in-store efforts are working – all we’re talking about is the information your customers share with you by the choices that they make.
You don’t need to be a data engineer or a data scientist to make use of this data. You just need to be a business owner who’s interested in their customers and wants to provide a better experience for them.
You Can Start Working with Data Right Now
One way to lower the intimidation factor of working with data is to do some simple exercises and see what’s involved.
For example – you can stand in your store and physically count how many people come in the door each day. That’s data collection. You can also check your website data to see how many people visited your online store during the same time period you were doing your count. Compare the two numbers – was there more traffic in-store or online? Congratulations – that’s data analysis.
Working with data is not inherently difficult. It’s certainly not any harder than any of a million things you do on a regular basis running your business. And making better data-driven decisions is like any other complex task that you deal with – there are professionals out there to advise and guide you as needed, when you want them.
The Challenge of Achieving Audience Clarity
What is challenging – and this is where many business owners run into difficulty – is understanding what your data means when you’re not absolutely clear about your audience.
When you’re starting your business, or you’re at a point where you’re trying to grow the business, you need to attract more customers. To attract customers, you need to understand what they want from you – in terms of product, in terms of pricing, and most importantly, in terms of experience. You’re going to have a really hard time understanding what that person wants from you because you don’t know them.
What happens at that point is you do the best you can with the insights and understandings you do have. Countless websites have been built based on what the business owner thinks their customers want.
Looking at the website data is a way to validate the owner’s choices – if they’re correct, the data is going to show that customers engage with the content provided, take desired actions – such as watching a video or reading product details, and convert.
This validation is important. At the same time, examining the data will reveal places where your understanding of who your customers are and what’s important to them can be improved.
A very common example of this is the retailer who assures me that their customer is not the discount shopper – they’re never interested in sales, only in what’s new. And this may, in fact, be what your customer says when they’re in-store – but online, their behavior is different. Delving into the website analytics can reveal that your sale page receives a lot of traffic and has a higher conversion rate than almost any other page on your website; your email marketing data can show you how sales-focused messages perform compared to the other messages you send.
Does this information mean you have to change the way you do your business? No – there are some retailers who seldom run sales, and that’s the way they do things. But being armed with data means you better understand the power of the marketing tools you do have on hand – so when you do decide to have a sale, you can make the most of it.
Every time you examine your data, you’re learning more about your customer. And what I’ve found is that business owners – even the ones who are initially completely overwhelmed by the idea of working with their data – rapidly become excited and energized once they realize what their greater level of understanding means. Most of us are passionate about our customers. We want them to be happy. We want them to come back, and to tell their friends how great we are. Data’s the key to making that happen.
Give it a try. I promise you’ll see it’s not that hard after all.