Is Data Actually Your Company's Most Valuable Asset?

Is Data Actually Your Company's Most Valuable Asset?

Last week Audiense, a leading social insights platform, released its report on How to Use Social Data to Win New Business and Retain Clients, and it includes more great takeaways than your average High Street. The ebook, which explains that data is such a big deal that 69 percent of companies will have analytical centres of excellence 18 months from now, explores how data can be used throughout client relationships, from the initial pitch to retaining and renewing the business.

Debunking every mission statement and corporate schmooze-session you’ve ever read or attended, what is very apparent is that employees are not your company’s most valuable asset—and it’s not even close. The painful truth is that, thanks to machine learning, our robot overlords are already winning.

Data has never been bigger or more important

No matter where you jump into your organization there’s data to be found. Sales? Take a look in your CRM and your sales automation tools. Social? Clicks, shares, likes. And the amount of site data that’s available through Google Analytics and AdWords is more bonkers than ferry-bound traffic—there’s simply no reason to not have data on things the you manage.

In any case, you should perform a data sources audit on your existing tools. Knowing what data you have and how they relate to each other is vital to understanding whether you can measure what you need to, and if you can make sense of it when you do. Just remember the adage that not everything that’s important can be measured, but not everything that can be measured is important.

At minimum, if you’re not using data to at least measure and optimize your campaigns, you won’t be able to show your clients whether you’ve met the success goals you laid out. But beyond this, you should be using data to build your campaigns. As Kat Scoble from Truffle Social says, “Campaign ideas backed up by audience data and insights can really start off [the relationship] on the right foot.”

Few reports and pitches are more compelling than those that include pretty graphical representations of numerical data. You can even get powerful data visualisation tools for free. While clients are still going to ask a lot of questions about your work, a good intuitive chart can cut through data and explain relationships faster than a convoluted conference call explanation. Conversely, the inability to convey data to your clients may lead them to wonder what they’re paying for.

Agencies should own the data they mine for their clients

As keepers of the client’s media, creative or other strategy, it makes sense for agencies to own the data that their tools dig up. Or at least own the tools. “Agencies are armed with all the resources to evaluate the data, determine the insights and visualize the strategy” to optimize the brand’s engagement with its customers, says Mauro Fuentes, social media director at Ogilvy PR.

A recent CMO Strategic Council Brief revealed that 72 percent of marketers will soon be on the lookout for new relationships with creative and media agencies that can better exploit data. That’s a lot of new business out there to be won by the data-savvy agency.

But more than simply needing data to use as a sword to hack through campaigns, agencies should own the data as a shield against losing clients. It might feel like a devious move, but providing the client with insights, without giving up ownership of the raw data or the platform that mined it, can add a layer of difficulty to the client leaving (remember than more than 7/10 relationships are about to be up for grabs).

Personas aren’t as valuable as understanding the data you already have about your audience

Your company probably has buyer personas. It probably has bad ones. Most personas are bad. Or worse.

Put your hand up when this sounds familiar: Heather is a 35-year old human resources manager. She earns £35,000 a year. She has been married for 10 years and when she’s not at work likes to spend time with her husband, Mark, and their two boys, aged 4 and 6. She often finds herself getting irritable with her colleagues because she works long hours and feels like she never has enough hours in the day.

The problem with personas like that—and there are a lot of personas that look like that—is that they’re just not very useful. And why? Because they’re a nice story, but not based on data. As Audiense’s CEO Javier Buron says, they don’t answer important questions like: “What drives response? What publications are they interested in? What TV shows do they watch? What crossovers are there with other brands?” In short, what empirical data do we have about Heather and people like her that we can use to get them engaged and activated?

Analyse your current and past customer base. What were the roles of the decision makers? Who controlled the purse strings? What were their demographic profiles? Who did they report to? What was their function? And when you have that data, STOP. Because the next thing you want to do is start making “educated” guesses about the rest of their lives, and it’s the wrong thing to do.

There are tools and services out there that can get insights into who your customer base is, Audiense, for example, but you can also feed it directly into Facebook Business Manager’s custom audience function and find out more about what drives your audience that way. You don’t have to make assumptions, mostly because assumptions are limited by the experience and biases of the person making them. As a result they tend to be more stereotypes than archetypes.

Employees aren’t a company’s most valuable resource. But neither is data. Employees who can mine, analyse and visualize data, who can harness the power of machine learning are the new corporate crown jewels.

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