There is a tremendous difference between raw data and actionable insights. Data is a collection of metrics, in raw form or just poorly organized. Actionable insights start with the same raw metrics, but are presented in a format that is easily utilized by decision makers. The insights are GOLD – the data is the gold mine. Your business will be more successful if you have someone on staff who can provide you with concise, “executive-worthy” information. Information that will give you insight into the key business drivers. Without it, you have to sift through the voluminous data on your own. You end up being an analyst instead of being focused on growing your business.
Key Questions – The Path to Insights:
Obtaining actionable information starts with asking the right questions. Of course, these questions vary based on your role and the nature of your business. The key is to get started asking the questions. Here are a few that may prompt you to think of others that relate specifically to your marketing situation:
• Who are my top customers over the last six months? How have their purchases changed over the past year, or two years?
• Are there certain “gateway” products or services, that tend to move customers from medium-sized to large?
• How has my product mix shifted? Is it different among the large customers than the overall mix?
• Is my business growing faster than the market in general?
• What are my most profitable products? Least profitable?
• Do any products have a higher return rate than standard?
When you start asking these kinds of questions, you will find that the answers will prompt you to ask even more questions. Congratulations! You are then on your way to actionable information! Each time you ask and answer questions, you are gaining insight to the nuts and bolts of your business.
Using Informed Analysts
Be aware that it is critical to have someone on staff who can mine the data and help you answers these questions. This is an analyst who not only understands the data itself, but what it means to your organization. In my view it is one of the most important roles in any business. This role has to be more business-oriented than data-oriented. Ideally it is someone who has a good understanding of your products, and enough customer interaction to identify needs and drivers.