5 Steps for Getting the Most Out of Sales & Marketing Data

Original post date March 6, 2009

Tell me if you’ve seen this movie before. After spending months debating about the right type of segmentation to do, you finally agree, do the research and…it never gets used. Or how about this one, you get a request from sales for information you’ve already sent to them…multiple times.

It’s a horror movie and it gets play out every day in organizations all across the country. Why is it that we want “data” but then we don’t end up using it?  Based on my experiences with clients, I believe it comes down to few common problems that are manageable, if known.

The top 5 problems I see:

    • Actionable Insight – as in the lack of it…it’s the #1 reason why data doesn’t get used. Far too often the Ph.D’s will put out data without having interpreting it for the intended audience which then sets up the next problem.
    • Language/Communication – call it taxonomy, communication style, whatever, data folks and everyone else (in particular, sales & marketing) speak different languages.
    • Overload & Timing – yes, analysis paralysis does exist but not the way you might think. If you’re in a data rich environment, you’ve probably experienced this. Just too much info flying around and as a result, it often gets ignored. It’s not that it causes people to not take action, as much as it is people taken action and ignoring the data. In other situations, especially involving marketers, it may be a matter of timing. They may be in too much of a hurry to get something out the door to wait on the data.
    • 60-70% Complete – critical pieces are sometimes missing so you can’t see the insight. The dots haven’t been connected. The person responsible for supplying the data doesn’t, and/or wouldn’t, see the connection.
    • Skill set – CMO’s when asked the top reasons (see the chart in the post below) for the need for new skills in their organizations mentioned; “greater segmentation of market” and “increase demands for analytics” in their top 5. The problem is that there aren’t many of them out there.

Why is this important now?  Because everything you do or want to do, or are thinking about doing, will have to be backed by data in this economic environment…you’ll need a rock solid reason for getting, or spending a budget.

Five things to do about it:

    • Apply the “So What” rule – yes, this rule is typically used to help define a feature from a benefit but it’s also effective at drawing out insight from raw data. If the data guys are presenting information that you don’t “get” ask them “so what?”…as in, what is this data suppose to tell me? And keep asking until you get to the “so what.”
    • Help connect the Dots – if the story is missing help supply/coach on how or where to connect the other pieces. If you’re the user know what you’re looking for and provide guidance on where to find it. As I mention above, researchers may not know or wouldn’t understand the connection. This also applies to coaching on communication. Help them understand the language you speak.
    • Chunk it up – sometimes there is just too much to take in and process. Chunk information into more digestible pieces. Take some time and think about what various groups can digest and how often…especially if you’re in a data rich environment.
    • Provide plenty of lead time and direction – don’t expect to get something insightful and/or useful if you don’t give adequate notice or direction. Getting a report on market share won’t tell you how to increase it, or why you’re losing it. Combining trended quarterly market share, key consideration drivers, and sales coverage will…but it takes time to collect. Know what you’re looking for and how to get it.
    • Hire an expert – as was mentioned above there is more demand than supply of talented people who can pull insight out of data and drive action from the insight. If you have to, partner with a vendor. It should also help with the timing/speed issue mentioned earlier. Additionally, they will have tools/approaches that help force out insight.

Data…leads to Insight…leads to Action…leads to Data…the cycle of life. It’s time to turn this horror movie into an action thriller.

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Scott is the Founder of Carbon Design Co and the former head of the Washington, DC office of gyro, the largest B2B agency in the world. Prior to joining gyro, he spent a dozen years at a professional services firm that specializes in B2B sales and marketing. Scott also writes a monthly column for Media Post and has contributed to three books on B2B Sales and Marketing. Follow him on Twitter @sgillum

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