Small Data: Getting It Right

Small data for businessBig data. Small data. Both have significant value for businesses of all sizes. We talked about the difference between big and small data, then offered some ideas for where to find it in your business.  Any data that is easy for you to access, collect and interpret will provide helpful information to make better decisions and critical improvements for your customers.  However, it’s important not to hide behind the data you gather in an effort to prove yourself right. Using the data to prove yourself wrong is arguably more important.  Allow us to explain.

Asking the right questions

Customer surveys are a terrific source of small data that can provide you with some important feedback on their experience.  But often these surveys don’t ask the right questions. Let’s take a closer look at two typical examples:

Question: Did we solve your problem today? Answer: yes or no.  Good start but the responses tell you very little. It’s not clear what is being measured. And it’s not clear from the responses what you could do to improve their experience. Too many questions left unanswered by this data set.

Question revised: Was this your first call to our customer service for this issue?  The answer is still yes or no but now you have a better idea of where to look to improve the customer experience. Now you can measure how well you resolve issues on the first call. And if your results are strong this measurement gives you something tout in your marketing. If your results are weak then you can celebrate! You’ve just uncovered an important problem that can be fixed and measured again.

Question: On a scale of 1–5 how likely are you to recommend us? This question is likely to yield the answer you are hoping for but not necessarily a useful response.  Again, not clear what is being measured or how the answers can be utilized.

Question revised: What was the best/worst part of your buying experience? Giving your customers a chance to sound off is crucial. Put yourself in your customer’s place and create questions that will matter to them, not just you or your executive team. Notice that in this revision we changed from a quantitative answer to a qualitative answer.  Much more valuable to improving the customer experience.

Numbers tell only part of the story

The sample questions point to the fact that quantitative data is one-dimensional.  It tells only a limited part of the story.  Measuring your performance means finding your flaws and closing the gaps that customers have been slipping through on their way to becoming happy, loyal customers. Find out what your customers want you to obsess about and take steps to get there. Like the bartender who knows your name and serves your favorite drink without having to ask, get the small data right and you will win raving, loyal fans with strong lifetime value.  But more on that next time.

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Small Data Ideas For The Rest Of Us

small data for small businessBig data. Small data. Both have significant value for businesses of all sizes. In our last article we attempted to define big data and small data.  We also recommended building an information strategy. For this article series, we are tackling this topic from the perspective of businesses that don’t have marketing budgets to rival the likes of IBM or Facebook.  Check out our “small data ideas for the rest of us” below.  And be sure to leave a comment to let us know what you think.

Where do I find small data?

Any data that is easy for you to access, collect and interpret will provide helpful information to make better decisions and powerful change for your customers.  Look to the immediate and obvious for small data:

  • Pre-sale activities: if you are utilizing a CRM tool to track your prospects you already have an advantage.  Hopefully your CRM is set up to group prospects by category and capture a diverse set of details.
  • Sales transactions: look closely at the data you capture during a sale, whether point-of-sale or online. Pay close attention to the types of details and patterns that data contain.  And explore ways to collect more information to expand that data set.
  • Customer service: look at your systems or methods for tracking calls or inquiries to see what data set they already contain. Simple tools such as a reason codes or customer satisfaction surveys will tell you a lot about what the customer experience is like post sale.
  • Email analytics: if you are using an email database tool for newsletters and promotions you should have access to plenty of data about the response and performance of your emails.
  • Website analytics: Review any tracking tools provided your website platform as well as the information provided by Google Analytics.

We’ve simplified these ideas to give you a sense of where data might be hiding.  Tracking information about your customers, even 10 to 12 things, will give you some solid insights.

Jump start your strategy

Once you’ve figured out where the data lives in your business, it’s time to get organized.  This list of questions will get you started:

  • What data do we already have available?
  • Does this data give a complete picture of the customer experience from start to finish?
  • What additional data would create a complete picture of our customers and their experience?
  • What can we add to the information gathering we already do?
  • How will we utilize all this data? In marketing? In user experience improvement?

Aiming for that personalized experience

In our first article we used the simplified example of walking into your favorite pub. The action of the bartender greeting you by name and serving your favorite beverage without having to ask yielded an important result.  Personalization.  You as the customer, feel both acknowledged and appreciated. There’s a distinct reason this is your favorite pub. And it most likely has a lot to do with that personalization of your user experience.

This topic is so big that our discussion is going to spill over into our next article. More ideas “for the rest of us” next time. Stay tuned.

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What’s A Small Business To Do About Big Data?

Big data or small dataBig. Scary. Expensive. Right? Big data is a term being thrown around by internet and marketing gurus quite a bit these days. It’s a complex topic with complex analytics that only super-human scientist types understand. Well, sort of.  Yes, big data is complex. But you don’t have to be super-human to understand it.  And you don’t have to be in big business to take advantage of what big data, or even small data has to offer.

What is big data anyway?

For the record, big data is defined in this article from Forbes as a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis. Common sources of big data include digital inputs like web behavior and social network interactions and activity.  As such, big companies have so much big data that they require complex software systems run by skilled staff to collect, organize and interpret the massive volume of information being gathered every day.  Big data gives big companies an edge by providing a much deeper understanding of their customers’ interests, likes and dislikes.  This granular level of information is a gold mine for their marketing teams.

Then what is small data?

According to our friends at TechTarget, small data is data in a volume and format that makes it accessible, informative and actionable. Small data typically provides information that answers a specific question or addresses a specific problem.  Examples of small data are sales data, inventory reports, demographics and buying habits like online purchase or automated reorder.  Small data is anything you know about your customer base.  This information is as valuable to you as big data is to a big company. The key is knowing what to do with it.  A somewhat simplified example would be walking into your favorite tavern and sitting in your regular seat.  The bartender greets you by name and brings your favorite beverage without having to ask what you want. Small data used to deliver exceptional customer service.

What to do about it

Small data is not limited to helping you develop a better relationship with your customers. It can also help you streamline your operations, improve customer service, boost sales and drive a host of other business building initiatives.  Start by building an information strategy.  Now don’t run screaming from the room at the sight of the word strategy. Building a strategy can be simple. And data is everywhere in your business.  You are probably already using much of this information, it’s just never been labeled as small data before. But it’s time to label it, leverage it and get the most from your business.

The bottom line:  leverage everything you know about your customers and your business.  Any data that is easy for you to access, collect and interpret will provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions and powerful change.

In our next article, we will offer ideas on where to look for data, ways to capture it and how to get the most out of the information.

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Increasing Email ROI: All About That Base

email ROIPicking up where we left off in our last article on email usage, trends and research indicate that email is still an effective tool for taking care of your customers. Email is evolving right along with all things digital and internet. We think incorporating a few best practices into every email you send will increase your return on investment and keep your customers happy, too.  Because when it comes to email, it’s all about that base.  Your customer base.

Check out six of our favorite best practices to weave into every email you send.

  • Show you care – talk with your customer, not at them. Soften your tone a bit too. Think less ‘mechanical’ and more ‘person to person’.  It will help your email to stand out.
  • Get personal – email is a great medium to humanize your brand. Put yourself out there with stories about mistakes, growing pains or business challenges.
  • Share a file -marketing emails don’t usually include attachments. Adding helpful stuff like a report or coupon will get your customers used to receiving added value in every email.
  • Be as clear as possible – nothing is worse than not instantly understanding what to do next.  Your call to action should be very, very clear in the body of your email.  And use a button, like ‘register now’ to make it easy to find and activate.
  • Use the element of surprise – customers will look forward to your emails if you give them something unexpected. Mix up the content with surveys, local happenings or an evocative headline and article to keep the interest level high.
  • Make your customers happy – don’t overestimate the value of giving stuff away like the report or coupon we mentioned earlier. Other options for giving are telling a good news story, sharing upbeat or educational messages that may be a one-off from your business.  Don’t just sell – make them smile.

A different animal

Emails for your customer base are a different animal. Using a few of these best practices will help to strengthen your relationship by building trust.  Make the most of every opportunity you have to talk with your customer base.  Since emails are permission based and the unsubscribe link is easy to utilize, the more you do to keep your customers happy and feeling appreciated, the better.

We run email and social media management programs for many of our happy customers. Give us a call today – we’d love to help you increase your email ROI and your list of happy customers.  And of course, add you to ours.

 

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Is Email Still An Effective Tool?

Email marketingWith the explosion of social media in business, some believe that email is no longer an effective tool for communicating with your prospects and customers. Companies and marketing professionals are shifting their focus away from email in their marketing and sales strategy. If that describes you, then some findings in a recent report by Regalix may surprise you.  You may not want to abandon email just yet.

Timing is everything

Email fatigue is defined as mental exhaustion from receiving large numbers of emails every day.  The common fear in business is that too many emails will result in prospects or customers becoming desensitized to your brand and losing interest.  However, this article from eMarketer tells a different story:

According to B2B marketing execs worldwide, email was most effective during the awareness and consideration stages of the buying process, at 72% and 69% of respondents. Once the purchase stage came about, the number dropped to 36%. B2Bs who get their email marketing in tip-top shape stand a good chance at seeing returns. November 2014 polling by Webmarketing123 found that email was the No. 1 channel for which US B2B marketers could prove clear return on investment.

Even though the risk of email fatigue is very real, it appears that emails used at the right time in the sales process still work very well.

Automation is key

Email contact management software has evolved into a sophisticated tool with plenty of features to make your work easier.  Reports on email performance are critical to understanding what works and what doesn’t work for your audience.  Auto-responders are another feature that greatly improve the user experience.  An immediate confirmation can make all the difference between a sale or a lost opportunity. The same article we quoted above also stated that nearly half of the respondents did not utilize the auto-responder feature.  A well written immediate response is becoming an expectation among our audiences.

It’s all in the strategy

We talk about strategy and planning quite a bit in this blog.  Quite simply the value of a good plan goes far beyond outlining the immediate step by step process.  Thinking through your customer’s experience from start to finish sets you apart.  It means you look organized, polished and professional.  It means that your customer feels appreciated and well-served. And it means increased probability of repeat sales.  Strategy can do that for you. Integrating email into that strategy will allow you to serve your customers effectively while avoiding the fatigue syndrome.

Clear return on investment.  That’s what business owners and marketers are seeking. Make email a part of your strategy and investment.  If you are struggling to figure how to pull it all together, give us a call.  We’ve helped clients from many industries and we can help you, too.

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