Data without a strategy is like a vacation without enjoyment

/ 22 February 2021

Do you need a vacation? At the risk of sounding like a downer, I’m going to suggest that the actual answer is “No”.  What you likely really need is respite from the stresses of daily life (and there are a lot of stresses in the world right now).  A vacation just happens to often be an effective method of fulfilling that need.  

Stepping off the plane for a week in Bermuda without a place to stay is hardly likely to achieve a goal of relaxation, in the same way data sitting in a database without a strategy for how to build, nurture, and unlock the value is unlikely to achieve anything. 

NEW: HOW TO: Build a Data Strategy Based on Positive User Experience

Data Strategy

Rather than cosmetic ’wants’, a data strategy must focus on real, unvarnished ‘needs’. It must address in detail what will be done to unlock the value.  Aligning teams and processes, along with having a firm plan for capturing, storing, validating, and analyzing the data gathered is critical. 

It must be actionable and adaptable, but most importantly of all, it must have the mechanisms for measurement, assessment, and communication that engenders the data strategy into the culture of the company itself. 

Three key reasons to review your data strategy right now:

1 – …the wild-west days of non-permissioned data sharing are over 

2 – … the world that is changing so rapidly, only the brands with strategic agility can pivot fast enough to stay ahead of the game

3 – … for brands to scale and grow profitable market share, they must find ways to do so without getting buried under capital and operational expense, and without being slowed by the burdens of burnout and friction

Why Today’s Approaches Are Often Ineffective

Even if you have a data strategy today, there is a good chance it is not as effective as you would like it to be.  Most companies have a “data strategy” that is too myopic and therefore more of a tactic than a strategy.  If you are focused mainly on understanding and improving a conversion funnel, this is likely you. Afterall, customers and transactions are not the same thing. 

Today’s approaches also tend to be reactionary. While the maxim that “history repeats itself” may be true on a global level, it fails to articulate the context and nuance that drives so much of consumer behavior.  Myopic and reactionary views combine to create tunnel vision, which provides a narrow view of a big picture. The result is a failure to account for how best to operationalize, how to deal with change, and how to be accountable. Not knowing what worked (and what didn’t) can be utterly disastrous.  

Building A Better Data Strategy

I’ve written a paper on building an effective data strategy that’s based on positive user experience, which can be downloaded for free here…

READ: HOW TO: Build a Data Strategy Based on Positive User Experience

It explains why customers need to be thought of as more than a breadcrumb trail or clickstream.

Customers are the true source of value.  If you can attract and retain relationships with customers, not only do transactions follow, you also get marketing vehicles, research and insights, brand advocates, and profit generators. 

To build around a customer instead of a transaction requires knowing your customers, their motivations, drivers, aspirations, needs, and challenges.  It is the easiest thing to conceive but one of the hardest to do.  That’s not because of limitations on technology, legal compliance, or a lack of a compelling economic model, but because it is hard to build a new habit and to take a risk by doing things differently.

The paper addresses two important steps: figuring out what you really want to know about your customers and determining how you would use that information if you had it.

Determining what you want to know may sound like the simplest of tasks, but it can be a difficult paradigm shift for many marketers. Included in the paper are the questions to help you get to the bottom or what matters most to you.   

Capturing the data and what to do with it is so important; the latter is easy as you likely already do it, just with inferior data.  The real question is how to capture this data in the first place.

There are a few key elements you need to have in place to do that properly:

  1. The ability to ask straightforward questions to customers, ensuring they clearly understand how their answers will be used, and providing a way for them to provide consent
  2. The ability to grow and adapt experiences that are informed by those interactions
  3. The ability to provide fair value exchange, encouraging the customer to come back for more

It is this more sophisticated path that really sets brands apart and generates deep relationships with customers.  No one wants to feel like you are fleecing them for data.  Their data, opinions, feelings, and motivations are all deeply personal and highly valuable.  Most often, so long as there is trust and transparency, customers will be willing to share far more with you than you might think. 

Whether you build your strategy with existing technology and resources, or leverage dedicated tools and expertise via the likes of 3radical, building a data strategy that delivers value to both you and your customer along the way will be invaluable.  It will be the difference between success and irrelevance in today’s world, which is dominated by customer control, demands for privacy, transparency and consent, and an overwhelming desire from customers to reduce noise and focus on what, and whom, matters most to them.

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