It’s no big secret: We live in a data-driven world. Nearly every business on the planet uses data in one way or another, and savvy businesses are always on the hunt for better, more effective, and more efficient ways to acquire, compile, and analyze information.
Some businesses rely on data to optimize their own products and services, while others use it to better understand where and how customers are using their tools. For marketers like us, data is essential to understanding people and their habits. That’s how we create more effective campaigns and more targeted ads that actually connect with our audiences and inspire action. Put simply, if you aren’t already focusing on analytics, you should be.
Here’s the thing. While most of us are focused on finding ways to capture more data (after all, more data means more insights), we have to remember that the amount of data means nothing if we can’t trust the information. In truth, it’s better to have a small amount of bulletproof information that genuinely reveals facts about your audience than it is to have stacks of sort-of-useful data and figures. There’s no greater challenge to overcome than questionable data integrity. This issue alone can cause analysis paralysis, which detracts from insights that inspire action and can actually lead you down the wrong path for your business.
So, how do you take entire databases of different information and make something useful out of it? Well, according to Tucker Castleberry, an Atlanta-based leader in the printing and communications industry since 1949, better data is only five simple steps away. Here’s what they say are their top five tips for great data.
It’s impossible to gain useful insights from your data if you aren’t sure what you have. Auditing is a process that helps you gain a better understanding of your current data. The auditing process works by telling you what data already exists, where that data lives, what issues or discrepancies the information might contain, and (sometimes) how to use different pieces of information in the most integrated way. This process can help you take a holistic look at your numbers and create a roadmap for improving it even further. That roadmap helps to ensure long-term and short-term goals are met, while critical best practices are established for data management moving forward.
Trying to find patterns, relationships, and correlations among different types of data is like comparing apples to orangutans. If you can’t see patterns, you can’t gain insights. The more jumbled the formatting of your data, the more likely you (or your system) are to miss valuable connections. That’s why it’s important to standardize your data framework and processes at every turn.
A simple example of this is birthdays. If you use five different dating structures (e.g. October 1, 1963; Oct. 1, 1963; 10.1.63; etc.), your system will never recognize that there’s a connection between those numbers. They’re treated as different items. So, standardize! Make sure that all data is captured and organized in the same ways using the same structures. Consistency is key! One way to ensure that you don’t run into any data standardization issues is to be as automated in processes as possible.
This is a simple one. If you can’t guarantee that your data is accurate, then you can’t rest assured that your insights are valuable. As Tucker Castleberry says, “Great data is accurate data.” Use a verification tool to check the validity of your analytics by running them against a series of algorithms or an external database. Once you’ve verified the information, you’ll be able to move forward with confidence and provide better recommendations of how to use the data. You can also work with a trusted partner, like a data aggregation platform, in order to ensure your data is accurate within data sets.
Your insights are only as good as the data that your business possesses. If your data is poor, so are your insights. Think of it as “garbage in, garbage out.” That’s why it’s important to make the most of your data. A great way to do that is by focusing on the data you already have and searching for ways to improve it. There are a ton of third-party resources out there that can help add even more details to your existing database, giving you better clarity and deeper insights. Enhancing your data can help you see beyond the surface-level findings about your customers. This not only improves your targeting, but it can also help you craft better, more effective messaging that sticks.
Separating your data across multiple platforms or systems is a quick way to ensure that you miss out on valuable insights. After all, ten small sets of data are far less useful (or reliable) than one giant set that’s comprised of your company’s most valuable information. This fragmented approach not only makes it significantly more difficult to keep your data precise, but it also limits your ability to see the big picture.
Consolidating your data into a single database (or better yet, a user-friendly marketing dashboard) also ensures that there is no overlap in the information. For instance, if your numbers are spread out across multiple databases, you might have bits of information about the same customer in different places. It’s also possible that you might accidentally duplicate information, which could lead to skewed decision making or flawed insights. Compiling your data into a comprehensive, single source of truth helps you construct richer, more complete profiles that can lead to better insights. Those better insights will ultimately lead you to better and more proactive decision making.