A wise man is strong, yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength” —Proverbs 24:5
In the world of information technology, whenever the statement “Data is oxygen” is made, it is usually with respect to mobile data. However, it is pertinent to know that data is the oxygen that enterprise also breathes. Indeed, the whole world today is data-driven. Without data, the business struggles and may never connect appropriately to its market, no matter how strong its value proposition.
What is the difference between data and information? Which is superior?
Data is raw and unprocessed statistics. In gathering data, we are only guided by a need to have facts and figures concerning our operations, irrespective of the form or order in which they come. There is no specific pattern of organization to data, neither is any guarantee that all may be useful or used at any particular time. Information however, is the organization of data in processed, orderly fashion that lends itself to immediate application or use. Both are interdependent and absolutely necessary in customer relations. Information relies on data for effective reference purposes. Without processing on the other hand, data may be too jumbled and unwieldy to be useful.
In managing customer relations, the more data you have about the product and its market, the better for the development of information that will guide decisions on your road-to-market options. Quality information about the market and appropriate responses to such information are the things that determine the difference between the men and the boys in the marketplace.
No entrepreneur is in the market for himself. He is in the market to solve a problem. But the question remains, “How many of the people for whom the solution is designed recognize why they should have a relationship with the value proposition, especially if there are alternatives in the market?” In Luke 5:39, Jesus said that no man whose palate is accustomed to old wine immediately desires new wine, because he is convinced that the old is better. As is characteristic of most people, change is not something that we readily embrace because it is disruptive to our otherwise comfortable status quo.
Data gathering must focus on customer behaviour as well as other factors like their buying patterns, social preferences, religious convictions, how they buy, who and where they buy from, availability of other options and how those options are marketed and positioned, the overarching socio-economic needs or pain points in the path to purchase, the kind of experience they seek when they shop versus what you currently provide and what you would desire for them to have, among others.
There are several sources from which we can harness and harvest data. In today’s world, the internet is a limitless mine field when it comes to data. The term, “Google it” is not just a byword. It is a way to say that if you don’t find it on what is arguably the world’s biggest search engine Google, it probably isn’t important enough. The soundbytes on social media also provide limitless data, not just about people but their demographics. I doubt if there is any better platform to learn about people’s behaviour and preferences other than social media.
In addition to data gleaned from cyberspace, it is essential to gather internal data about and from your first customers, your staff! They are the first to relate with your services or products before the external customers. Do you really know them? How many of them use your products? How many of their relatives and friends do? Why do they use or not use the product? What does that tell you about the product’s intrinsic value and the relevance to its immediate public? Statistics in my country Nigeria show that teachers in public schools (including the universities) hardly send their children to public schools. Most of them prefer educating their children in private schools or abroad!
The environment lends itself easily to the gathering of data. With specific reference to the issues to focus on as highlighted above, you can commission staff of the organization to initiate conversations anonymously around the product to know those who need it and those who already know about it as well as those who already use it. Deliberately seek to create customer experiences around events, seasons, exhibitions, etc. Take record of the number of visitors to your stand during an exhibition as well as those who make serious enquiries or desire to engage with you after the event. How many of those engagements translate into business?
Conduct deliberate research that benchmarks your value proposition and your operations with the needs and location of the customer. If the customer’s path to purchase is unnecessarily tortuous because you didn’t factor his convenience into your operations or location, he will settle for the most accessible option, even if it is inferior to yours. Geographical data is an absolute necessity.
Gather data about your competition. Not because you want to get into a dog-eat-dog fight with them but because your knowledge about them gives you a clear picture of market share as well as areas where you can do what none of them is currently doing for the customer! Distinction is the game, not competition.
Accurate data helps us to know and properly interrogate our internal status quo, the state of the market as well as the way the customer’s mind works. With data, we not only understand where our customers are, we will know their buying behaviour and how we can find space in their economy. Apart from helping us to make projections and plan activities to enhance our relationship with our market, data is perhaps the most effective feedback system for an organization.
Data helps you to know and predict market equity if certain factors are brought into play. With data, you can distil information that helps to bridge the gap between your road-to-market and the customer’s path-to-purchase. If you sell a seasonal product like winter wears, educational books, agricultural products etc., data helps you to know what time of year your customers buy the most and why. This can be used to plan factors that go into the production of the goods.
Furthermore, feedback data shows us what our customers ACTUALLY need as opposed to what we had convinced ourselves that they need! Remember, it’s about THEM, not us! The fastest way for a business to die is to diminish the importance of feedback or to ignore it, especially if it is negative, whenever it is given.
Effective planning revolves around the information distilled from data. Without adequate and accurate data, planning is futile. Data facilitates production planning in terms of volume, quality, packaging and time frame for delivery to the customer. Other factors affected by data include staffing, pricing, targeted advertising campaign and message, as well as corporate and marketing budget.
Knowledge is power. The more informed you are, the more equipped you are to fruitfully engage your customers and turn them not only to friends, but evangelists who readily broadcast the good news of their experience with you.
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!
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