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How to turn your data into insights

Data has been called the new oil of the business world, with every company striving to become more “data-driven” in how they operate. A lot of businesses have been quick to claim their more data-driven approach is what sets them apart from the competition.

The thing is, this would be akin to a car manufacturer saying their inclusion of airbags is what makes them superior. Sure, there was a time not that long ago when having airbags did, in fact, make a car stand above the rest. Just like there was a time when having access to data and then using that data to make decisions did make a company better than the competition. The problem is, this is no longer the case.

If a company truly wants to stand out from the crowd, its data-driven approach has to include insights. Here are three easy tips to help turn your data into keen, actionable insights.

Collect data for the right reasons

Why is your company collecting data?

For a lot of businesses, the path to being data-driven starts with collecting data and reporting on it. Many people ask questions about how to collect data, but most never go that one step further to actually ask why they are doing it.

Constant reporting is a thing of life now. There’s no getting around the fact that at some point you’re going to spend time making a report using the data you’ve collected. Having objective measurements of how we are doing has been one of the best things about data, but the problem arises when we collect it for the sole purpose of reporting on it.

You need to consider the specific goals you’re pursuing, and then find the best data available to see if you’re doing a good job or not. Your company’s marketing and advertising goals should be a guiding star when deciding what you need to collect.

Let's say you’re launching a brand awareness campaign. You might want to collect the number of clicks. But what you really need to collect is the impression count because you should be more concerned with the number of people seeing the campaign and not necessarily how many are actually interacting with it.

Tip #1 – Know why you’re collecting your data!

Take the data you need and ignore the rest

Even if (and that is a BIG IF) a company takes the time to ask why they need certain data, chances are they still end up with far more than they require. Businesses around the world are drowning in their own data collection pools because they’re afraid that one missed piece of data could make all the difference. It rarely does.

This leaves them with not nearly enough time to go through it all and decide what’s important, let alone the time to actually do anything with that data. The interesting this is, it’s not the actual data that businesses need—it’s the insights from that information that really makes the difference.

In essence, know what your goals are and then collect data on only the metrics that move the needle for that goal. Start with the question, “What do I need to know?” If a piece of data doesn’t give you that, then you don’t want it.

Continuing with our brand awareness example, let’s say you decide to include TV spots in your media mix. This means you could now collect data about which device people are seeing your ads on, but again, you probably shouldn’t because all you need to know is how many people are actually seeing the ads.

Tip #2 – Focus on collecting data that impacts your goals and ignore everything else!

Good decisions are based off insight, not data

Data are not insights, information, or context. Data are simply data. It is the insight gleaned from the information that tells us what we should do, and the context that tells us why we should do it. This is what businesses really need to make a good decision, not data.

Even if you are collecting data for the right reasons, and even if you focus on the data you actually need, you still don’t necessarily have insights. Turning data into insights is hard and building a context for those insights is even harder still.

So, what do we need to turn data into insights and context? Time.

Time to sit with the data and let it breathe. Time to look at it from different angles. And time to combine it with other datasets. We need time to understand if the data are telling us something about our tactics or about our strategy. A little time will help us find and understand the limitations of the data we have collected. Really, we just need time.

Let’s wrap up our brand awareness example from earlier. After the TV spots have run and the campaign has ended, you’ll naturally want to collect the data. To help turn them into insights, you’re going to need the time to gather benchmark data to compare your current campaign against, as well as time to combine it with other relevant media data.

In time, you may discover that while you were reaching your target audience you were also inadvertently reaching another audience that is showing strong engagement with your brand. A purely data-driven business would call this campaign a success and move on. An insight-driven business, on the other hand, would recognize a great opportunity to tap into an entirely new audience.

Tip #3 – Give your data the time they need to become insights!

Final thoughts

Being insight-driven is not about collecting data, it’s about how you use that data to make good decisions. If you want good insight, you need to collect relevant data, give them enough time to develop, and set them within the right context.

More simply put: (data + time) + context = good insight

Do this and you should have no trouble driving your business goals. After all, data doesn’t lie. You just have to know the right questions to ask.

Micheal Gumbert is the Senior Paid Media Specialist at Perrill in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Perrill is a full-service web design, development, and digital marketing agency experienced in creating and utilizing effective, readable reports in a way that drive our clients’ businesses forward. Contact us today to start using your data to its fullest potential.

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