Testing times

Last night I had the privilege of speaking at the City of Sydney’s Let’s Talk Business event on the topic of using customer data to drive your business.

I’ll get to some insights from the speakers in a second, but I wanted to share a conversation I had during the networking session after the official speeches.

I was talking with an entrepreneur who had a simple question: How much time do I need to spend looking at my data?

How long is a piece of string, was my basic answer. To which the entrepreneur nodded sadly, telling me that like most businesses, time and money remain very tight. Getting even a few hours to dig into data to find a few trends to improve her marketing and sales efforts was just very, very difficult.

I suggested that she look at things another way. If I said that I could find you a way to boost sales by 30% or 20% or even 10%, you’d probably drop everything to do it. Mining your data could well provide a relatively low-cost way to do that – so why aren’t more companies prepared to invest in getting those results?

The main speakers last night were Will Scully-Power of Sydney-based data insights firm Datarati and Emma Robinson from Google Enterprise, who talked about how her division has driven the marketing campaign for its enterprise products, including Google Docs and Gmail for business.

The process used by Google Enterprise has delivered a significant boost in sales and is worth explaining.

Firstly, Robinson’s team worked hard to identify their ideal customer – that is, to describe the attributes of the customer most likely to buy.

From there, the team did what it called segment analysis, where it delved into historical sales data to find out as much as it could about how that customer buys, where they buy and why they buy.

Robinson’s team worked out its communications messages (what it would say to these ideal customers and what mediums they would use to say it) and then set up processes to automate capturing and following up on leads. The team then went into the market to generate the leads through advertising and other marketing activities.

Then came the most important part – reviewing results and re-testing. This sort of marketing/sales process generates leads AND data, and that data can be used to refine the sales process even further.

The Google team got so good at tracking their leads that they could give each prospect a score; when that score was high enough, the lead was passed through to the sales team with data on what communications the prospect had received, so that sales pitch could be further honed.

Robinson uses Scully-Power’s firm to help co-ordinate that process and, as you could imagine, the Datarati boss is a natural advocate for the power of data.

But his core message is well worth repeating, as it is something that all businesses can relate to. He says there are three things businesses need to do:

  • Collect the data
  • Collate the data into useable format
  • Make conclusions based on the data and take action

And not just one bit of action. Scully-Power says businesses need to invest their time in testing as many variables as possible to drive the biggest benefits from their data collection and processing efforts.

Test the messages you use in email communications. Test the landing pages you send people to. Test the calls to action you use. Optomise the data you get from your customers by gaining more data.

The important thing is, this doesn’t need to be a costly process from an investment point of view, as there are relatively cheap tools to help with this process.

The key investment is time and commitment to keep testing and refining so that 5% sales boost turns into a 10% sales boost or a 20% sales boost or more.

And let’s face it, who isn’t prepared to drop everything for that?

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