How to Drive Success with Data

by Gerald Fisher 1 March 2023

Knowledge is the currency of the 21st century. More and more, data is driving business strategy. And if data isn’t driving your business strategy, chances are very good you’re losing out to competitors who are data-driven from first principles.

Think of Amazon’s single greatest innovation. Jeff Bezos’ brilliance is recognising from the very beginning that he wasn’t building a bookstore, or even a sell-all-the-things store. What he was building was a technology company that happened to sell books. He was data-first right from the very start. 

Apple’s astonishing success can also be attributed to understanding its customers in a deep way that continues to make it the most valuable corporation the world has ever known.

And the list goes on. Both these businesses started in garages. Nor do you need to be a corporate behemoth to embrace big data. Quite the contrary, actually – harnessing data and using it to drive your business can help you punch above your weight. 

10 Tips to Effectively Utilise Data to Drive Your Business 

Here is a 10-point starter kit for conceptualising how to embrace data, and to use it to drive success: 

  1. Lead by Example – Companies with strong data-driven cultures tend to have top managers who set an expectation that decisions must be anchored in data, and that this is normal, not novel or exceptional. 
  1. Get your senior managers and executives comfortable with accessing and using data. Hire data-driven people and integrate them fully into the organisation.
  1. Have a plan. Undertake high-impact activities knowing what data you want to discover beforehand so you have specific goals in terms of measuring success and failure, then empower your people to act on the data.
  1. Identify your metrics for success, and monitor if and how you’re meeting them so you can adjust.
  1. Beware confirmation bias and learn when not to trust your gut. Embrace being wrong about your assumptions. There is not a human on this planet who is not susceptible to confirmation bias – “the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs.” This involves differentiating between the signal and the noise.
  1. Apply Jeff Bezos’ 70% rule – most decisions should be made with about 70 percent of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90 percent of the information to come in, you’re moving too slowly. This is akin to “Move fast and break things,” but with some discipline behind it. It means accepting you’re going to be wrong some of the time; failure and learning from it is a key component of this organisational strategy.
  1. Consider what information or data sets are most valuable to help you make the best decision.  You may find that the data you were about to work with isn’t the most optimal, it was simply the most available.
  1. Visualise the data. Use visual elements like charts, graphs, and maps. Data visualisation tools provide clear, accessible ways to see and understand trends, outliers, and patterns in data.
  1. Communicate the story in the data. What is the data telling you? Use it to craft a compelling story, and if you can’t tell a good story with it, consider that either you’re not looking at the most salient data, or your baseline hypotheses are way off. 
  1. Create small experiments before you go all in. This is another important tool for a business strategy that isn’t afraid of trying something new, but mitigates the cost of it not working out, or, worse, spiralling into a disaster.

Still, there are far too many businesses holding tight to legacy thought and business practices. Adding a data analytics department as an appendage siloed in its own windowless room, rather than fully reorienting to the new realities and the opportunities those new realities present, isn’t going to get it done.

Yet another challenge is the sheer amount of data that’s available, and how to handle it. For so many organisations, a strong, data-driven culture remains elusive, and data are rarely the foundation for important decisions. Why is it so hard to bridge this gap?

Data and Digital Marketing

Paid Social Advertising 

With digital marketing, data has utterly transformed the advertising model, making it much more effective at targeting the correct audiences and generating actionable leads. Social advertising campaigns can be effectively carried out at a fraction of the cost of legacy media advertising, generating a significantly higher rate of return on investment.

Frequently, your digital marketing campaigns are spread across a number of social media channels. Data is collected from trackable customer interactions and behaviours with social media ads, as well as interactions and behaviours on your website, and can tell you things like the demographics and socioeconomic status of people interested in your product or service, as well as how they are responding to your ads. 

You can use the data you gather to fine-tune your marketing messages, depending on the platforms and audience characteristics to deliver personalised, specific experiences that resonate with your target audience’s needs and interests. Data also helps you see what messages are not effective.

“Put simply, personalised marketing campaigns drive better results. When you deliver content that is more valuable to your audience, they’ll take more interest in your content because it is tailored to them. Since the content is more pertinent to those individuals, they are more likely to convert. This means that you have more potential to earn a higher ROI.”

Optimise pay-per-click campaigns to mine for keywords your customers are using to provide them with information that’s helpful in their decision-making process. Use the data you gather to re-target customers. Effectively re-targeting people who have already expressed interest in your product or service drives conversions.

So it’s not just gathering the data. It’s thinking through how to deploy knowledge. If a customer is already familiar with you and your product, what you are doing is using the data to build a relationship.

Email Marketing

Further, you can use data for email segmentation. Maybe you’ve identified through data that you have six different types of customer. You can create six different email messages each targeting your six different types of customers. Similarly, you can market special offers targeted differently to different groups.

Unlock Meaningful Insights With Data

As organisations learn to harness the full power of customer data, the advantages could not be more clear: companies with strong data-driven cultures are twice as likely to exceed business goals compared to companies with weaker data cultures. 

The Harvard Business Review suggests that the greatest obstacles to transforming your business into one that leads with data aren’t technical, they’re cultural. It’s about thinking differently.

“It is simple enough to describe how to inject data into a decision-making process. It is far harder to make this normal, even automatic, for employees — a shift in mindset that presents a daunting challenge.”

Yet another obstacle is being flooded with too much information, as well as new types of data, and not really knowing how to purpose it. As much as the tone starts at the top, your data operation needs buy-in from the ground up.

Unlocking meaningful insights start with building a rock-solid foundation – one that brings the data that matters into a unified, organized, and accurate source of truth, and makes it actionable with analytics. When you can understand how your data and analytics enable better business decisions, you’re positioned to tap into their full power – and to take your business where it’s never been before.”

Finally, listen to your people. There’s a reason you hired them. Insights can come from anywhere. For example, a People & Culture employee may have ideas from data about how to improve employee retention. Someone in marketing might have an epiphany about how site traffic data could be purposed to increase conversions.

Bigger is Better

Decisions made based on data are usually better decisions. The bigger the data sets, the more information you have to work with, but bigger datasets create greater complexity. The tools available across various social media platforms are a great starting point. The problem arises when the data you are gathering comes from various sources. 

Big data is the new frontier as much as it is a shorthand for using advanced tools and applications to gather all the information in one place, and then integrating it, top-down and bottom-up into how you can grow your business. 

At Rumblr, data is at the core of everything we do. From customer segmentation to strategy, everything starts with data. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you grow your business with data-led thinking. 

by Gerald Fisher