Why data is useless (if you don’t know what to do with it)

Posted by Alison Leishman

Some key points to consider on using data in a way that means we’re not just doing marketing for the sake of marketing, we’re doing it to deliver results.

There are two ways of looking at data: as something necessary but uninspiring, or as the key to unlocking meaning in your marketing.  No surprises to guess  how we approach data - with passion, energy and enthusiasm.  Data is key to delivering great results for our clients.  But...

Data is useless on its own

To understand this is to understand that there are three ways of looking at data (at least):

  1. in isolation – seeing data for data’s sake;
  2. in context – seeing it compared to what happened last month or last year, what has happened in the client’s industry;
  3. for results – seeing data as a means to an end and looking for patterns and trends that tell stories and create the potential for meaningful strategy and ultimately action.

Remember, Data is good. But focusing on the wrong data can be downright dangerous. Having irrelevant information means you can make the wrong decision. For this reason, at Spitfire Inbound we believe that data should not be viewed in isolation, data should not be viewed for data’s sake. As Darren Leishman, our MD, is known to say “Measure what matters.”

The interpretation of data is just as important as the data itself.

That’s why we never use just one data point to inform strategy. We use the data to build a narrative. This is one of the reasons for our clients’ success. We are able to identify, based on activities that moved these clients through the funnel, who the real leads are – and we send these to the salespeople. This ensures that they have the right leads and, once they  follow up in the right way, they increase their sales significantly.

In brief, these are our key takeaways about working with marketing and sales data:

  1. Don’t just measure things, measure the right things.
  2. Understand which data qualifies people out, as well as in.
  3. Don’t make decisions too early – allow patterns and trends to emerge. Look behind the numbers until you see the things you never knew before.
  4. Don’t get lost in the data – step away, ask the right questions, and use the data to address your major concerns and priorities.
  5. Don’t stop there – always ask, “So what? Why should I care? What is this really telling me? What can I do differently because of this information?”

It takes great companies and great leadership to

  • identify meaningful data,
  • believe it, and
  • be brave enough to act on it,

because the data doesn’t always tell you what you’d expect, or give you the answer you want. But if you know it’s accurate, it can be an invaluable source of information that can, if you use it, change the way your business operates for the better.

At Spitfire Inbound we are fortunate to be working with clients who are partners in gathering, understanding and implementing data driven marketing and sales.

To see how we have used data to deliver results for our clients read the case study that won us a prestigious international award, a 2017 HubSpot Growth Award.

Read the Suzuki case study

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Data is the lighthouse that guides your strategy. Image: Lauren Lokker