3 Ways Marketers Can Get Higher Return on Their Data Investment

Here are three ways that marketers can turn their data frustrations into valuable business insights.

On average, an organization's volume of data grows by 40 to 50 percent per year, according to IDC. And the analytics to measure that data is growing too with Gartner reporting the BI and analytics industry increasing at more than $1.1 billion each year. The growth puts hard numbers to the facts that we're all facing: Marketers need more accurate data, at a faster pace, no matter where they are.

But marketers don't have to settle for the status quo. I'd like to outline three ways to turn your data frustrations into valuable business insights and finally get the value you need from the data you have:

1. Automate Your Reporting

No one has time to chase reports. You need to know when business changes-an influx in call volume, a delay in fulfillment, an overloaded server, you name it-and you don't have time to wait for the next report to discover anomalies. It's time to automate your reports to get information in real time.

Over the years, we've grown accustomed to digging through data manually to find changes and anomalies. That was the only way to know anything about our organizations, so we've simply accepted it as the status quo. But with real-time, automated data, business leaders are able to spend more time fixing problems and less time trying to find problems. Here are a couple of examples.

At Bohme, a national women's retailer, CEO Vivien Bohme used to spend half an hour checking in on the sales numbers and revenue per location-and at the time, she had a dozen locations. Now that she has automated her data, she not only saves significant time for more important processes, but she has completely handed those responsibilities to her store managers.

Guy Fish, marketing manager at H&R Block, spoke on the efficiency of a real-time system for data analysis and reporting. Fish says, "[It] doesn't replace thinking-rather it gives us more time to think. [Our system] gives back the 10 percent of someone's week that's spent trying to collect and parse information. If you multiply that across an entire department, the impact is significant."

2. Get Data on the Go

No matter your industry, business never sleeps and it never waits for you to get back into the office. And in today's increasingly mobile world, there's no reason for your data to be locked into a desktop-only tool.

Bohme nailed the trifecta by centralizing her data, connecting all of her store managers to real-time updates, and getting a system that's fully functional on mobile devices. By going mobile, her store managers are checking their location's sales numbers from anywhere; and since the data is also in real time, the managers can make decisions to affect same-day store performance and hit daily goals instead of seeing reports after sales opportunities are gone.

As a result, Bohme raised revenue by 15 percent and the company is expanding by several new locations.

3. Analyze Your Data in Context

Nothing will damage the value of your data like looking at it with tunnel vision. That's why the rallying cry going around B2B articles and business intelligence blogs is, "Get all your data in one place!" And that's great-but centralizing data isn't enough. You can only gain value from it if you have a specific purpose for the data you're compiling. There are three questions you have to answer before you can set up a system to truly see your data in context:

  1. What is the overall business objective I'm trying to achieve?
  2. How can I best measure progress toward that objective?
  3. What action do I need to take as a result of this measurement?

You need to have highly specific purposes for the data you're using, and actionable items to respond to the information you receive.

Metro-West Appraisal is an excellent example of a company analyzing data in context. As the largest independent appraisal firm in the nation, the company was having challenges with leveraging data from disparate data sources. But when Metro-West identified key business goals and centralized their data to target these goals, their data began to identify areas for improvement that they weren't even aware of before: They began shifting work schedules, targeting areas of growth they couldn't see before, and managing by exception to streamline processes.

Metro-West wasn't able to capitalize on those opportunities simply by having a repository of data; the company did it by identifying specific goals and looking at multiple data sources in context to meet those goals.

Marketing ROI is imperative

It's not rocket science, if you are spending money that isn't ultimately delivering revenue then you have a marketing budget. Problems with reporting-whether they're due to human error, late reports, or cumbersome processes-translate directly to hard costs and missed opportunity, which are frustrating executives across the board.

As marketers, we have every right to expect that our existing investments in data systems will translate to new and bigger opportunities for revenue. By getting accurate, timely information, we can derive incredible value from the data we already have.