In our discussions of data we seem to focus on two major areas, either collecting a lot of it or making sure it’s clean and tidy, but there is a third idea worth considering in relation to overall data management, too. The collectors are a bunch of usual suspects who espouse the importance of capturing customer crumbs so that you can figure out what they, at least in aggregate, want, think, feel etc.
Then there are the cleansers, the vendors that provide ETL tools — that’s extraction, transformation, and loading — which neatly describes a round trip also described as wash, rinse, and repeat. It’s all good and valuable but if that’s all you have you are missing something.
What’s missing is encapsulated in the sage saying that you don’t know what you don’t know. The data we collect is overwhelmingly first order in my conception. By that I mean that one way or another, I can collect a bunch of data about a customer and derive information from it. But the information won’t necessarily be enough for decision-making because it will not necessarily be complete.
Even in a business to business or B2B setting, if I collect data about your company, where it’s located, who the executives are, who the decision-maker is for the products I sell, and more, I might not stumble across the fact that your company is owned by some other company and most importantly that decision-making is handled by the other company. I could simply ask someone that I am calling on in a sales situation about that, and that’s what I did in the bad old days. But truthfully, once I am in the account it is becoming too late because I’ve invested time and resources. In other words, the cement isn’t hardened yet but it is setting up.
It would be preferable for planning purposes and resource allocation if I knew all that before I picked up a phone. As it turns out that’s at least part of the value of Data as a Service. It’s the ability to fill in the information gaps that might not get filled any other way. In a similar vein, you might also be able to get such non-trivial information out of a service as the prospect’s credit rating, which could come in handy when you want to get paid.
All this is to point out that the growing data industry is something of a three-legged stool consisting of vendors that supplement, clean, and manage data for your company. This is obviously completely different form the data management you need to do to keep on top of accounts and revenues but that’s usually an in-house job and there are other vendors for that.
I keep DaaS separate in my mind from sales or marketing intelligence. There’s no reason that a vendor can’t supply both kinds of solutions but they are different enough in my estimate to keep them distinct. It’s also likely a vendor might want both. Intelligence vendors provide more breaking news-like information that is often consumed by sales and service organizations while DaaS can be consumed by sales and marketing but also finance to help guide financial decision-making. The two services overlap and it’s getting harder to tell them apart. Each provides a relatively low cost approach to more rational decision-making that didn’t exist a short while ago.
Add this data discussion to a changing market and you see where this is going. We are inexorably changing the way we sell from a face-to-face process to something that’s a bit more automated especially in the early going. That means less opportunity to ferret out hidden data and greater reliance on electronic sources. As we contemplate the new year and our sales and marketing planning it might be a good thing to examine how our organizations capture, manage and use data, and whether or not we have enough of it.