by Stuart Ridgway, Original Music for Film and Television

Yes, you really are. As a business owner, you rely on the information your company produces and manages to make ongoing decisions for the company. That information, in the form of raw data, is even more precious than you may think. Data is more than just an asset for decision-making – it comprises the raw ingredients that can make your company soar.

Mound of GoldConsider your perspective as a customer: you spend your hard earned dollars on a product or service that your favorite business provides and you keep spending your money there. Why? Because they have figured out how to provide that product or service in a frictionless way. And they do that by using every facet of their company’s data.

You can too.

Part 1 of this series covers how you can exploit your company’s own data to improve your customers’ loyalty and tactfully encourage them to buy more.

What To Do With Company Data

Presumably, you track basic metrics about your customers, your suppliers, your inventory, your supply chain, and your marketing efforts. You watch them and get a good sense of your company’s past. But what you may be missing is how to open up that same data and leverage its power to realize your company’s future.

Opening your data does not mean giving it away to the world. It means taking it from one information system and correlating it with data from another to gain much deeper insights. Keep in mind that your systems can be as complicated as a Customer Relationship Management (aka CRM) system or as simple as a spreadsheet that tracks your inventory.

Opening your data also means giving more information to your customers to improve their experience. And it can mean automatically pushing that data to systems outside your company (ones that you know and trust) so you can expand your reach.

Correlating or mashing data from multiple systems is one of the secret sauces to taking advantage of data. Google is the king of this: give me a map that shows all the bars in a neighborhood (data set 1), all the nearby ATMs for my bank (data set 2), and the closest subway stops (data set 3), and my evening is set!  By themselves each data set is moderately interesting, but together they paint a much more vivid picture.

This really is Gestalt psychology 101. You’d be amazed at the insights you can glean by mashing data in different combinations and correlating their trends. On their own, your different data sets are snapshots of the past. Working in concert, your data sets can become Interstellar.

Another secret sauce for exploiting data is to push and pull it between systems, both internal and external, so it works for you and your customers. Data that shows up automatically where and when you want it exponentially boosts efficiencies and gives your customers that frictionless experience they crave.

Sounds wonderful, right? But where do you start?

Improve Your Customer Experience

FrictionlessYour customers love you even more when you make their purchasing experience as frictionless as possible. So start with the basics.

Give Your Customers Their Own Data

It’s easier to do this with an online system but you can also do this with paper: integrate your customer’s profile information with their purchase data from your accounting system. What kind of customer information have they volunteered? Demographics, preferred payment plans, preferred product/service types, plus other unique info that you’ve asked them about are important. But mashing it with their purchasing history gives your customer a holistic view of their relationship with you.

If they are a regular buyer of a particular product, it’s very empowering to let them see what their purchasing schedule is and if they can tweak it to suit their needs or even automate it. Can you use this to ensure future sales to them?

What if they bought a product from you but can’t remember the details? Many companies give customers the ability to view their past purchases online and buy the same product again with a simple click of a button. Give your customers the power to recall a purchase and you’ve reduced the friction for them to buy it from you again and again.

Help Your Customers Buy

Behind the scenes you could mash the same customer data with the complete set of purchase data from your accounting system. In doing so, you can make product recommendations based on your other customers’ buying habits: “Customers who bought that product also bought this…” Sound familiar?

This isn’t restricted to just products. Successful companies that provide services know when and how to cross-sell additional services that their customers truly need. Imagine an attorney that draws up a Last Will and Testament for a client. It’s reasonable to assume that the client also needs Power of Attorney and Advanced Medical Directive documents. Based on the services that your customers typically buy concurrently, you can cross-sell the right services to new customers without having to up-sell them.

Finally, to solidify your partnership with your customers, let them in on smart buying tips. Correlate their buying habits with information about seasonal changes, with inventory peaks and valleys, and with supply chain trends.

Imagine that you sell soaps made from goat’s milk and that your customers love to give them as gifts, especially the ones with the Christmas-y scents. You then suggest to your prime customers to buy the Christmas soaps in June. Obviously there’s less demand for Christmas products in the summer, but also the goats are making more milk so it’s cheaper for both of you.

Data drives evidence-based actions, which drive sales. You need to know who your customers are, what they’re buying, and how often/how much they buy, so you can correlate that with data from your different systems. From there you can create that ideal frictionless experience for them.

Push and Pull Data

Give Your Customers Free Services

Free to you not them 😉

Presumably you do not do business in a vacuum. If you sell products, there are companies that sell related products that you probably have a relationship with. If you sell a service, there may be follow-on services that your customers typically purchase. How can you connect your data with these other systems so you can offer additional services to your customers?

Consider TurboTax. They sell tax preparation as a service. For an additional fee, they will automatically submit your taxes to the IRS. Once they’ve gone through the effort to connect their data system with the IRS, they make free money every time a customer chooses this additional service. What services do other businesses provide that you can easily forward your customers’ information to? With their permission and payment of course.

If you sell a product, what other company sells complementary products? If you each connect your online sales systems, you can offer their product on your site, and they can offer your product on theirs. For every sale you can each take a cut, offer a discount to the customer, and still make more money than if you went after that customer cold.

Imagine if you sold high performance, customizable socks specifically for bicycle racing. Through trade shows and conferences you’ve become friends with a company that sells awesome bike gloves. You list their gloves on your Website. They list your socks on yours. Any time you make change to your price or the available colors in your inventory system it’s immediately reflected on both your site and theirs. How many other companies could you partner with in this way? That’s exponential reach.

Let Others Sell For You

Do you have wholesale and retail companies selling your products? You should; and you should be automatically pushing your latest inventory and sale prices to them. If your current wholesalers/retailers can’t receive your data automatically, then find additional ones that can. Get them to help you reach a broader market.

Fish in a Bigger Fishbowl
Set Your Sights on the Bigger Pond

There are plenty out there, especially those that deal in ecommerce. As above, once you’ve set up the connection, all you have to do is keep your inventory system up to date. The right data is then automatically pushed to the wholesaler/retailer.

The same goes for service providers. Are your offerings listed with placement services? The more advanced placement companies will enable you to automatically push information to them about your services.

What’s really cool is if you have extra inventory or you have extra resources available that provide your services. You can have a quick flash sale and immediately notify your wholesalers/retailers/placement services to get your company out in front. Again, all you do is make the update in your inventory system with the new price and they can immediately list the sale on their site.

There’s More Gold In Them There Hills

In part 2 of this series, learn how to make your data work even harder for you. The insights you pull out of your different systems can help you make your business processes more efficient. You get a better picture of the future and in the end, you improve your sales.

Gripe and Punishment

Gripe:  Backpacks in my face on the bus or subway.
Punishment:  If you see me on the subway with a big ol’ backpack strapped to my back and I keep turning and whacking people in the face, feel free to fiddle with the zippers and make guiro sounds with them.
Just to be clear:  There’s little personal space on a crowded bus or subway.  Your backpack is at the same height as the faces of the people that are sitting.  Do us all a favor and keep your pack between your legs on the floor so it’s out of everyone’s space.


Stuart Ridgway composes original music for film and television.  You can find out more about his music and the Emmy Award winning television shows he works on at Pyramid Digital Productions, Inc.

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