The Difference Between Data and Customer Intelligence

Analytics—or the collection of data—is interesting, but it won’t help you very much in a vacuum. When information intersects with your business needs and objectives, however, it’s possible to turn those data into actionable insights. From there, you gain customer intelligence that can take your business into new and fast-growing strategic directions. Here’s a quick tutorial to help you take a basic data strategy to a whole new level.

Why do you need to know that? The first questions to ask about any data collection effort are “Why do you need to know that?” and “What would you do with that information?” These questions create a flow to context and action. For example, it’s generally interesting to know where your audience lives and works. But when you think in terms of “I’ll use that to target my online advertising, localize my copywriting, and invest in targeted promotions,” the information moves from general curiosity to genuinely useful.

Would your audience identify these data as important? Make sure the data you’re collecting tangibly improve the lives of your customers. If they don’t, there’s a strong chance that it’s not worth the effort the data are taking to gather. One exception—or perhaps simply a not-obvious exception—is operational data. Beyond that, however, think about what factors your audience would want you to focus on in your analytics strategy. Knowing what device your audience is using online is critical for online optimization, for example. If you’re in doubt as to whether it’s worth tracking a specific metric, consider how it directly ties to your customer’s or audience’s experience.

Define specific campaigns and ongoing efforts. In the analytics world, there are two kinds of data collection. One is the data that you collect over time, which help you see patterns. This might be information like how long your average wait time is for customer service calls or the percentage of people accessing your website on a mobile device. However, there’s also a role for one-off or periodic data collection that helps you better understand a situation. Has interest decreased in one of your key products or services? Targeted data collection could help you more specifically identify the problem and come up with solutions.

Collecting data for the sake of information doesn’t help move your business forward or serve your customers more efficiently. Yet there are simple questions you can ask, such as how you’ll use information, whether it influences the customer experience, and how it fits into your immediate or long-term strategies, that can help you prioritize your data collection in the most efficient way. When you are focused on the information that’s critical to your customer experience and to your business as a whole, it’s possible to create the feedback loops that allow you to capture a positive return on investment (ROI).