You know your business.  You’ve gotten close to your customers, hired smart people and been successful. And you know that having the right information to make key decisions can make the difference between mediocrity and spectacular success. This begs the question: what information are you missing? And do you know what you don’t know?

Smart strategy and sound execution require a disciplined approach to information— a systematic way of identifying and learning what you should know but don’t—about your market, your customers, your opportunities and your marketing and sales performance.

It starts with the right data.

Do you have data discipline? Here are three key ways to find out. These are things to ask yourself and your team.

  1. Do you have a list of data gaps?

Data gaps are key pieces of information that are missing in planning and/or execution. They’ve been proactively identified by you and your team as “important things we need to learn.” Data gaps can include golden nuggets of knowledge about customers, mindthegapsales prospects, the market in which you operate, competition and your internal performance.

These gaps can be found in the upfront strategy setting and at all stages of execution.

It is wise to think broadly about data gaps.

Don’t assume that information cannot be obtained.

Because with the right data sources, tools, technology and analyses chances are you could know more than you do now—and dramatically improve execution.

Some examples:

What are the leading indicators of your customer acquisition? Which of your customers at risk of leaving? Which non-intuitive things do your best customers have in common? How often do your target prospects visit your web site? And where do they go after leaving your web site? How many sales calls does it take to close a sale on average?  In your lead generation do you know exactly where you are losing prospects in the marketing and sales funnel?

All of these things are knowable.

It helps to quantify the upside of improving each stage in the marketing and sales process, so you can prioritize your focus. This is done with what is called a sensitivity analysis. One of our clients, for example, was losing too many prospects who signed-up for a free trial. Knowing that helped us improve that piece of the process and sales conversion rates tripled as a result.

  1. Who has contributed to your list of data gaps?

It’s important that, internally, people on your team with related and even adjacent goals are on the same page about the data gaps that exist, or have a process to get there. Sales and marketing need to be aligned, because customer knowledge and analytics are the fuel that drives results, and data is the glue that connects sales and marketing. Recently we spoke with a marketing director who did not know the sales metrics of the leads he was generating. Without that knowledge there’s no way to determine revenue per lead and the number of leads required to optimize the customer acquisition process.

  1. Do you have a plan in place to fill your data gaps and take action?

We highly recommend a structured process, not only to identify your data gaps but to fill them– with third party data, market research, analytics and the right technology/tools to unleash data you currently have in-house that is hard to access. It helps to decide which gaps are acceptable and which ones are not, and then prioritize the gaps to fill. Boundless Markets conducts data audits for clients, a structured process that identifies and fills data gaps for clients.  Whether or not your process is guided by a consultant, responsibility for filling data gaps should be owned and become an explicit performance goal. Otherwise, issues linger and “data complacency” can set in.

A big part of the planning process should be the action you’ll take once you find out the answers. Desired actions – what you’ll do (or could do) if you have the data – should drive the process.

The bottom line: you should proactively find out what you don’t know. Then make sure you and your team are armed with intelligence to make more informed decisions. This does not imply you should boil the ocean with data collection. But pointed questions need to be asked and obstacles that get in the way of actionable insights need to be addressed. Because information as usual leads to business as usual, and the status quo is often a dangerous place to be in competitive markets.

Feel free to call us to discuss your challenges at 917-373-7451.