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Data: The Good, the Bad and the Unweildy

by Traci Nigon

You’ve tracked your data. You have extensive spreadsheets. You use analytics on your website, social media, and advertising. So why is nobody using this information?

Here’s the problem with data, says Brett Keirstead of Knowledge Marketing: “It’s not just data; it’s what you do with the data that makes a difference.” This means that you have to ask yourself some important questions about what information is needed, who is going to be using it, and why they need it. This involves creating a simple yet deliberate plan for the information you are going to or have gathered.

Using a five-point system, Keirstead described essential truths to help companies collect and disperse information, whether it’s for internal use or for selling user data to other companies. No matter what your ultimate message is, its success “is all predicated on giving it to the right person.” Here’s how you can do that.

First, make sure the data is usable. A sprawling spreadsheet will have practically unlimited information, yet an average editor or salesperson needs to be able to find their ideal information quickly; a spreadsheet like that will be too daunting. Brett also advocated what he called a “Use Case” approach, looking at who will use the data and why. Executives, he explained, are going to have very different information needs than an editor.

When you’re deciding on a plan for data, you also need to tackle some hard practical questions. Are you going to have all your titles combined on a sheet, or separated in different packages? How often are you going to update or audit your information in the occurrence that some readers are on multiple databases and update one listing? Are you going to create this in-house or get external help (from Knowledge Marketing, perhaps)? And most importantly, how are you going to implement the use of this database to the rest of the company?

To ensure that all these questions are answered, Keirstead suggested getting a “champion” in your office—someone who can address the issues head-on, advocate for adequate time and training and have the amount of patience needed to bring such a project to completion. Look around your office to see who would be best for the job. Is it you?