To beat your competition, you have to know your competition. However, before you can know your competition, you have to know yourself.
Too many businesses try to engage in competitive analysis and information-gathering without first investing time and energy into understanding their own strengths and weaknesses. Data analysis helps businesses study their processes and performance, but a problem remains: What data should businesses collect and analyze, and how should the collection occur? The following five sources of data are critical for businesses looking to know more about themselves, so they can eventually know more about the competition.
Customer data is easily the most valuable type of data you can gather. The more you know about your customers, the better equipped you are at marketing and selling to them. Each of your customers is unique, and it is impossible to gather data on every one of them. Fortunately, by collecting information about even a small portion of your audience, you will be more prepared to compete in your market.
Acquiring customer data is popular, so businesses before you have identified several methods of obtaining critical information, including:
- Demographic information. When your customers check out, when they sign up for email newsletters – whenever, really – you should collect their demographic data. What is their gender, their race and age, their education level, their marital status, etc.?
- Real-time behavior. This is especially important if you receive a significant amount of business over the internet. How long are customers staying on your site? Where are they coming from? What links do they click most often?
- Customer service records. Whenever a customer returns a product, requests support, or interacts with the business after a purchase, you can gather information. How have they enjoyed your product or service? What drew them to your business over others?
- Social media efforts. Millennial audiences use social media an average of 5.4 hours every day, and gen-z is even more addicted. You can use social media analytics tools to aggregate user data to gain more comprehensive social insights.
In the name of Big Data, many businesses are turning their gathering efforts inward to learn more about their staff. Monitoring tools can track nearly every activity employees engage in, from the websites they visit to their work performance to their health-related behaviors. Most businesses utilize these tools to encourage better productivity and performance – but many HR experts are concerned that employee data-gathering is having the opposite effect. Like having the boss constantly hovering, these monitoring tools tend to make employees more insecure about their work. Plus, there are ethical concerns regarding collecting employee information without their knowledge.
As long as you inform your employees of your efforts and limit your monitoring to behaviors that do not impact their productivity, you should be able to collect valuable data on your staff. This data can facilitate your hiring practices, so you can develop a stronger, more passionate workforce and brand.
Every department in your business uses contracts, and those contracts contain all sorts of information you need to maintain strong business relationships. Inherently, contracts contain your rights and obligations that you must be aware of to keep your business safe and thriving. Plus, analyzing the data from all your contracts might provide enlightenment regarding your business’s current levels of risk.
However, contracts tend to be filled with dense, confusing wording; worse, there are several types of contracts, and nearly all adhere to different rules regarding format and language. Peeling back each and every clause to locate relevant data would take extensive amounts of time and effort that might be better served performing other business-related tasks. Fortunately, you can use data extraction tools to automate the process of acquiring useful information from your important documents.
If your business is using the same tech it used 10 years ago, you probably need to start collecting tech data. Not all tech is suited for all business tasks; if you aren’t monitoring the performance of your technology, you could be wasting time (and therefore money) on less-than-adequate devices and networks. Fortunately, tech monitoring is coming into vogue alongside other Big Data trends, so you can easily acquire endpoint and network monitoring tools that provide pertinent data and analysis.