Too Much Information? Wading Through Data to Discover Opportunity

You have all the data you need. You subscribe to syndicated market research services. Perhaps you have a small in-house team dedicated to gathering channel and category data. You have ample demographic info on your current audience. Maybe you’ve even paid for custom shopper studies.

Do you have too much information?

We’re not talking about TMI like your friend’s tendency to overshare personal details, but rather a business’s tendency to over collect data. Faced with too much data, you might encounter these challenges:

  • Data is squirreled away in silos. Sales, marketing, and R&D groups likely have information tied up in their own systems or spreadsheets, making it difficult to aggregate and analyze it in meaningful ways.
  • Data from different sources might conflict, which makes decision making impossible. What’s more, different business units may use that conflicting data to support their own initiatives. Operations may champion three data points; marketing may champion three other data points. Nobody’s wrong, the data backs up their positions, so the team remains at an impasse.
  • Data isn’t your organizational strong suit. You have plenty of it, but lack the institutional ability to slice, dice, and analyze.

You probably don’t have too much data. You just don’t know what to do with it. You may be like our client Alden’s Organic Ice Cream: They came to us with tons of information but didn’t know how to distill it into insight that would help grow the brand. We sifted through hundreds of pages of documents and built a deep understanding of their target consumer — and helped the brand shape its messaging around its relationships with organic dairy farmers. The new “we support family farmer” positioning we recommended, helped Alden’s secure a premium price point and yielded 4x growth in the first two years.

6 Ways to Better Manage Consumer Data

Embrace data. Bold brands build an organizational culture that values the insight that data provides. To employees who are comfortable with the status quo, data represents a threat because it often triggers change: new marketing strategies, new products, new channels. This culture has to start a the top; when the founder-owner or leadership team disregards consumer and market info and instead shoots from the hip, the company will miss opportunity and chase the wrong audience.

Use data as a bias-killer. We often encounter leaders of better-for-you brands who think they represent their target consumer. And they do, for a while. But as the brand grows, its audience diversifies. Consumer research can help brand leadership understand the lives and preferences of their fans and their prospective new buyers. It’s easy for BFY leaders to get caught up in their own brand story and lose perspective. Data counters bias because it is totally agnostic. A smart doctor knows not to operate on himself because once he sticks the scalpel in, he’s no longer objective.

Look at data through your brand lens. It isn’t enough to crunch the numbers; you need to evaluate information through the brand’s unique point of view in order to identify trends and opportunities. What shifts in consumer preferences and buying habits are happening — and, more to the point, what do they mean for your business?

Get it out of silos. Functionally, departmental silos can be problematic, but when data is locked away in those silos, you’ll never gain alignment on decisions. Sales may have insight from retail data that recommends adding a new chocolate flavor to your product line, but marketing relies on consumer studies that advocate for vanilla. This segregation of data will only reinforce organizational dysfunction.

Marie Kondo your data. Consumer research has a shelf life of about 12 months; as time goes on, historical data isn’t necessarily better. You probably have spreadsheets and PowerPoint documents from studies done two or even five years ago, and while it may be useful from a “see how far we’ve come” standpoint, it’s not relevant for current decision making. So do like the home organization guru Marie Kondo would do: Sort, organize, merge, and purge.

Rely on impartial experts. Too much data is as unhelpful as no data at all. If you’re inundated by information, you’re wise to enlist outside help. An experienced agency can help you sift through reams of data, spot patterns, and identify what matters to your customers and your business. This partner can bring an objective voice to the conversation and help the organization be honest about what the data is telling you.

Opportunity is right there in front of you, hidden in those spreadsheets; you just have to see it.

Need help sifting through your data? How can we help?