It is my hope that yesterday’s post on data convinced you of the importance of collecting and mining customer data and encouraged you to think in new ways about the data that you already have.

But what if you don’t have the data you want, or need, to really make a difference?

You need to figure out how to get it. And there are a number of things you can do to change the way that you collect data and get more of what you need.

  1. Ask your customers – through a combination of surveys, sign up forms, and checkout processes, you can collect a lot of information directly from your customers. They are your best source of data, especially when they willingly provide it to you. Make sure that you have the systems in place to collect and store all this data, trackable back to each individual customer.
  2. Add third party data – there are a number of large companies whose primary business is collecting data on consumers at the individual and household level. If you can afford it, you can marry their data to your customer list, adding new pieces of information that you might not be willing or able to collect directly.
  3. Track web activity – even the most basic website analytics platforms give you thousands of different pieces of information about the behavior of people on your website. And you should be able to connect your customer database to your analytics platform to tie web activity directly to individual customers based on an IP address or login.
  4. Track purchases – some companies struggle to get the data they need because they’re not tracking the things they should be. All purchase behavior should be collected and stored with the customer data, including but not limited to the date, products purchased, amount spent, checkout method (in store, online, phone, etc.).

The key to knowing more about your customers is to identify what you know already, figure out what you want to know that you don’t already have, and then find the easiest way to get it. Often times, when you get to that point, you’ll find that the information you’re after is easier to get than you expected.

So stop waiting and start collecting.