In a perfect world, analysts and business teams work collaboratively to develop and implement marketing programs. Throughout the process, ideas are shared, analyses and reports are vetted, and decisions are made based on knowing all the facts.

The world is not perfect. As analysts, we often receive requests without a clear understanding of purpose, without all the facts, and with very aggressive delivery timeframes. The more we know, the higher the likelihood that we can spot issues and inconsistencies, raise them, and prevent costly mistakes.

Are we taking enough time to ‘get to know our data’? If you’re heading into the holidays with some quiet time as things wind down at the office, give yourself permission to take a little time to get to know your data. A little more understanding up front may save you a lot of time and headaches during the crazy times ahead. Having a few key facts readily accessible means you can validate numbers or spot inconsistencies against expected values in queries and reports. If the numbers are too high or too low, it’s a signal to stop and ask a few more questions.

Here are 3 areas to explore to get to know your data:

1. Know the Top Level Numbers

  • Key facts such as number of customers, yearly revenues, market size
  • Trends over the past few years that indicate rising or fall values (e.g., are the number of customers growing or shrinking?)

2. Know the Ratios

  • Market share, by % of customers, by % of dollars
  • Average number of products per customer
  • Historical acquisition and attrition rates
  • Average expected response rate, lead rate and order rate for typical campaigns. (Do these numbers fluctuate widely by type or are they fairly constant?)

3. Know the Key Attributes and Secondary Numbers

  • List of key attributes that define your business. Some that might apply include geography, industry, segment, contract type, month, size and product.
  • Values and distribution of customers and revenues by key attributes

The more we know about your business, the more valuable we become as analysts. There’s a big difference between sharing a report on customer acquisition rates by product group and being able to highlight a fact about a seemingly small drop in the acquisition rate for the most valuable product group.