THIS GUEST POST WAS WRITTEN BY TAMRA WADE OF PAPER HOPE
I hear it all the time, “…but I’m not a data person. I don’t know how to interpret data. Data is for people who are good at math.”
The reality is you are, by nature, a data gatherer and interpreter. Humans instinctively look for patterns. We find comfort in recognizing all types of information and organizing it. We use this information in making all types of decisions.
We track our activities and the food we eat on MyFitnessPal. We look at average customer ratings before making a purchase on Amazon. We wear Fitbits and Apple Watches to track and monitor activities. And how many of you read reviews and take movie ratings into consideration before you spend your money for a movie?
All of this is data analysis. All these activities help us make decisions in our everyday lives.
The decisions that data help make
Data provides great insights into our behaviors. Insights found in data allow us to make critical decisions in our future behaviors. We gain better understanding to what is really happening and make changes to keep on course.
Data answers questions with more precision than hunches or desires. When you’re making business decisions, data is your best friend. Data can also show you surprising things to help redirect current products and processes.
I have worked with data for over twenty years. I have studied prescription drug patterns, filing trends and patient behaviors that help my company make informed decisions and keep patients on the path to better health outcomes. One study was particularly impactful. We were to identify if patients on a specific drug therapy were also taking a medication in a similar drug class.
The onset of the study we hypothesized that we would find very few people taking both sets of medication. What we found was vastly different. The data showed that more people than we expected were actually taking both sets of medications. We were able to send the results through our product development groups to put additional safeguards in place to prevent this from occurring in the future. In this example, data exposed something that wasn’t expected. The data showed a clear direction for additional product development.
How do you gather data?
Data is gathered everywhere! Online tools like Google Analytics, Instagram Stats, Twitter Insights, or Facebook Insights all provide information about your social media and web site. Check on data elements that will show consumer behaviors. If you see that your audience responds well to a post or an article consider providing more of the same. Conversely, if you see that specific posts don’t perform as well, take a look at reasons why. Reasons why could be the day and time the post was released to the actual content.
If you can’t find the data you need, you can use tools to create it. Create a survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey or a poll in Facebook. These polls allow you to customize questions and ask you audience specific questions.
I have used SurveyMonkey during product development while creating programs for the non-profit I started, Paper Hope. It is very helpful to hear direct feedback from your audience. We asked our audience each year what programs they want to see. The programs that wheeled the highest numbers are the ones we develop. We develop them in descending order meaning the program with the highest response gets our attention first.
But… I’m not good at math?
One last thing, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, math. Please don’t worry too much about your math ability. Data isn’t always about math. It doesn’t have to be scary or mathy. Most data analysis uses very basic math. Most analytics are provided for you in the tools we’ve talked about, like Google Analytics.
Start where you are comfortable. Use data that will elevate your knowledge of your business and customers’ behaviors. It is the fastest and best way to understand your offerings, streamline your products and course correct where you lack.