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Data: Don’t leave it in its raw state. Refine it. Improve it. Make money from it.

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Posted by , 31st July 2018

The clues to solving sales problems will often be found within the sales data held within a business. Management of sales data is the subject of this post.

I know the weather is hot and I know that the title of this post or any other containing the word data, like the heat can make you feel drowsy.

Fight the urge to nod off. Stick with me and stay awake, it will be worth it.

Data, Like Oil, Is Pretty Useless In Its Raw State

The headline above, appeared in Forbes magazine.

It sums up pretty neatly what the opportunity is for you and your business when it comes to data. Like refined oil, it can be highly valuable but untreated and un-extracted, it’s pretty much worthless.

I’ll return to the article in a moment. First, an important question.

Why does the subject of data send salespeople to sleep?

Actually, there’s no point in asking me this question because I’ve always been fascinated by data. Before you tell me I need to get out more, let me explain why I find data so interesting.

It’s not just a love of statistics although I do love those little nuggets of info that can be revealed. No, it’s more to do with the story that’s revealed by data analysis.

Understand that my interest in data and the slant of this article is from the standpoint of sales development. To make this useful to you I want to talk about sales and how data management plus a simple data strategy can help you dramatically increase sales.

When that happens, you won’t find this subject boring at all.

Data: It’s like a detective story: There are lots of clues

The clues to solving sales problems will often be found within the data you hold.

  • Buying cycles and frequency
  • Average sales value
  • Lifetime sales value
  • Best geographic regions
  • Best salesperson in the company
  • Job titles most likely to directly influence an order being placed
  • Paying cycles
  • Best payers, worst payers

These and many other facts can be uncovered once you start digging and producing reports.

Data management for non-techies

If like me you’re not the Chief Information Officer for your business then some of the tech terms used can be baffling. Don’t worry, I won’t be using any in this article.

If you happen to be a “News Feed Integrity Data Specialist” apart from working at Facebook, you will be much more versed in tech talk than I am. And actually, you won’t be working with the kind of data I’m talking about here (you assess data from newsfeed posts and responses).

No, the data management I’m talking about is the kind that resonates with a headline like…

Data protection laws are useless if most of us can’t locate the information we’re agreeing to*

The article that had this headline was published in The Independent just before GDPR became law. It highlights a frustration and a problem that many businesses face. Where to find and access the data of the companies (and people) they hold.*

For a more positive slant let’s go back to that Forbes headline

Data, Like Oil, Is Pretty Useless In Its Raw State

The article accompanying this headline contains an excellent quote that I think you’ll find helpful:

“Data is the new oil, is a popular cliché among big data enthusiasts. The comparison is true on a deeper level than they usually discuss.

Oil sitting thousands of feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico has no value until it is pumped out and refined. Similarly, data is everywhere in a large organization, but it has to be stored and analyzed before it generates any value.”

Data lies within many places in organisations large and small

When Forbes talks about big data, the focus is on data management and information extraction from huge databases.

When I talk to clients about data, the conversations are about how they capture, file, maintain and use the sales information coming daily into their organisations.

This is their big data opportunity. The information extracted can drive massive improvements in sales and profitability.

Accounting software, individual spreadsheets, business cards (some collected at tradeshows), old laptops. These and many other places within your business may currently be holding valuable data that can help you grow sales. If you can tap into the data of course.

Simple data management for sales: How you could use data to generate leads

If you want to email more people, you need to capture email addresses. For direct mail, you are of course going to need full address details.

SMS messaging? Then it’s mobile phone numbers.

Plug and play: Take this test to find the gaps in your data. Fill the gaps so that you can contact more people

Pretend that you want to run an email shot to all companies on your sales prospect list. People from companies that have never done business with you before. How many email addresses out of your total list do you have? 100%? 75%? 50%?

Repeat the test for any other contact criteria that you might want to use like SMS or direct mail. But what about job titles? Postcode regions? What is your coverage score in each of these? If poor, take steps to fill in the missing fields that are the most important to the marketing that you undertake most frequently.

Plug the holes, and employ your lead generating system to its fullest.

Sorting and growing your contact list

If you want to make fast progress with expanding your prospect list take these steps.

  • Use some form of database software that allows you to create individual data fields. There are many available including ACT, Salesforce and Zoho or Microsoft Access which comes with Microsoft Office to name four possibilities (I’ve used all except ACT but I know people who say it’s good)
  • Decide on the core bits of information, the fields that you want to complete for every contact you hold. If you’re starting out with data management don’t make the list too extensive. Think of the ways that you want the data to support your sales and marketing. What information will you need for this?
  • Don’t forget to include a field for the events that you take part in. You can code visitor names to the show that they attended
  • If creating a field for this will be awkward, record the name of the show in a comments or information box
  • Once you have organised your fields ensure that everyone in the business completes them when recording a new contact’s details
  • Fill in the gaps missing within your database. Split the task with colleagues or assign an intern to help get your list updated
  • Go around the office, gather all loose business cards, individual sales spreadsheets, lists of show enquiries and those old laptops. Merge all relevant details into your database

If this seems like a lot of work and therefore not fast, don’t be misled. Yes, it can be fiddly and time-consuming but each change you make will be improving the sales usefulness and responsiveness of your database.

Two simple ways to capture more names and grow your list

  1. Offer a sign-up clearly and prominently on your website. Your business has invested heavily in the creation of your site and its content so you want to make the most of every visitor to it. Encourage your site visitors to sign-up for further details from your business.
  2. Increase sign-ups by offering a lead magnet in exchange for contact details. A lead magnet can be a report, a white paper, a video or some other form of content that offers real value to the person who receives it.

Remember for it to work: It is not a sales piece for your business. It must offer the reader or viewer real value.

You can produce lead magnets in the run-up to shows or at any other time of the year.

And you can have different magnets for different subjects. But start simple. Create one valuable lead magnet about an important subject in your market and promote it as widely as possible.

Direct people back to your sign-up landing page from email shots and social media promotions.

These two tactics alone can grow your database very quickly (as can exhibition participation of course).

Use the summer lull to get your data plan together

You don’t have to make massive changes all in one go to benefit from a better data strategy. Incremental steps will get you there just as surely and without big disruption to your day to day operations.

The summer lull is a good time to examine how much complete information you have or need. To check how your data is being processed currently and where the gaps in your systems are.

Refine your data and then go and generate greater sales from it.

This service can make a massive difference to developing quality leads.

Further reading

You might find this article on data helpful too. 

Posted in B2B Marketing  /  Data Management  /  Trade show marketing

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