Data Stewardship: A Recipe for Actionable Insights in SaaS

Friends, we are living in the age of practically limitless data. For SaaS companies hungry to grow (read: all SaaS companies), every operational undertaking can be boiled down to the insights at its core—something your company has learned about its customers (current or prospective) that allows you to target and serve them with extreme accuracy.

As fate would have it--and as you may already know--we are also living in a time where your customers demand an experience of the highest caliber; a red carpet, know them better than you know yourself kind of thing.  

So, with all the information at our fingertips, what’s the problem? More importantly, how can you fix it?  

First, the fact remains that companies often opt out of making the effort to own their data in the first place. For younger or smaller companies, perhaps the idea of gathering all this raw data seems daunting—or just not worth the time and trouble, as there’s never a guarantee that the work will pay off in a way that’s hugely satisfying in the moment. We can say from experience, though, that this is a mistake; we’ve seen firsthand how agonizing it is for a company to go back and fill in these blanks later, once they’ve completed rounds of funding or hit other big milestones. Just because the impact of successful data stewardship isn’t always readily apparent at the get-go, doesn’t mean it’s something to be brushed aside.  
It also turns out that data and actionable insights don't always have a smoke/fire relationship. In other words, just because there’s data, it doesn’t always mean that what follow are accurate insights. Your company can’t run—let alone thrive—on raw data; it’s the insights born from that data that will inform the decisions you make. One common enemy of that accuracy? Data silos. 
Cue ominous music. 
You can have all the information in the world, but if you're not sharing it freely and efficiently across your internal teams, it loses a lot of its power, not to mention the fact that it often causes unnecessary redundancies along your customers' journey. For example, your marketing team knows all there is to know about each of your customers and what they're consuming, but if they're not passing that data along to sales and customer success, your customers might be asked for the same information several times. I think we can all agree this is not the experience you want them to have. 
Owning and understanding data allows us to provide the kinds of content people want, content that converts faster, and this means more revenue. According to a study by Radius*, “companies with advanced data strategies are twice as likely to report more than 30% revenue growth.” It may sound like a subjective metric, but having an advanced data strategy can be as simple as utilizing multiple data sources and knowing what information is necessary to both build a general data strategy and help win conversions. 
If you’re wondering how to ensure the accuracy of your data, the first step is to realize that there’s no way to guarantee that it will be correct 100% of the time. This is just the nature of the beast. Instead, what you can do is strive to define which raw data is “good” by comparing it to information you know for sure about your customers. 
1. Take a subset of 10 customers with whom you have a good relationship.
2. Gather information through data survey questions. 
3. Compare your raw data to this new, verified information and determine % accuracy. 
If you haven’t built customer relationships yet, use information about your own company to complete this exercise. 
Of course, having this “good data” isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. Much of the impact of successful data stewardship comes from understanding that the power is in the story that data tells, and knowing what actions to take as a result. In order to create a culture of successful data ownership, everyone at your company must understand the importance of the data. This will mean less frustration from your sales reps, and a fully optimized marketing budget. 
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