Are you dating your data?

Insights that lead to a serious relationship

While visiting a coffee shop recently, I overheard the exceedingly awkward “first date” conversation of the couple at an adjacent table. They asked each other questions about family, jobs, living situations, pets, and other surface-level issues. It was a little hard to tell how the date was going, but I imagined if they decided to go out again, they might dig a little deeper, asking one another about dreams for the future, desire for children and other more pithy topics. Who knows where it may lead?

I came away from the coffee shop exceedingly glad that I wasn’t on a first date myself, but also thinking about how we find out more about the things - or people - in which we are interested. We often formulate a list of questions and then proactively uncover the answers to those questions. Sounds a little bit like market research, doesn’t it? Maybe we should apply some dating “rules” to our exploration of the data. 

If you ascribe to some of the mandates from dating “experts,” there are several things to keep in mind. Given that many of these rules are changing with modern times (e.g., Chivalry is different, but not dead. Also...waiting to reach out? That’s so not a thing anymore.), here are a few that we can apply to our data to make sure that we find our happily-ever-after. 

  1. Date multiple people (data streams) at once. Weird rule, right? It’s typical advice for the single person who hasn’t found the “one” quite yet and is keeping their options open. We must date multiple streams of data in market research, including big data, survey responses, business metrics, passive behavioral information, and more. The difference is that we can bring them all together to deliver actionable insights, a practice that probably wouldn’t get you very far in the dating scene.

  2. It’s okay to get personal. In the new dating reality, things move quickly, just like everything else in our world. Gone are the days of skirting the big issues; you want to get down to brass tacks and not waste your time. In both dating and market research, this means asking the hard questions. Take time to dig into the data, ask more questions of it, find out what secrets it might be holding if you take the time to uncover them. This is a luxury many of us feel we can’t afford in such a fast-paced industry. With the right technology lifting the heavy burden of things like integration, processing, and even visualization, we can allow ourselves more time to get personal with the data.

  3. Don’t wait to reach back out. Remember when it was acceptable to wait two weeks to pick up the phone so as not to seem overly interested? Those days are long gone. You’ll miss your chance if you don’t make contact right away. The data is just waiting for you to investigate it and even reach back out to bring more, updated data into the fold. Luckily some solutions will allow you to constantly update your insights with new data and automatically update your reports so that fresh insights are readily shareable.

  4. Pay attention to follow through. Please don’t drop the ball when it comes to following through, whether it’s asking for that next date or even taking a relationship to the next level. In market research, we need to go far beyond the “first date” level of questions and answers. We must present the insights we find in the data and help apply these insights to practical actions. The latest GRIT report, a benchmark for the market research industry, showed that we were falling deplorably short on this front. According to most clients, applying our expertise to be a true partner and recommending business actions based on our research is a missing step. 

Entering a long-term relationship is nothing to take lightly. We need to ask the right questions and really understand what we’re getting into. There are technologies and tools out there that can help us do this - when it comes to data and insights - more effectively and efficiently than ever before.

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