How do you plan for and predict what’s going to happen in the near future? Predicting what’s next and planning for it takes more than the ability to read the tea leaves, AKA experience, emotion, gut, and intuition. Instead, look for trends and patterns in your data. You don’t need to be a sophisticated data scientist to derive solid insights from data and make data-driven decisions. So, grab your favorite cup of tea, and let’s talk about what you need to look for in your data to inform decisions and guide your planning.   

insights, actionable insights, research questions, market research, product research, rating scales, Likert scales, survey instruments, survey composition, survey creation, research questions, research instruments, growth, smart growth, smart business, data, analytics

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To begin, good planning is based on decisions made from a variety of data points. The first place to start is to identify accessible data, from both external and internal sources. For example: 

  • Market and economic data, such as the consumer confidence index and the labor participation rate, are examples of external and provide some informative signals and directional indicators. Data specific to your industry, geography, and that of the customers you serve also provides valuable external data points.
  • Customer data, such as purchasing frequency or referral rates, and your financial data, such as booking trends and your win/loss ratio provides valuable internal data points.  

data, insights, analytics, data trends, data patterns, decision-making, data-derived decisions, growth strategy, planning, growth strategies, data insightsOnce you know what data you have, determine if you have any data gaps. Explore how to close those gaps that will be essential to your decision-making. Conducting primary and secondary research are among key methods often used to close gaps.

Now you’re ready for the next step: deriving data trends and patterns, including patterns that may not be obvious. 

2 Keys to Better Decisions: Data Trends and Data Patterns 

In the realm of data science, data trends and patterns refer to two different phenomena and both are important to data-derived insights. Let’s synch our terms for each of these. 

First, data trends. A data trend indicates a general direction. Examples of trends include unemployment rates, housing starts, and commercial building permits. In your business, it might be the adoption of your new product or customer engagement. Trends are generally displayed in trend lines that indicate the direction of the trend: up, flat, or down, over some time period.   

How might you use trend data for decision-making? If, for example, you know that over the past few years your organization has had higher win rates among customers in Segment 1 versus Segment 2, you would plan your resources accordingly. This trend might guide your planning regarding the number of product sales and/or customer service personnel you will hire, a particular skill set for your professional services team, more resources in a particular geography, or an investment in a special type of equipment. 

data, data-driven insights, insights, analytics, data trends, data patterns, decision-making, data-driven decisions, data-derived decisions, growth strategy, planning, growth strategies, data insightsSecond, data patterns. A data pattern suggests a repeatable occurrence. An example of patterns might be customers in Segment 1 tend to buy before year-end whereas customers in Segment 2 tend to buy in the spring.  Or companies on Platform X tend to prefer features A and B, and services like C whereas companies on Platform Y tend to prefer features B and D, and services like E.  

How might you use data patterns for decision-making? Data patterns help you with the likelihood something will occur, such as how likely Platform X type customers might respond to an offer with feature Z and with service E. 

By combining data trends and data patterns you gain insight into a trend for a pattern that supports the ability to answer critical questions. For example, are Segment 1 customers on Platform X on an upward buying trend?  If they are, what does that mean for our business?  

This is the primary purpose of both of these types of analysis – helping you make decisions to support future-forward planning. 

Tea is Good, but Data Trends and Patterns are Better for Planning  

Decision-making facilitates the selection of a course of action that is then transformed into a plan to achieve the desired future state. From this perspective, decision-making is at the core of planning. A plan can only be created or implemented once you have made key data-driven decisions.  

While Frances Hardinge said, “Tea is the magic key to the vault where my brain is kept,” for most of us, data is the key to the vault for better decision-making.  

data, analytics, data trends, decision-making, growth strategy, planning, growth strategiesConsider how you might use the combined power of trends and patterns to answer these questions and make better business and growth decisions about: 

  1. Which customers to target? Acquire? Retain? 
  2. What touch points appear to better engage new and existing customers? 
  3. Which markets should we pursue and invest in, and which should we avoid?  
  4. Which solutions should we develop and are there solutions we should sunset?   
  5. What processes enable us to be more effective and efficient, and which are bogging us down? 

What’s the Bottom Line on the Benefits of Data-Driven Insights? 

The data-driven decisions you make based on data-derived insights and answers to questions like these, impact the plan you develop. The challenge is to discern trends and patterns in your data that enable you to make the right decisions and use them to develop a plan that creates a stronger competitive advantage, fosters more customer centricity, and ultimately achieves greater profitability and growth.  

data, analytics, data trends, decision-making, growth strategy, planning, growth strategiesAn expert soothsayer does more than read the tea leaves for someone, they also bring their own experience and insights. They know what to do with the tea leaves.  Expert data scientists know what to do with the data, how to interpret it, and make sense of it for the people who need it to make data-driven decisions.    

We hope you found this episode of What’s Your Edge? helpful. What’s Your Edge? is the creation of VisionEdge Marketing. VisionEdge Marketing, founded in 1999, helps our customers solve the most difficult challenges when it comes to using data, analytics, process, and measurement to accelerate growth, create customer value, and improve performance. We always welcome hearing from you. 

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