Monday, July 2, 2012

How Useful Is Your Hoarded Data?

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

I am a hoarder. Not the "I'll be appearing on an A&E series next month, buried in my belongings" type of hoarder. I’m more the "Oooo, that book looks interesting! I'll buy it and probably never actually read it" type of hoarder. I used to have shelves and shelves of books, but then I started paring them down to the point where I bet there aren't 50 books in my house. However, I have hundreds of electronic books that I hoard like an old lady with cats. I hoard them because they make me feel as if I have access to new things. Every new book is the opportunity to learn something new and amazing (though, in reality, it's really like there's a 4.7% chance the book will be worth getting past the first few pages). I collect them in some vain hope that having them on my iPad will make me more likely to be smarter by some sort of mental osmosis.

Alas, it doesn’t work for college kids who buy their textbooks but never crack them open, and it doesn't work for me, either. I'm guessing you have collected a lot of data lately. A lot of sales numbers. Geographic distribution data. Attitudinal data. Behavior data. Data about how many and who opened that last email, and the one before that, and the one before that. You know who is registered on your site, who watched the last eLearning, requested a rep, requested samples and requested patient sales cards. You know their specialty, probably where they practice, probably how old they are, where they went to school and if they ate lunch you paid for. That’s a lot of data. What good is it doing you? 

Ostensibly, you're going to use that data one day. You're going to hire a bunch of geeks who did their own math homework and probably majored in mathematical modeling. They are going to unlock that data and turn it into something called "usable insights." You are going to apply those insights, increase brand awareness by 17% per annum without spending any more money, and get that promotion and corner office you always wanted. That's a great story, but are you really ever going to use that data? How much did you spend on your data in the last month? The last year? The last five years? How much do you spend to maintain all that data every month? What could you spend that same amount of money on to make the needle move right now? Let’s explore a simple “what if” scenario. If I told you right now that female PCPs over the age of 45 are prescribing your brand 20% more than the average (a fairly interesting and important finding), what could you do with that information? How long would it take you to design a campaign that focused on that segment and got it approved and launched? Three months? Six? Would the insight I just gave you still be useful in six months? To that point, how hard would it be for you to turn off existing messaging to that audience? Could you do it in a week? A month? The ability to respond to data insights is as important as the data itself.

Just as the ability to leverage the knowledge in your books is predicated on reading and digesting them, getting value out of your data is a function of being able to change course. The CRM that holds all of that data is worthless without the system in place to leverage it. Now, I'm a known fan of CRM strategies. But if you can't commit to one – if you can't commit to building a system that can respond to new information – stop what you're doing right now. Those nice reports they give you are pretty and interesting, but if you haven’t used one to make a business decision in the last couple of months, or if you simply can’t change anything based on the data, you should stop looking at them. They will only stress you out. Stop being a data hoarder. Data is only as good as its ability to influence your decisions. Keeping it around in the hopes that magic springs out of it is as silly as sleeping on your textbook.

ePharma Summit West will take place July 17-19, 2012 in San Francisco, CA.  For more information on the event, download the agenda here.  If you'd like to join James, register today and mention code XP1756BLOG to save 10% off the current rate!
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