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Every day the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, much of which is extremely valuable to companies that wish to serve their customers better. Data is everywhere, and while companies have invested in ways to collect it, they can struggle with combing through the reams of data to glean meaningful insights.

And yet, many companies are still not as sophisticated about data as you expect: 58% of companies base at least half of their regular business decisions on a “gut feeling” or experience rather than data and information. While customers’ default mode may be to rely on intuition when making decisions, you can immediately provide a competitive advantage by using data to improve business intelligence.

In the current economic downturn, companies will be taking a hard look at their tech stack costs. They will need simple stories they can tell their bosses about which technologies they cannot live without. Relationships may get you in the door, but providing trusted data is likely what will help retain your customers even as they’re working on cutting costs.

Data has become the new currency, and companies that can effectively leverage it have a leg up on the competition. This is especially true for B2B solutions providers, who can equip their clients with information that not only demonstrates how well their solutions are working, but also gives them meaningful insights to improve their business.

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However, data requires a story to make an impact. Data on its own can create more questions than answers, while data-driven storytelling takes that information and transforms it into a digestible, compelling format that proves value. Stories make data easier to digest, and data, in turn, gives stories credibility.

When a company can show a customer through data the exact value their product provides them and how they’re contributing to the company’s objectives, they’re more likely to build trust, establish a partnership, and not get nixed from the tech stack. This is something I saw happen time and time again in prior experiences, as the customer success team shared data-driven content with customers.

Data is a valuable asset for every step of the customer journey. From pitching to renewal, it is important to share relevant data with your prospective customers to get the business and keep it when it’s time to renew or cancel. Here are some suggestions on the types of data that should be front and center, depending on what stage you’re in.

The pitch stage

When you’re looking to immediately establish trust with potential clients, you need to clearly identify the data that tells a story of how your solution will create value. At this point in the journey, you won’t have usage data to lean on but will instead have to leverage qualitative data and assumptive ROI. Qualitative data is what is gathered throughout discovery, and centers around the prospect’s pain points. Assumptive ROI can be created using available firmographic data as well as sharing data from other relevant customers who have seen success with your product.

Data-driven onboarding

Congratulations! You made a strong case to the client, and they’ve agreed to work with you. When you onboard the client, it’s important to introduce the key data-driven success metrics that you will collectively monitor with the client to make sure you are aligned. These metrics should be based on the objectives and business goals of the customer, and not what you want. By introducing these, you both control the narrative of what is measured and make clear that your organization holds itself accountable for the success of its solution.

Adoption

This phase is all about the data: the agreed-upon, high-level metrics. Focus on usage statistics, such as the percentage of active users and which features the account is and isn’t using. This allows you and the customer to course correct if something isn’t going right. If usage isn’t in line with expectations, you can start talking about what other opportunities there are to work together.

Renewal

After reintroducing the original goals of the partnership, you need to share both qualitative and quantitative data. The quantitative data should feature usage stats to demonstrate that the product was valued by the team. Ideally, you will have a way to demonstrate how that usage translates into a business positive (increase sales or efficiency or lower costs). This will provide a strong understanding of ROI and progress toward goals, which can make your renewal conversation much easier.

Data-driven expansion

Expansion may seem impossible in this economic downturn, but through the use of benchmarking data, you can show your customers the additional potential that your product can offer. Benchmarking data can be based on cohorts who are similar to your account from an industry or company size perspective. Showing how the account is tracking comparatively and what others are doing to get more out of the product can help the account see why they need more of your product.

Qualitative data is essential

By providing data throughout the customer journey and providing a trusted partnership, you will become invaluable to your customers. It’s difficult to predict how long this economic uncertainty will last, but all companies need to go above and beyond for their clients when times are tough and budgets are under attack. A true partnership involves a common understanding that all meaningful data will be shared and explained. Even poor results present an opportunity to explain why things could be improved and lead to a more fruitful partnership.

But remember, it’s not just about numbers on a page. Using data is only half the battle. Ensure your data involves a qualitative story that provides a clean and coherent way to understand the data.

As Jay Samit once said: “Data may disappoint, but it never lies.” Companies looking to serve their customers must not only share data that makes them look good, but also provide valuable context for their businesses. Companies need to own, contextualize and use that data to help the people they serve to make better decisions. Doing so builds a great level of trust that will retain customers, even in times of great economic uncertainty.

Nikola Mijic is CEO of Matik.

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