What Do You Really Know?

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from Men in Black when K is speaking to James Edwards shortly after J’s encounter with Jeebs.

“Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

What do we really know about what is happening in our marketing sales process? Do we have access to the real meaning of the interactions and conversations taking place between our company and our prospects and customers? The key to being able to take meaningful action is to be able to understand not only what happened, but why.

In my previous post I introduced the concept of structured vs. unstructured data. Here’s a quick review of the definitions each:

  • Structured data exists in fields and field values inside your marking and sales systems; what we think of as a traditional database.
  • Unstructured data is contained in emails, conversations, documents, chats, text messages, social interactions and even pictures and videos.

As marketing and sales professionals we have become very sophisticated in our ability to analyze structured data. New SaaS applications have arisen providing solutions to some of the most difficult problems such as marketing attribution analysis and “movement and change”[1] in the sales process. Yet all this analysis of our structured data is still hamstrung by three major weaknesses:

  1. It is by its very nature flawed because much of the structured data relies on human interpretation and recording of the “facts”, and we are all familiar with the constant struggle of data input and accuracy.
  2. Structured data represents at best 20% of all the data[2] associated with our interactions with our customers and prospects
  3. Structured data tells us only the “what”… what happened (results) or what we think will happen (forecasts). It does absolutely nothing to help us understand “why”. Why did that deal not close? Why is our churn rate increasing? Why are our conversion rates what they are?

The “why” is only understood when we review the actual conversations between our company and our prospects and customers (think of what happens in a deal review meeting).  If you are a manager, imagine what you would know if you could listen to every conversation, read every email, review every profile, read every document and article related to the prospect’s company, see every tweet. If you are a rep, imagine what you could know if you could do the same for every one of your colleagues’ interactions with their prospects and customers.

The possibility of doing this may seem like science fiction. I propose it’s not, and that we’ll begin to gain access to this rich knowledge in 2016! Stay tuned for more.

[1] See Shape and Velocity of the sales funnel

[2] IBM claim

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