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How To Work With Your Data Vendor: 3 Things You Need To Know

Massa Inc_Your Data VendorDo you need to hire a data vendor, but aren’t quite sure where to start? If you need to perform a major data migration, data conversion, or simply get organized, working with an outside expert can be the fastest, most cost-effective way to make your data work for you.

If you’ve never worked with a data expert before, or if you don’t have an in-house analyst and are in need of some outside help, here are the 3 most important things to keep in mind when starting a new relationship with a third party vendor.

1. Clarify your ultimate goal

Why do you want to work with a data vendor in the first place? Sure, you may want to convert data from one form to another or find out the most up-to-date address information for your entire customer database.

But what is the end result you’re looking for? What’s the ultimate goal you hope to achieve?

One of the challenges we run into is companies with a data job who tell us HOW to do our job rather than WHAT they are trying to achieve with the job. This may sound a bit like I have a snarly attitude but it isn’t intended as that – just an observation of a communication style that gets in the way of achieving an objective. Let me explain with an example. If you were to tell me that you want your app to automatically change raw data into usable and analyzable data, it would be easy for me to pick an approach between ETL and ELT and give you the results you desire (visit the site to learn more). However, if instead of telling me what you want, you go about telling me how you want me to do it, the whole process will just end up taking more time and getting complicated. This is an approach to communication I see often – whether it is a business chat or a personal one. Instead of conceptually describing an end result to each other, we sometimes talk to each other by giving instructions instead.

Here is an example, “Hey Bonnie – please pull every customer in the database who has ever bought widget x”. Ok – I can do that but if I don’t know why I am doing that I may include EVERYONE when what they wanted was only customers who have an email address or only customers in certain states. Now, we have to go back and do the work again. This method is not fast nor cost-effective for either of us.

Before hiring a data vendor, get crystal clear on the results you’re looking for, as well as the KPIs you want to measure in order to know if the relationship has been a success.

Your ultimate aim may be to:

  • Increase revenue
  • Meet sales goals
  • Find new customers

The list of objectives can be endless! Whatever your goals, be specific and clear when talking to potential vendors. Only when a data vendor knows your ultimate goal can they determine if they can help make that goal a reality.

2. Show them the data

Not long ago, we had a client come to us with what they thought was a big problem. Their data person had left the company, and they were scrambling to learn everything and anything they could about what that person did and how they did it.

Imagine their relief when I told them to stop focusing on what they thought they needed to get done, and to instead just “show us the data.” We needed to see where their data lived, where they prefer that it live, and how they wanted to work with it/use it. We also needed to evaluate other options to what they had planned, and see if there was a better, more effective data solution to help them reach their goals.

Once they showed us their data, we were able to:

  • Talk about goals and how best to reach them
  • Discuss how their data was being used currently, and how they wanted to use it in the future
  • Map out a step-by-step plan for reaching those goals
  • Talk through the process to prevent problems and missteps before they occurred

After obtaining a deeper understanding of their goals, the current state of their data, and how they wanted their data to work for them, we made a strategic plan to reach those goals using proven methods for data analysis, conversion, and migration.

And the best part? They didn’t have to do any heavy lifting – all they had to do was show us the data!

3. Trust the process

The best way to work with your data vendor is to get organized, stay open to the process, and trust that they know what they’re doing.

  • Do your homework beforehand and get organized. That way, when your data vendor asks for certain things – from database access to annual reports – you’ll be armed and ready with the information they need to succeed.
  • If things are such a mess that it would take forever to get organized, be open to letting your vendor help you get organized – after all, that’s what we’re here for!
  • Don’t worry too much about why – relax and let your vendor ‘do their thing.’ Trust that they’ll ask you questions when they need to, and understand that much of the process is (and should be) seamless, stress-free, and hands-off for you.

If you’ve picked someone you want to work with, focus more on the results you want from the relationship, and less on how they’re carrying out your requests. And don’t forget to remain open to recommendations – after all, who knows data better than a data expert?

Food for Thought: Sweet Tea Collins

Well, sweet tea is a southern thing. They sell it down there in the groceries stores by the gallon! I know because I grew up in Tennessee. I fondly remember having lunch on Saturdays at my Grandmother’s home and drinking her icy sweet tea even in the dead of winter.

If you have seen the movie Steel Magnolias you may recall the line that Dolly Parton had about Iced Tea being the ‘house wine of the south’. It is true – it is absolutely true and she means ‘sweet tea’. Try to order ‘iced tea’ in a restaurant in the south – the next question you get from the server will be “sweet or not” with an exasperated expression as if you just ordered ‘salad dressing’ without telling the server what kind! Or he may just bring you sweet tea – it is the standard.

Anyway, sweet tea is delicious and by sweet tea I do not mean tea, with artificial sweetener added! Yuck. And one more thing, adding sugar to your tea at the table IS NOT sweet tea either!! This one isn’t for everybody but if you like sweet tea then give this refreshing cocktail a whirl.

Do you need more information choosing a data vendor that is right for you? Massa & Company is here to support you! To find out how we can help you to determine the best way to accomplish your ultimate data goal, call (312) 463-1050 or click here now.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofits to make the best use of their information about customers, partners, donors and sponsors. With more than 40 years of experience in marketing and predictive analytics, Bonnie is passionate about helping clients make informed, data-driven decisions to increase the value of their customer base. She strongly believes that making pasta and ice cream from scratch are worth the effort, and she spends much of her free time testing and re-testing that theory.

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