Tag Archives: 4CTechnologies

After the Holidays Marketing How-To

The holiday season isn’t just an important time of year for the retail industry – it’s an excellent marketing opportunity for all businesses. Whether you’re looking to increase awareness about your brand, gain customers, or simply keep your current clients engaged – there are a few out-of-the-box ideas that can have people talking well into the summer months.

Host a holiday get together – after the holidays. Wait until the dust settles and invite clients and prospects to your office in mid- to late-January or even in February. Make it a winter themed event (think blue and silver), have a simple buffet, a few passed hors d’ oeuvres and a signature cocktail. Caterers may even be willing to work within a tighter budget to get business during an otherwise slow time of the year. The themes and possibilities are endless! Make this a relaxed social event, a networking opportunity – not a sales session. Show the customers you’ve been serving or courting all year that you appreciate them and want to continue to stay in contact through 2016 – and beyond.

Beautiful silver gift

Schedule an Account Review. A new year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on past challenges and future plans. Everyone is starting fresh after a long holiday break. Take advantage of this renewed energy and schedule an account review session with your clients!

Send “Happy New Year” cards. Holiday cards are great, but a card arriving in the first few weeks of January, wishing your clients and prospects a fruitful and successful year, won’t get overlooked in the excess of Christmas cheer. Use this vehicle to promote your brand and create awareness about what you do, all while sending best wishes for the coming year. And send real paper cards with a mailing address and a stamp!

happy new year gold

Take advantage of New Year’s resolutions. We all make them (or at least say we did) and rarely follow through. Target specific prospects with an email or phone call offering a free consultation to bring them back to discussions you had the previous year.

“So Jim, I’m thinking your New Year’s resolution should be to really get serious about your company’s outreach. Let me come in and talk to you about your marketing and public relations efforts. We can chat about updating your website and brand too, if time allows. Let’s set up 30 minutes, before the year gets away from us!”

Your goal for the New Year? Make a new marketing initiative commitment (I won’t call it a resolution) – and follow through. None of these options have to be expensive or complicated. With a little creativity and excitement you can do more than you think!

 

 

 

 

 

Change the Way You Look at Change

This post is part of a series on how the 9 Laws of Data Mining from Tom Khabaza can be applied to analytics. You can find previous posts here.

Law #9: “Law of Change”: All patterns are subject to change

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Photo credit: Tedrafranklin, Shutterstock. CC0 Public Domain

All patterns change — not only because the data changes, but because our understanding of the business domain changes.  As Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” (emphasis mine)

For example, when we devise a better marketing campaign after completing a strategic plan to increase customers, we may change the customer profile so that the next time that we run the customer segmentation we may get a different result and those results may trigger other marketing changes. Even when the customer profile does not change, our understanding of competitive offers, substitute products, and other market factors can cause us to change how we decide to implement the business process.  Even when the data pattern is similar, we may have new information about the business or the economy as a whole that will affect how we understand the business and this will affect our evaluation of the model.

The job of a data miner and an analyst is never done—there is always something else to study and a new nugget of truth to learn about a market.  However, we can sometimes fall into the trap of doing things because they have always been done that way. So, how do we get ourselves out of a “rut” in analytics?  How do you repeat a process over and over again while still asking yourself about what could or should change?  The answer lies in having a “cheat sheet” of questions that forces you to think about the analysis in a different way, in other words to change the way you look at the problem. . . or in this case, to change the way we look at change.

This time of year is a great time to think about change, so while we are on the subject of “change”, let’s ask ourselves: How do we measure change? Is there a checklist of things that we should investigate when studying change?  Below are six ways to think about measuring change.

1. How Much?

The obvious and first question that we typically ask is the “how much” question.  In other words, what was the amount of change, the raw total difference from one time period to another?  But don’t stop there!  There is so much more that you can learn about change by asking more questions.

2. Rate of Change: To What Extent? What Percent?

How about calculating the percent change from one time period to another?  This helps us to understand when the change happened and what the extent of the change was. You could also analyze the rate of change over different time periods and ask yourself whether there is a pattern in the rates of change.  If you vary the time period that you are studying, you might get different patterns, like the difference between the average change over months versus quarters versus year over year.

3. What is the Average Change for Multiple Change Rates?

If you have lots of data, you could look at the average change over different time periods and then compare the change rates for one period compared to the difference from the mean or median value.

4. What is the Difference from Optimal?

In some cases, the difference from an average won’t mean much, but the difference from an optimal number or the top performer in a category will give you a lot more insight.  Creating an index is helpful in this case because it makes it easy to see how the current value differs from the optimal or desired amount.

5. Related questions: Where? Causation? Multiple Changes?

Once you have measured change, you can ask other questions that are related to the change, like “Where did the change happen?” or “Who or what factors caused the change?” or “Did multiple changes happen at the same time?”

6. Meta questions: The Nature of the Change

Don’t forget to ask meta questions like: What was the nature of the change? Is it beneficial or detrimental? Was the change an anomaly, an outlier, or part of a larger pattern of change?  And finally, you can ask: How long do you expect or predict the current trend to continue?

We all know that change is inevitable, but how we analyze and learn from change is not.  Understanding the relevance of the changing patterns, what the change means for our business, is how we translate information into insight.  Insight helps us develop a strategy and then we can focus on executing the plan with specific tactics.  However, everything starts with the decision to analyze the change and to look at change in a new way.

 

Where are You on the Analytics Value Chart?

This post is part of a series on how the 9 Laws of Data Mining from Tom Khabaza can be applied to analytics. You can find previous posts here.

Law #8: “Value Law” – The value of data mining results [and analytics] is not determined by the accuracy or stability of predictive models

In analytics, we evaluate accuracy by defining how often a model predicts values correctly.  Stability refers to the ability of a model to predict correctly on a consistent basis when the data sample is changed within a given population. If a model is stable, then the predictions will not change much when the data sample is changed for the same population.  Both accuracy and stability seem essential to the modeling process, so why does the 8th Law tell us that the value of data mining should not be determined by them?

The answer is that the value is not derived from the process, but from the end result. The 8th Law tells us that the value of the data mining process results from 1) the models ability to improve action (more effective business processes) and 2) the models ability to give insight that leads to an improved business strategy (better decisions).

A model that is overly complex may not have as much business value as a model that is less accurate.  The reason for this is that the cost associated with gathering the survey data for the calibration of the model could be very high; whereas a simpler model might lead us to the same business conclusion.  Khabaza encourages us to ask the question: “Is the model predicting the right thing, and for the right reasons?”  This relates back to Law #2 about business knowledge.  We can only determine whether a model is predicting the right thing for the right reasons if we know the context of the business problem that we are trying to solve. In addition, we can only determine the value of analytics if we think about value in terms of risk and reward.

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The chart above encapsulates the goal of analytics investment in relation to the value (the desired net return) from the investment.  4CGeoWorks created this chart based on a discussion with Bill Huber, Owner/President of Quantitative Decisions.  Bill and I both strive to guide companies to make good business decisions that are based on good data and solid analytics.  We try to determine where a business falls along the curve and then how to get them to the optimum.

Some companies get lucky.  They spend a moderate amount on analytics and they reap huge rewards.  It is important to remember that there aren’t many companies in this category.  (The probability curve is not in your favor here.)  Getting value from analytics typically takes money and a lot of effort. If a company happens to be lucky in their analytics, then they probably don’t need our services (at least not until Law #9-the Law of Change-kicks in).

There are some companies (mostly very large businesses) that understand the value of analytics and they are willing to spend a lot of money to achieve their goals.  Those who have figured out how to make analytics work for their business have the enviable position of “Everybody Wins!”  Again, the percentage of businesses that fall into this category is likely to be very small.

A survey in 2012 indicated that only about 5% of businesses were using data analytics on a daily basis and considered it to be a core competency despite a majority of businesses using some form of data analytics.  Although that study is several years old, there is no indication that these percentages have changed dramatically. A smaller survey in 2015 of 316 executives of large, global companies found that only 8% of data scientists felt that their use of analytics was “best of breed” despite the fact that 90% of the large companies were using data analytics.

Other large businesses may spend a lot of money, but they don’t get a good return on their investment.  Most likely, they don’t follow the 9 Laws of Data Mining and ensure that the analytics are based upon business knowledge and objectives.  It could be a problem of hiring the wrong people or any number of internal accountability failures that cause the low return on investment.  For many of these companies, they don’t even know they have a problem, so it may be difficult for us to help them. If a company does recognize that they are not getting the best results from their analytics, we can assist in optimizing their approach.

Most small to midsize companies either do not invest in or spend very little on analytics because they don’t fully recognize the value that it could bring to their business.  By only spending a small amount on analytics, the company reduces the risk of a failed analytics project, but as a result they also are likely to derive fewer benefits which may put them at a competitive disadvantage. They could be missing out on returns that far outweigh their investment which would take their business to the next level. A consultant can provide real value for this company in educating them on the potential benefits from analytics and helping them establish best practices to ensure a good return while keeping investments closer to the optimum point.  So, where do you fall on the analytics value chart?

Take the “Work” Out of Networking

Contributed by Business Development Manager, Joe Gastony

Sometimes, it’s not what you know it’s WHO you know. These words have never been truer than for those in business development and sales positions. And this is why I network. I want to discuss the importance of networking in a day and age where we are all glued to our smartphones, and social networks have taken the human contact out of daily life. Sure LinkedIn, emails and blog posts are important – but if you are trying to grow your book of business, and increase industry knowledge, networking is crucial.

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For many people, networking can be challenging… even frightening. But fear not because networking events are all about people meeting new people and trying to find ways to HELP one another. With this in mind networking is way less intimidating!

Here are the top 4 reasons why I network:

Build CONFIDENCE! Pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know increases confidence.

Build FRIENDSHIPS! People like to do business with people they like. Go ahead make some friends at your next networking event.

Increase OPPORTUNITIES! All sales people know the key to a successful business is a large sales funnel. Networking is a great way to increase sales opportunities. Also the more people who know about you and what you do, the more likely they are to refer you to others.

Increase KNOWLEDGE! Sometimes it is not WHO you know it’s WHAT you know. I recommend industry specific networking if you can. People in specific industries respect others that care and are knowledgeable about their industry. Increase your knowledge and you increase your credibility.

networking

Think about these tips the next time you find yourself entering a room where you don’t know anyone… and leave with some new connections, and maybe even some new friends.

 

Requirements Gathering and Selecting the Right Tool for the Job

Contributed by Technical Consultant, Matt Nicol

For most technology initiatives, there are many ways that a solution could be implemented. From a myriad of off-the-shelf products to a wide array of custom development solutions, there is no doubt that there is a way to successfully implement virtually any technology-based business application. In order for an initiative to be successful, however, many considerations must be made.

Above all, fully understanding the requirements of the business goal is key. Purchasing an off-the-shelf product or beginning development before the stakeholders have as detailed of an idea of how a system should operate as possible introduces unnecessary risks that can ultimately increase costs and reduce functionality. Gathering requirements is not always straightforward, however. Systems are typically used by many people, each with his or her own ideas for how to accomplish a given process.

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Before beginning to select a solution platform, it is often a good idea to organize the goals of a system into “need-to-have” and “nice-to-have” categories that are agreeable to stakeholders. To do this, it is also important to consider any broader business impacts the initiative may have. Answering questions like the following can help drive the best value that a system can provide: Will the system serve one specific need in isolation? Could any data, reports, or files produced by the system enhance or integrate any existing business process?

With a holistic idea of what an initiative should accomplish, it is now possible to begin considering how the system will be implemented. At this point, it is important for the parties driving the initiative to ascertain their own knowledge of the available solutions. Every person in an organization has his or her own areas of expertise, but those driving the initiative may not be subject matter experts on the inherent capabilities and limitations of various technology solutions. In such cases, the business and technological expertise offered by 4CTechnologies can be an invaluable resource for selecting and implementing an off-the-shelf or custom solution.