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Understanding Business Data In 4 Categories Or Less


by Sky Cassidy, CEO of MountainTop Data and co-host of the If You Market podcast

Small business owners and new marketers hate the word ‘Data’. It’s a dirty 4 letter word because everyone has to pretend they know what it means, that they’ve analyzed the data, they understand the data, they have the data, they’re making decisions based on the ‘Data’, but what the hell does it mean?

What data, whatever data your department uses that’s what data. If someone starts talking to you about data the first question should be, “What Data?”. Data is a pronoun, if you don’t know what they’re talking about it’s because they haven’t told you. If you’re an English major and don’t agree with calling it a pronoun just replace ‘data’ with the word ‘stuff’ whenever you hear it. It’s a generic word for digital stuff. High tech hipsters like to throw around the word data like they’re some kind of Silicon Valley mobster trying to sound smart without incriminating themselves.

“You got the data right, take care of it okay, I want the data finished, Fuggedaboutit”

To help clarify things, here are the major data types your average small business owner or marketer runs into.

Your general business management data.

In this group I’m going to include financial projections, budgets, sales numbers, and KPI’s (key performance indicators). Whether you have this data on a spreadsheet or in a CRM or ERP system I’m lumping it all in here. If you find yourself talking about Sales KPIs, go ahead and call them sales KPIs, I’m lumping them into one group but they still need to be referred to by what they are.

Marketing lists and client databases.

This is all the company and contact information in your CRM. You may have a lot of other ‘data’ in your CRM and/or marketing automation systems but your database is just the information you use to contact your clients and prospects. If you track sales numbers and opportunities and who knows what else in one system, more power to you, but that’s not your database. We’re talking names, phone numbers, emails and all other information on the companies and contacts you sell to. This type of data gets its own category because it is very different from your other data. This data is not a measure of some other activity, it’s the qualitative information that you use in your sales and marketing.  It’s the bat you step up to the plate with, and most other data is your batting average or other statistics.

Another general bucket here is marketing data.

This includes things like website visitors, campaign results, AdWords, marketing reports and KPIs, etc. Just like the general business management data each type of marketing data needs to be referred to by name.

Now we get to the scary and misunderstood analytics.

It’s not as scary as most people think, and it’s not really data. Analytics is simply the process of analyzing and refining data into usable conclusions or a more finite data set. If the data is 56 and 23 analytics says let’s add those and give you 79. Assuming 56 and 23 have some sort of context the 79 should be even more useful. I said analytics isn’t data and I stand by that, but it does produce data though so you may find yourself talking about the ‘analytics data’.  Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, that could mean the business management or marketing data that is being analyzed or the results of the analytics.

I hope this helps and now when someone asks you if you have the ‘data’, you can respond with “Are you talking about the marketing list, or the email campaign result numbers, or maybe the sales KPIs, or is it the analytics from our Google AdWords?  Because without a little more data from you I have no way of knowing what you’re referring to”.


Sky Cassidy is CEO of MountainTop Data and co-host of the If You Market podcast. MountainTop Data, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, has been providing data services for B2B marketing for almost two decades.

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