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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

12 ways leaders are using data to make better decisions

Being able to stay consistent with your strategic approach to meeting goals is key when it comes to navigating data variables.

12 ways leaders are using data to make better decisions
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

Technology is a useful tool to help businesses remain relevant in the marketplace and understand the data behind their consumers’ behavior patterns. However, it’s crucial to merge human intelligence with the machine learning elements, so you can ask the right questions and keep up with market trends alike.

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Below are 12 suggestions Fast Company Executive Board members offer to get you up to speed with data-driven market segmentation and how it can help you meet your business and customer needs.

1. UNDERSTANDING THE DATA VARIABLES

Data-driven market segmentation tends to be exploratory in nature, hence the rigorous steps that have to be applied to avoid “GIGO” (garbage in, garbage out). What grouping criteria are known in advance? What is the ideal sample size? How many variables should you group the respondents? Are you using metric, ordinal, or nominal data in the best way possible? What algorithm will you apply to analyze the data and why? – Ana Brant, Dorchester Collection

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2. ASKING YOUR AUDIENCE THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Technology is just an enabler don’t forget that, if you really want to upgrade your market segmentation, start by asking the right questions about your audience. What should I know about them? Why is that piece of information important? What type of data makes a difference in my consumer’s life? Technology is only useful if we use it as part of our core strategy. – Fernando Anzures, EXMA Global

3. MIXING HUMAN INTELLIGENCE WITH MACHINE INTELLIGENCE

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When it comes to taking on data-driven market segmentation, human intelligence would need to shake hands with machine intelligence. Data analysts can take marketing data from AI tools, and turn it into a strategic lever for growth. Think of it as high-level efficiency, with the human touch. Thankfully, we live in times where there are a variety of tech options for most use cases and budgets. – Ido Wiesenberg, Voyantis

4. FOCUSING ON THE VALUE OF FIRST-PARTY DATA

First-party data is a marketer’s best friend. It gives brands a true perspective into the “who and why” of customer behavior and segmentation. Data from outside sources can shed light on marketing performance, but first-party data is where the true value is, as it undisputedly reveals an individual’s actions and declarations behind who they really are. – Josh Perlstein, Response Media

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5. UNDERSTANDING CONSUMER BEHAVIOR PATTERNS AND MOTIVES

All brands must be data-driven or risk being displaced. Market segmentation requires really knowing your customers; their preferences, behaviors, and motives. It also requires the use of third-party data to create more insights regarding the dynamics of the segment such as income, net worth, as well as behaviors and preferences not captured by your brand. Managing this consistently is imperative.  – Chad Engelgau, Acxiom

6. IDENTIFYING YOUR TARGET MARKET

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Market segmentation should be examined based on the advertising platform or medium, as it will vary drastically. Set your KPIs, understand your demographic, psychographic, and behavioral targets and build your strategy from an audience-first approach, the medium will come naturally when you identify the audience first. – Amanda Dorenberg, COMMB

7. BEING CLEAR ON THE GOALS YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE

Start with the business or customer outcomes that you want to achieve and who will own those outcomes. Then work backward from there. There is no point in creating a data-driven segmentation, which is a lot of work, if nobody is clear on the goals to be achieved and who is accountable for the results. – Bill Staikos, Medallia

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8. CRAFTING IDEAL CUSTOMER JOURNEYS

Data is necessary to accomplish better user experiences, engagement, and frictionless customer experiences. At ArtVersion, we practice data-driven design principles that allow us to craft ideal experiences for user journeys and pathways with the goal to eliminate cognitive frictions. – Goran Paun, ArtVersion

9. OFFERING A TAILORED MARKETING MESSAGE

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The first step to getting started with data-driven market segmentation is understanding the customer and their needs. Data-driven market segmentation is not just about understanding a customer’s preferences, but also their behaviors, attitudes, and demographics. Segmentation will help the company achieve long-term goals by offering tailored messaging and marketing strategies to each group. – Kristin Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

10. LEVERAGING INFLUENCE, SHAPE, AND INFORMATION

A critical tool, leveraged to influence, shape, and inform go-to-market strategies, specifically for talent attraction campaigns, is market analytics, like TalentNeuron (Gartner product). Market analytics tools provide deep data with customized outputs and are robust sources of competitive heat maps, talent pipelines, supply and demand, talent demographics, compensation, and migration cities. – Britton Bloch, Navy Federal

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11. OBTAINING PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE MARKET

When getting started on a layout of data-driven market segmentation, it’s important to come in with preexisting knowledge of your customer base. Spend time in your busy locations, and study the humans who are coming into your business and where their eyes are drawn. Personal experience will help make sense of the information presented during your data-driven market segmentation. – Brandon Pena, BrandON Media Group

12. CREATING A REALISTIC (AND ADJUSTABLE) HYPOTHESIS

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Start with a clear hypothesis about the market and the corresponding outcome that you expect to achieve with the data.  After that, use the data to strengthen or adjust your hypothesis until you derive actionable insights.  It is easy to get lost in analysis paralysis with market data if you do not have a clear mission and a timeline to take action. – Paola Doebel, Ensono

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