Data collection should be your top priority. Whether you are a student, employer, company or organization, you need data collection methods to collect and analyze data that will help you make a sound decision.
Knowledge equals power, but in the modern business world, having the right information at the right time can literally mean the difference between long-term success and a quick downfall. This should come as no surprise, though, as the business world of the 21st century is constantly evolving with the changing industry trends and the numerous socio-economic factors that govern entire markets and regions. This is why your no.1 priority should be to gather intelligence in real-time, convert it into actionable reports, and act quickly in order to capitalize on new opportunities.
That said, it’s important to give your data-collection strategy a structure and a concrete context in order to make it an easy process to convert raw data into actionable reports. After all, without context, you can end up deducing the wrong conclusions, which will invariably fail to deliver the desired effect. With all of that in mind, here are the five effective data collection tools you should use, and how to integrate them into your processes.
Let’s start with the most effective quantitative method, the closed-ended survey or questionnaire. The reason why experienced marketers and business leaders love the closed-ended survey model is that it provides them with a quick and easy way to quantify results and get ahold of important statistical information without wasting time or other resources. These questionnaires are easy to set up, especially with a dedicated online tool, and they are easy to integrate into a website, email campaign, social media, and other marketing efforts.
The closed-ended survey is popular with consumers as well because they reduce customer effort with their predetermined answers. The individual taking the quiz can opt between several answers and thus avoid the “hassle” of actually filling out blank forms and spending a lot of time thinking about their answers. However, these surveys don’t have to be simple yes/no answers, as you can make multiple-choice questions, or even answers based on a rating scale such as one-ten and the like.
Conversely, open-ended surveys fall under the category of qualitative data collection. This essentially means that open-ended questions don’t just collect statistical information, but instead delve into the reasoning behind consumer action, in an attempt to uncover the drivers behind certain trends, or even predict future ones that you can capitalize on before the competition catches on. To do this effectively, you need to give the respondents the flexibility to answer the questions about how they see fit, albeit with your guidance to make the answers as relevant to your cause as possible.
Now, while there is no denying that open-ended surveys are a powerful way to gather important data, keep in mind that consumers aren’t as keen on participating as they are willing to participate in closed-ended questionnaires. This is why you need to make your questions as simple as possible, limit the number of questions per survey to avoid survey abandonment, and incentivize participation with a small token of gratitude – such as a small discount, a free eBook, or any other digital product.
In-office web filtering and management
You can use closed-ended and open-ended surveys both internally and externally, but when it comes to effective data collection in the office, it’s important that you’re able to monitor web traffic and chatter in real-time. This is why companies that are looking to build a better company culture and improve their processes internally are increasingly using office-wide web filter solutions that inspect outgoing and incoming traffic, while also minimizing the risk of data leaks.
In practice, in-office web filtering and management allows you to monitor employee performance and behavior in the online world, reduce or eliminate access to non-work-related websites, improve bandwidth availability, and keep your entire web infrastructure safe. This provides you with real-time data that you can use to make numerous processes more efficient and effective.
One of the most popular methods for qualitative data collection is, of course, the focus group method. This is an interview-based model that companies can use to gather valuable insights both internally, and for external marketing methods, sales, and product development and innovation. To create a focus group experiment that will yield the desired results, you should have between three and ten people plus a moderator who will not only steer the conversation in the right direction but also ask relevant primary and complementary questions to make the conversation as fruitful as possible.
Data collection through direct observation
And finally, you could always opt to observe subjects or events in order to note down your findings without interfering. This might be a passive data collection method but it has its uses, particularly when you’re trying to develop a unique competitive advantage without influencing answers or behaviors in any way. Take young children as a prime example.
Children can be invaluable for marketing and sales purposes, but most of the time you can’t just ask them questions because there are many factors that will influence their answers. But you can certainly observe them. Say you’re trying to decide on the best color scheme for a new toy. With the observation method, you will note down how differently colored toys affect the kids – which one draws the most subjects.
Sometimes, it will be a single color that will attract every child, and other times, you will discover several color schemes that work best, allowing you to invest in producing only the ones that you know children will want. That is how direct observation can yield great results.
There is no denying that data collection is invaluable to a growth-oriented business in this competitive climate. But instead of keeping up with popular online publications and simply reacting to the trends, be sure to conduct your own surveys and observations in order to stay ahead, and capitalize on opportunities even before they arise.