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Why Entrepreneurs Should Choose Insights Over Instincts The importance of data-driven decision-making.

By Luis Garcia

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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In 2017, humanity generated more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data by the day. According to the minds at Harvard Business School, it's never been easier for businesses of all sizes to collect, analyze and interpret data into real, actionable insights. Companies wanting to successfully scale their operations should make the effort to understand that data on a much deeper level.

Related: The Insane Amounts of Data We're Using Every Minute (Infographic)

Fully understanding the needs of your consumer enables you to provide them with the specific products and services they may be looking for, resulting in optimal business decisions surrounding exactly how, when and what to sell them. This is a fundamental aspect of creating and operating a business. Data-driven decision-making is simply focusing on the needs of your target market and executing on those requests before they are made.

All data is not created equal

"I think people just don't understand the value in qualitative research," says Lynzie Riebling, vice president of insights and strategy at Revolt TV. Riebling, whose background is in psychology and marketing, explained to me the level of "quant bias" she's seen in the entertainment industry. "We are programmed as humans to think if something is quantified it has to be accurate," she says of how we tend to view the numbers gained from research. "You don't know how that survey was programmed, you don't know who they spoke to, you don't know if that was a survey of five people or 5,000 people."

Related: Why Your Startup Needs Data Science

Acting as the middleman between brands and consumers, Riebling has spent more than a decade understanding the perspectives of target audiences and reporting that information back to the leadership of notable brands including Nike, Google/YouTube and MTV. By reading between the lines in data findings, she has helped countless executives make decisions to create with their audiences in mind. "I always say insights are your closest thing to a crystal ball," says Riebling of the significance of her field. "If we do our work properly, we can tell you based on human behavior what is likely to happen next."

Keeping it simple

The data of today is more detailed and varied than ever before, but there's no need for entrepreneurs to get overwhelmed by the numbers. Though data has gotten bigger and better with time, success is not contingent upon harnessing the power of big data.

"I think people get wrapped up in this idea that you have to do something statistically sound," mentions Riebling of the DIY role her job often assumes. "I've legitimately gone into a skate park and bought a pizza and said "Hey, do you guys want to hang out and eat pizza?' It might sound a bit creepy, but it worked." Riebling believes that even small businesses can do their own insight-scraping and data-reporting with limited friends, supporters or colleagues. "As humans, we can just have conversations with people and that is research and validation in itself."

Turning insights into action

Doing independent research is costly and time-intensive, but data doesn't necessarily have to come from research done on behalf of your company alone. The creation of the platform Audiomack is a prime example of what can be accomplished by using known research and applying that knowledge to your target audience. In 2012, the founders of the music streaming service decided to launch their business from their own perspectives as hip-hop fans, noticing the genre's growing reach at the time.

Audiomack was built on providing those hip-hop artists who couldn't yet afford the fees often required by distribution companies and other streaming platforms with a free and unlimited way to upload their music. Understanding the nature of the hip-hop creative process and the challenge of getting past industry gatekeepers, the founders gave artists a chance to put their music directly in front of the right fans. By also catering to listeners who are specifically looking to stream underground hip-hop content that can't be found in places like Apple Music or Spotify, today Audiomack attracts 14 million daily active users.

I recently spoke with David Ponte, co-founder and CMO of Audiomack, who explained how the company's Creator Dashboard is helping artists turn the data from the service's platform into actionable insights. "That type of specific data is going to help you understand where to push your resources," Ponte says of the dashboard's geo-location and engagement metrics. "If you're an emerging artist, you want to be able to determine where you might want to contact booking agents. You can see, "Are people coming back to play a song or are they just playing it because it's in a big playlist?' Those answers are going to help you determine how to spend your money and your time moving forward."

When used correctly, carefully mined data can help a company determine which path to take. Better data leads to better decision-making and more efficient selling strategies, both of which are key to profitability.

Related: 4 Ways Data Is Driving Conscious Capitalism

Luis Garcia

CEO and Founder of Red Wolf, @LawofAmbition

Luis Garcia, founder and CEO of Red Wolf, founded a digital marketing company during his Afghanistan deployment. Since then he's amplified his personal brand @LawofAmbition and a wide spectrum of businesses including Fortune 500 companies, personal and celebrity brands on social media.

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