Q+A: Annex Analytics on using data in your business

The term “big data” is everywhere – but do you know how to apply it to your business?

One Eastern Iowa company hopes to help fellow business owners. Annex Analytics is Peggy Stover, Fortune 500 veteran of companies that include Kellogg’s, SC Johnson Wax, Kraft and Coors Brewing and a lecturer at the UI Tippie School of Business; and Jim Thebeau, former partner/owner in Amperage Marketing and Henry Russell Bruce Marketing.

Together they provide services focused on sales, marketing and business analytics, competitive and business intelligence, primary and secondary research, pricing analysis and business problem solving.

“Our services are designed to help clients find patterns and insights in their data,” Jim wrote. “To see what’s behind the numbers that can lead to making or saving money, improving decision making and finding new product or service opportunities.”

For companies looking to get started with analytics, the good news is that an upfront investment in expensive software usually isn’t necessary. Jim said the type of data being collected is more important than the tools used to collect it, and a simple spreadsheet is enough to get started.

McNary Marketing and Design is happy to partner with Annex. Curious about what data can do for you? Read on for a Q+A with Jim:

Why did you decide to start Annex Analytics?

Peggy and I decided to start Annex when we searched and could not find any analytics competitors in the Corridor or the larger region. We believed the time was right to bring data analytics to the market to provide progressive companies with a competitive analysis. We also wanted to help stop the brain drain by providing opportunities for UI graduates with great marketing and analytics skills.

What type of businesses do you work with?

Though we started Annex to provide help to small to mid-size companies, we have worked with organizations of less than $1M to those more than $1B in annual revenue. Most of our clients are established companies, though we have worked with a couple of start-ups. Our top target markets include healthcare, financial institutions, insurance, higher education, manufacturing, consumer product goods and service industries.

What factors stop small- and mid-sized businesses from making the most of their data?

We’ve found that many organizations are not familiar with the powerful advantages offered by data analytics. So we do a lot of education on the subject. Organizations often don’t have the expertise, resources or time to analyze their data. We provide an affordable outsourced solution.

What tools allow for the consistent collection of sales & marketing data inside a company?

We’ve found it’s all over the board. Some companies have internal programmers create one or more databases over a period of years that don’t talk to each other. Others use Excel spreadsheets. And still others use purchased systems such as Salesforce.com, SAP, Oracle or other high end systems. While the collection tool is important, the types of data being collected are more important. Excel is a great tool for most businesses wanting to start collecting data.

How frequently should businesses be looking at their data for new insights?

To gain maximum benefit from their data, businesses should be looking at their data on an ongoing basis, at least monthly. We have partnerships with data visualization companies that can pull in data hourly, daily, weekly, etc. for virtually instant analysis. Organizations that analyze data on a frequent basis can make changes quickly to their sales and marketing efforts to maximize a competitive analysis and stay more in tune with their customers needs and wants.

What are some challenges of working with your data?

Because many organizations are not familiar with data analytics, the primary challenge today is helping them understand the power and usefulness of the service. Sometimes they think it’s looking into the future and it pulls them off their day to day work. Just the opposite is true. Once they give us the data, we can pretty much guarantee we’ll provide some interesting and useful insights and recommendations.

What advice would you give to a founder or business owner who is just getting started with data and analytics?

Ask them to ensure they are collecting the most meaningful data for analysis that can help them answer their most important questions. Annex offers a free data consultation to any organization to help it set up its data collection for maximum benefit. And, we create custom data collection platforms for clients to ensure they are collecting the best data from the start. It’s never too late to set up a strong data collection program. We also encourage businesses to appoint a data oversight manager to keep data collection and hygiene up to date.  

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