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Every day, the world creates 2.5 trillion bytes of data, much of which is extremely valuable to companies looking to better serve their customers. Data is everywhere and while companies have invested in ways to collect it, they can struggle to sift through the masses of data to glean meaningful insights.

And yet many companies are still not as data-savvy as you might expect: 58% of companies base at least half of their regular business decisions on a “gut feeling” or experience rather than data and information. While customers’ default mode may be to rely on intuition when making decisions, you can provide an immediate competitive advantage by using data to improve business intelligence.

In the current economic downturn, companies will scrutinize the cost of their tech stack. They need simple stories they can tell their bosses about the technologies they can’t live without. Relationships can bring you in, but providing reliable data is probably what will help you retain your customers, even if they’re in the business of cutting costs.

Data has become the new currency and companies that can use it effectively have a competitive edge. This is especially true for B2B solution providers, who can provide their customers with information that not only demonstrates how well their solutions are working, but also gives them meaningful insights to improve their business.

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However, data needs a story to make an impact. Data on its own can raise more questions than it answers, while data-driven storytelling takes that information and converts it into a digestible, compelling format that proves value. Stories make data easier to digest, and data, in turn, gives stories credibility.

When a company can show a customer through data the exact value their product brings to them and how they contribute to the company’s objectives, they are more likely to build trust, form a partnership and not get out of the tech stack to disappear. This is something I’ve seen happen time and time again in previous experiences, when the customer success team shared data-driven content with customers.

Data is a valuable asset for every step of the customer journey. From pitching to renewal, it’s important to share relevant data with your prospects to win and retain customers when it’s time to renew or cancel. Here are some suggestions for the types of data to focus on, depending on what stage you’re in.

The pitch phase

To build instant trust with potential customers, you need to clearly identify the data that tells a story about how your solution will create value. At this point in the journey, you don’t have any usage data to lean on, but will instead need to leverage qualitative data and a probable ROI. Qualitative data is what is collected during discovery and centers around the prospect’s pain points. An assumed ROI can be created using available company graphics and sharing data from other relevant customers who have seen success with your product.

Data-driven onboarding

Congratulations! You made a strong case for the client and they agreed to work with you. When onboarding the customer, it’s important to introduce key data-driven success metrics that you’ll review with the customer to make sure you’re on the same page. These metrics should be based on the client’s objectives and business goals, not what you want. Introducing these both manages the story of what is being measured and makes it clear that your organization holds itself accountable for the success of its solution.

Adoption

This phase is all about the data: the agreed, high-quality statistics. Focus on usage metrics, such as the percentage of active users and which features the account is and isn’t using. This allows you and the customer to make adjustments if something goes wrong. If the usage is not as expected, you can start talking about other possibilities to work together.

Renewal

After re-entering the original goals of the partnership, you need to share both qualitative and quantitative data. The quantitative data should include usage statistics to show that the product was appreciated by the team. Ideally, you have a way to demonstrate how that use translates into a positive business outcome (increased sales or efficiency or reduced costs). This gives great insight into ROI and progress toward goals, which can make your renewal interview much easier.

Data-driven expansion

Expansion may seem impossible in this economic downturn, but by using benchmark data you can show your customers the additional potential your product has to offer. Benchmarking data may be based on cohorts similar to your account from an industry or company size perspective. By showing how the account is keeping up relatively and what others are doing to get more out of the product, the account can see why they need more of your product.

Qualitative data is essential

By providing data throughout the customer journey and establishing a trusted partnership, you become an invaluable asset to your customers. It’s hard to predict how long this economic uncertainty will last, but all businesses must go above and beyond for their customers to be under attack during tough times and budgets. A true partnership includes a common understanding that all meaningful data is shared and explained. Even poor results provide a chance to explain why things can be improved and lead to a more fruitful partnership.

But remember, it’s not just about numbers on a page. Using data is only half the battle. Make sure your data has a quality narrative that provides a clear and coherent way to understand the data.

As Jay Samit once said, “Data may disappoint, but it never lies.” Companies that want to serve their customers need to not only share data that makes them look good, but also provide valuable context for their business. Companies need to own, contextualize and use that data to help the people they serve make better decisions. This is how you build a high level of trust that will keep customers, even in times of great economic uncertainty.

Nikola Mijic is CEO of Matik.

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