Last Thursday, January 12, I attended the Louisiana Society of Association Executives’ (LSAE) first ever peer-to-peer event, which is intended to be an opportunity for members of LSAE to share tips and advice with the group. I joined LSAE in 2016 in order to meet other industry professionals who could share their association management experiences, which she could bring back to LCIA.
The workshop was led by Bill Dufrene, a member of LSAE and an employee of the Alliance Safety Council, where the meeting was held. Bill discussed the capabilities of business analytics software, explained his process for choosing business analytics software, and presented analytics software options for the group.
Jumping into the presentation, Bill posed a question to us, "Should we raise prices?” This set up a scenario, which we would walk through in order to see how business analytics software can help management make decisions within a company. In order to tackle the problem, we needed some information. To walk us through this process, Bill did the following:.
- Presented an example table of data, which listed the prices of four separate products from many different "competitor companies” and also from "our” company, which we’ll call "Acme.” Additionally, he listed each company’s corresponding zip code.
- Imported the Excel data into Tableau, the analytics software he has chosen to use after much research.
- Mapped out the sum of the product prices of each company on the table, taking into account standard deviation.
The table showed us that, our company, Acme was on the lower end on the pricing spectrum. But the answer to "Should we raise prices?” was not so simple. Bill explained, "Looking at this data, the answer is to raise prices, but you also have to consider the geography of your competitors.” Bill showed us our where our competitors are located and reminded us, "Be careful to compare apples to apples. [Some competitors] are outside of your market.”
Bill then switched back to a scatter plot graph with all of the prices, and said, "Yes, you can raise your prices, and this is how you determine by how much to raise them.” He then played with some of the input prices for Acme’s products to show us how they moved Acme’s position on the graph, which showed us where Acme would fall if we raised prices to "x”.
Concluding the demonstration, Bill settled on new prices and showed us Acme’s new position within the pricing spectrum of its competitors. The consensus within the group was that it was a very eye-opening presentation overall.
My Thoughts on Analytics
It is my belief that anyonelooking to use analytics needs to start small. Before you can analyze data, you need to have the data. Bill made the point that you are collecting data all the time, citing QuickBooks, social media, and Excel spreadsheets as examples. You need to be looking at what information you are collecting and begin sifting through it.
But even before that, you need to be asking yourself which answers you’re looking for. What are you looking to know? Before you start thinking about which analytics platform you want to purchase, I encourage you to sit down and write down a list of questions you have about your business:
- "What is our most effective marketing tool?”
- "What are our top three biggest expenses, and is there a way to save money in those areas?”
- "How much revenue are we collecting from our top five biggest clients, compared to last year’s top five biggest clients?”
- "Should we raise prices?”
From there, you can then ask yourself what data is required to answer these questions and whether you are collecting it. If you don’t have the data, set up a plan to start capturing that information, whether in an automated fashion or by manually inputting information into a spreadsheet. Once you have your data gleaned and cleaned, you can then start thinking about how you’re going to start manipulating it in programs like Tableau.
When you get to the point where you need to choose a business analytics platform, Bill encouraged us consider "The Magic Quadrant” put out by the data research organization, Gartner. The Magic Quadrant helps businesses choose which business intelligence software will fit their companies – a very useful tool, indeed.
I hope this helps you on your road to using data to make better business decisions.
"What I Learned at" is a series in LCIA’s Orange Blog where we provide a recap of LCI and LCIA events. Additionally, our staff will occasionally attend professional development and educational classes. We use this "What I Learned at" blog series to report what we learned to you.