Like most businesses, you are probably drowning in data but without access to information to make good marketing decisions. The cause could be an unresponsive IT department, lack of analytics talent, or cheap reporting packages, to name just a few.
You can use proxies for the missing data. We call these “tells.” Here’s an example for NASCAR from Tim Melvin at thestreet.com.
“There is a lot to like about living here, but one drawback is that to get to the beach or points east from the Baltimore-Washington area, you have to go across the bay bridge and over the island. When you get the twice-a-year combination of homebound beach traffic and a major sporting event [NASCAR] that routinely draws crowds of 200,000, traffic can grind to a halt.
Here's the tell: It never happened. No backup. No slowdown of any kind.”
Based on Melvin’s observation alone, if I were approaching a marketing negotiation with NASCAR tomorrow, I’d play serious hardball.
Here are a few more illustrations. Of course, the ones you would use are based on your specific business situation.
Why all shops don’t put an electronic counter at the front door is beyond me. Sales data might seem obvious enough, but combining it with floor traffic gives you more insight into what your problems might be.
Can’t wait for the detailed monthly inventory report? Put a red sticker on the items at the back of the shelf and see how long it takes them to get to the register.
Notice a decline in the number of security guards you normally see at neighboring stores, mall parking lots, casino boardwalks?
Live near the water? Any change in the number of times per hour the bridge opens for boat traffic? A nice tell for people in marine or water recreation businesses.
Sponsoring a hospitality suite at the big industry trade show? Compare the bar tab to last year.
Tells work for Web-based businesses too. Get your total number of weekly visitors and transactions. If the former is steady but the latter is declining, your content is stale or your offers are no longer competitive.
The further upstream the tells are, the better. The examples above should make clear you are looking for trends, so make your observations repeatedly.
The beauty part? Tells work just as well in the other direction. Which hopefully will be here before the year is out.