How Data Made Her Do It
When it comes to the day-to-day tasks involved with running a startup, Shannon Ware knows the routine. She and partner Melody Jennings Bowers founded the Virtual Collective, an online network of contractors that provides digital services to clients and businesses of all kinds and sizes. Shannon’s role is that of virtual team manager as well as project manager for the company’s clients. “My role is to oversee team productivity and functionality,” she says. “I make sure the right team members are in place and that all projects are moving in the right direction, on time and under budget.” But she says, “I have to be honest, data is not what excites me. I do not love looking at graphs and charts, but I do love knowing who our customer is, what they want, and knowing that we know how to deliver. THAT is exciting to me!”
“I have to be honest, data is not what excites me. I do not love looking at graphs and charts, but I do love knowing who our customer is, what they want, and knowing that we know how to deliver. THAT is exciting to me!”
Since launching Virtual Collection in 2014, Shannon and Melody observed that most of their clients came to them in search of help solving a problem, yet they weren’t quite sure what the problem was. “They want a website without knowing what they want their customers to do on their site. They want blogs without knowing what their customers want to read about. They want a copywriter to match their voice when they haven’t truly defined their messaging,” explains Shannon. And she and Melody were quick to identify the fact that without having these sorts of answers in place, it was highly unlikely that their team — or any team — could help these clients without data to help guide them.
The pair quickly learned that if they brought on clients who admittedly didn’t have all of these things figured out, their ability to actually help those clients was slim. And that was a turning point for the duo. They decided to shift their approach and redirected their potential clients to begin working through the necessary steps of understanding their customers and data first, before doing anything else much less spend another dime on marketing and growth efforts.
“They want a website without knowing what they want their customers to do on their site. They want blogs without knowing what their customers want to read about. They want a copywriter to match their voice when they haven't truly defined their messaging."
Both Virtual Collective and their clients have seen dramatic results.
“The difference in the outcome of the projects where we insisted on sticking to our own proven processes versus the projects where we allowed the client to dictate workflow has been very eye-opening,” shares Shannon.
Eventually, this eye-opening journey is exactly what led them to create Know Your Data, Know Your Customer, an online self-paced course that teaches small business owners how to collect relevant data for their company. And to ultimately use it to guide decisions for company growth in a much more effective and targeted way. “Melody kept saying, ‘We need to teach people how to collect data!’
After enough rounds of backtracking with clients, I totally agreed. So we mapped out what we thought were the essential pieces of information that each client needed to know before implementing any marketing efforts, and that’s how Virtual Collective was born.”
Thanks to a successful iFundWomen campaign Shannon and Melody were able to raise enough seed money to start building the course. They are excited to start teaching the ins and outs (and whys) of data collection to other business owners so that they can make more informed decisions.
Three Powerful Data Questions, Answered
To hold you over until the course is launched, we picked Shannon’s brain on the three most important questions about data that women business owners (and men, for that matter) should be asking. Take a look and see if YOU can answer these essential questions about YOUR data? And then make sure you sign up to be the first to find out when the Virtual Collective course is live!
What is the most useful datapoint that people overlook when launching into marketing efforts?
I feel like at least 50% of our small business clients miss the mark on who their target customer really is. They all know who they think their customer is and then wonder why they are missing their sales goals. Data doesn’t lie. And more than likely, they have no clue how to figure out who they should be marketing to.
Describe a real-world scenario where you used data to help make a strategic decision for your company?
We had been cranking out content for our Virtual Collective blog for over two years before we realized we were creating content for the wrong customer. We stopped, revisited our value proposition and made sure we were offering services that provided solutions for the customer we wanted to serve. This is why we no longer have a blog published on our website! Two years of awesome content (that we spent a LOT of time and money on to create) is sitting on our website, unpublished. If we would have known to go through the simple steps that we teach in Know Your Data, Know Your Customer, on the front-end we would have made adjustments a lot earlier in the game. But what a great example of a real-world scenario to learn from, right?
If you could offer one piece of advice to future clients and/or someone starting a new business regarding the importance of data, what would you say?
The most important thing you can do is build a framework from the beginning. If you have a solid foundation of information about your customers, any stressful decision you need to make becomes less stressful. When you have real data about YOUR customers you can be more confident about making the next move for your business.
What is your No. 1 goal for this course?
To empower business owners. The entrepreneur/business owner scene can be brutal and is predominately sales-driven. When you are just starting out, low sales volume can feel really defeating. Not enough people teach on the micro-conversions that lead to sales and growth. These are worth celebrating too! I don’t expect everyone to care about data, but I like to think we can all learn something from each other in the process.
Can we get an amen?! If you’re ready to find out how to collect data and use it to grow your business beyond your wildest dreams, sign up to find out when the Virtual Collective course is live, get our newsletters filled with handy tips, and more. Data made us do it, and it’ll make you do it too!