Post authored by Arnold Lagos
For many years, baseball kept track of only a few, sacred statistics: batting average, home runs, runs batted in (RBIs), earned run average (ERA), and wins and losses. That is, until Bill James revolutionized the way we look at the game. Along with a group of similar-minded fans, he started measuring baseball, using a different kind of scorecard and tracking dozens of unusual stats beyond these traditional few. Where was the ball hit? Was there an opportunity to make a play? How many runs were created by the team? And so on. The information he compiled led to a shift in the way players were measured, drafted, and how (and to whom) big contracts were awarded. Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball,” a book that will soon become a movie, talks about the way the Oakland Athletics changed their entire approach to free agents, the draft, and trading players using the statistics developed by Bill James.
At Experient, we recently made a software switch in our Strategic Sourcing area to centralize the data we were most interested in. This switch has allowed us to capture information on hotels, rates, booking trends, client trends, spending habits, and many other non-traditional data points. In the past, to capture this would require significant manual effort and more time than anyone could give. The depth of the information we now have is enlightening and powerful. (Maybe we’ll call our software system “Mr. James.”) The trick, now, is using this information to help clients make the best decisions possible. Just as the Oakland Athletics did to build the best baseball team they could.
What’s important to learn here is not that we all need data. That’s a given. Data is just another word for information, input, or knowledge – a basic business (and life) building block. The message is: What’s the right data? What do you need to know to make good decisions? And, do we have enough of the right kind of information to be effective?
When it comes to your registration process, are you just collecting traditional stats (because “that’s what you’ve always collected”)? How has that translated to the way you engage your audience or helped your exhibitors facilitate sales? How about your hotel and destination selection process? What have your attendee trends been in each city? Do you know more than just your room block performance? What hotel brand has served you best and at what price point?
Successful data collection means we need to work backward. It’s easy to list off all of the data we feel we should be collecting and then try to cook up some meaning from it. But to be effective, we have to start with a goal or a vision of how we’d like things to be, then determine what we need to know – and what we don’t – in order to build to that vision. Is there a line of sight from your goals to your data?
I’d love to know what the most valuable piece of data is that you collect today.