This blog is written by Data3 Founder and CEO, Helen Tanner.

THE STORY BEHIND myDATA³ – why I decided to build a SaaS product, in the middle of a pandemic, whilst also growing a global data consultancy

My amazing team have just launched myDATA3 which is an instant, all-in-one business dashboard tool designed for startup founders and marketers. To say this has been a challenge, would be an understatement. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We’ve done it with no funding. As a solo founder. With a bunch of technology, product & SaaS experts. So, it’s a big risk. And it’s personal. I wanted to share my story of why I decided to build a SaaS product, in the middle of a pandemic, whilst also growing a global data consultancy.

I was a marketer for 14 years. I worked for the public sector, for huge global corporations, and with start-ups. In all cases, there were many days when Marketing felt like the best department to work in – the creativity, the ideas, the ability to turn an idea into a campaign in hours or days, the super talented marketing people working both in-house and in agencies, and the ability to make a real difference to a business within days or weeks. It can be a fantastic place to work. But, there were other days when Marketing felt like a shit place to work. People fussing over colours, receiving briefs without any thought given to the objectives, yet alone the audience, and everyone thinking marketing is easy, so why is it taking so damn long, Hels?! In all jobs there are ups and downs, of course, but in marketing, I could go from feeling elated to soul-destroyed, in an hour!

The hardest challenge in Marketing is demonstrating that it’s not about colours and content and design and communications, it’s about delivering tangible business results. Making a difference to the bottom line. Running a campaign that not only generates more leads, but helps to convert leads into sales, and helps to retain customers too. It’s all about attributing marketing activity to revenue and sustainable, profitable, lifetime customer value. Proving that marketing is not a cost to the business, but an investment that will give the business a return on investment, in the form of increased sales and revenue. Attribution of marketing activity, to sales, was always a problem back when I worked in Marketing…and it still is today.

How can you prove that a social media campaign is valuable? How can you justify increasing the budget for search ads, and social ads? How can you demonstrate that re-branding delivered tangible benefits to the business? How can you explain why you’re using a specific mix of communications within a campaign, and excluding other comms channels? How can you prove that more marketing resources will add to the bottom line? And how can you justify your current marketing budget…yet alone increasing it? Marketing teams are always under pressure to deliver fast results on a budget…and it’s massively time-consuming, and can feel near-impossible sometimes, to demonstrate the sales impact.

I’ve been there. It’s really tricky. And there’s no easy answer unfortunately. But the answer does begin with data. In Marketing, you need lots of data, and it’s spread all over the place including:

  • Website analytics – to see visitor volumes, behaviour, and demographics
  • Social media analytics – to see reach, engagement, and sentiment
  • Email analytics – to see response rates, interest areas, and bounces
  • Customer analytics – to see conversion rates, contact activity, & relationships
  • Ecommerce analytics – to see behaviour, conversions, and usage
  • Product analytics – to see behaviour, patterns, and trends
  • Survey results – to see responses and feedback

And you might also have a range of other data sources, specific to your business too.

All of these data sources are disconnected…so you have islands of marketing data. Somehow you must wrangle that data together into one place. When I was a marketer, I was messing around with spreadsheets doing my best, and asking my team to do their best. Every marketer I speak to today, says the same. It’s time-consuming, inefficient, and distracting. So, it often ends up at the bottom of the list. For that day in the future, when you’re not reacting to what the business wants from marketing…that day when Marketing is leading the business and not the other way around!

This is a massive problem, because if marketers don’t know their numbers, how will they ever be taken seriously in the Boardroom? How can we lead the business, rather than be a tactical delivery engine? How can we create the briefs, rather than respond to them? How can we get the business to see marketing as an investment, and not just a cost centre?

There must be a better way. A way to automatically bring marketing data together into one place. Within seconds. A way to check on marketing data, just like you’d check on the weather. Now there is. myDATA3. That’s why I designed myDATA3 for marketers. I feel your pain. Data should be simple for non-technical marketers. It is now.

My Dad has been a SME business owner for as long as I can remember. I saw how brutally hard it was to run a small business, with all the ups and downs, and the ever-so-personal triumphs and battles…so I ran like the wind and worked in the big, global, corporate world for 20 years!

It got to a point though, where I realised that I wasn’t motivated by helping big, global businesses to become even bigger and richer. That didn’t get me excited. It didn’t feel worthy of my time, energy, and the hours I put into every single thing I do. So, I realised, after a long time, that I was passionate about small businesses. Helping a start-up to become a scale-up. Helping a micro business to become a small business. And helping small businesses to become medium-sized businesses. That’s what I want to do. That’s what motivates me. We all know most small businesses fail…so how can I play a part to increase their chances of success? How can I make a difference?

Founding, launching & running a SME business is unbelievably hard. It takes long hours, huge commitment, the humility to make tons of mistakes yet keep going and requires you to be a confident and comfortable risk-taker. As well as keeping sane, healthy, and motivated, no matter what. You simply don’t have the resources, budget, cashflow or support to do what big businesses can do with little thought. Running a SME business is super hard at the best of times. And it was soooooo much harder during COVID. The world of business can feel uncertain and unpredictable anytime…during a pandemic, ‘uncertainty’ and ‘unpredictable’ are understatements. I get it…I was in the trenches with you too. 

I launched Data3 in 2017. I’ve always been a grafter but getting from 2017 to 2021 has been so much harder than I ever could have possibly imagined. A rollercoaster ride. A battle of my own wills. A test of all my personal characteristics. A never-ending series of learnings and lessons. Big mistakes. Yet, in the last 4.5 years, my amazing team have delivered 70+ projects for 50+ SMEs in the UK. And I’m lucky enough to be able to trust, respect, count on, and have beers with my awesome team of data engineers, data architects, developers, BI experts, product gurus, marketers and sales types. As well as my, up until recently, unpaid gang of advisors giving me humble, generous and valuable counsel.

In this time, I’ve spoken to hundreds of SME business leaders. And EVERY single business has exactly the same problem – disconnected data, spread across multiple data sources, platforms and tools. And it’s all in a muddle requiring huge amounts of manual effort to untangle things and bring it together in a sensible way. So, EVERY business leader says the same thing – they are missing a single source of truth, or a single view of customer. Which means they are not confident that they are tracking their historical business performance well enough…which makes them concerned that they’re making future decisions without the right information. And they also know they’re missing out on data-driven sales opportunities. So that’s what we do at Data3, our data consultancy – we work with SMEs, on bespoke projects, connecting all their data together, and powering them with a single source of truth. 

Think about it – founders have tons of data in the mix:

  • Financial data
  • Customer data
  • Operations data
  • Production data
  • Marketing data
  • Social media data
  • Ecommerce data
  • All the spreadsheets and documents in an organisation

And more…businesses, of all shapes, sizes and sectors, have high volumes of data.

What I’ve seen is there’s a huge untapped opportunity for data, both in the UK and globally. I’ve seen that smaller SMEs, of say less than 20 employees, have exactly the same problems as larger SMEs, but they can’t afford data consultancy fees to sort it all out for them in a bespoke project. So, smaller SMEs are unsupported and just have to muddle through with spreadsheets, or ignore the data, and go on gut feel. Today, small businesses don’t have the time/money/skills to become data-driven, so they miss out on the business benefits of becoming data-driven.

This is a problem, as savvy start-up founders know that data-driven businesses make more money. Here are just a few facts but there are tons more out there…

  • According to Forrester in 2020, data-driven businesses saw revenues 162% higher than non-data-driven businesses – 162%! And 30% higher business growth too.
  • According to McKinsey in 2020, data-driven businesses acquired 23 times more customers. 23 times!
  • And, according to BARC in 2020, data-driven businesses increased their profit by 8% compared to non-data-driven business.
  • Yet, according to Garner in 2019, 97% of business data was unused…97%! Unused!

That’s what I’m passionate about – the days of making business decisions, on guesstimates and gut feel, should be over. I want to empower smaller businesses to make data-driven decisions, just like the big businesses.

But we all know the world of business is unfair. Big businesses have all the data and artificial intelligence (AI) toys to play with, as well as the budgets and the people. Small businesses don’t. They’re not operating on a level playing field. So, how can we level the field? How can we enable SMEs to grow using big business data toys? How can we enable smaller businesses to get a single source of truth and make data-driven decisions too?

There must be a better way. A way to automatically bring business data together into one place. Within seconds. A way to check on business performance, just like you’d check on the weather. Now there is. myDATA3. That’s why I designed myDATA3 for founders like me. I feel your pain. Data should be simple for non-technical founders. It is now.

I must be mad. Simple as that. But I hope all of the founders and marketers out there, like me, will reap the benefits of my madness. And realise that tracking your marketing and business performance is now easy.

Check out myDATA3 at mydata3.com – it’s FREE and takes 2 mins max to register, connect and view your dashboards…so what have you got to lose?