Resolutions for a happy (and effective) new year

January is traditionally the time for fresh starts. While we don’t have any advice for getting fit, losing weight or stopping smoking, we do have some good ideas for resolutions to help ensure that your organisation makes the most of the new year:

1. Audit your data security. High-profile data losses in the past year both in the UK (25m government records) and the US (45m payments to retail group TJX) have recently pushed data security to the top of the agenda. Common weak spots include the use of insecure methods such as unencrypted email, FTP or CD-ROM to transfer sensitive data, and failure to disable accounts when staff leave a company. An audit and action plan could safeguard your data, and put your mind at rest.

2. Spring clean your data. January is a popular time to de-clutter, so now may be the ideal time to review whether there’s more information to be gleaned from your existing contacts. This might include: thorough de-duplication, email validation, checking against third-party suppression lists, mapping postcodes to regions, and creating new variables such as recency, frequency and value scoring for each contact.

3. Empower your staff. The saying goes that “two heads are better than one”, but key business information is often accessed only by a small number of management or IT staff, due to skills or licensing issues. This means that the collective ‘brain power’ of your staff cannot be fully used to spot trends and identify new opportunities. However, by selecting easy-to-use systems, prioritising staff training, and promoting communication between departments, you could begin to empower the entire workforce to generate great new ideas.

4. Carry out a customer audit. Most organisations feel they already ‘know’ their customers, but it may be worth considering how accurate that impression really is. How many unique contacts do you actually have, taking into account every single database and spreadsheet across the organisation? And how many are duplicated, active, lapsed, or prospects? How are they segmented by location, interests, income and more? A new year audit may provide a chance to step back and look at the big picture.

5. Set up a monthly ‘dashboard’ report. A monthly ‘dashboard’ report is a great way to keep track of the key numbers behind a business. The ideal dashboard might be just one page of figures and charts summing up the main customer segments, and tracking major trends in sign-ups, income etc. It should follow the same format every month to maximise comprehension, and generating this automatically will ensure it keeps happening. Consistent tracking and reporting of this kind can quickly become an essential tool for managers and staff alike.