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Why you should own your data

As a start-up, you’re probably still figuring out the way people use your products and starting to monetize your data. At this stage, an out of the box tool will be able to take care of what you need done as using a more advanced tool would be doing too much at this stage.

In the future, you’ll learn that it’s quite valuable to be able to do your own monetization in any way you can imagine without the need to export from these tools and you need to own your database to do that.

This lesson shares key reasons why you should own your data and what your options for data storage are.

Now or later?

At the moment, you probably only ask simple questions of your data like “what is my retention rate, “where do my referral signups come from?” and they can be easily answered by out of the box tools even helping you get quite far with graphs, dashboards and funnel reports. With this you are able to quickly make decisions just as easily as setting up the tool is. There is no deep engineering required besides implementing and tracking. 

However, as you grow and reach product-market fit, it might get difficult to get answers to your complex questions or unusual signals on your data. Now you have nuanced questions like “how can I weigh the value of my channels” “what is the result when a user begins their journey on web and finishes on mobile?”. It is now quite difficult for basic tools to give you specific in-depth reports on these questions and if you don’t have control over your own data you have but two choices, either use the tools you have to get incomplete answers or don’t answer at all. 

 If you have ownership of your data at this point, you have a leg up and more value for the following reasons:

  • having your own data warehouse where data is kept in a normal format and layering command like SQL or BI tools gives you flexible access to your business questions answers.
  • Managing your own database containing your data future proofs marketing tech stack options. Moving to a new tool is easy as you can simply import data into the new tool.

Ways to own your data 

There’s no need to panic if you don’t own your data yet. There are a few ways you can take control and gain ownership of your databases.

  • Google analytics: used by many, loved by all, google analytics is one of the nest ways to slice and dice a business’s aggregate visitor data. However, the free version of Google Analytics does not come with access to your raw data. To get unfiltered raw customer data, you’ll need to upgrade to the pricier Google Analytics 360 using Google BigQuery.
  • Mixpanel: this is an event based platform that comes with an API you can use in exporting your data.  Its free to use their raw data export API however you will only be able to run one export a project at a time.
  • You can also create a customer data pipeline on your own using data pipeline management tech like Kinesis Firehose or Kafka. Using this method will require some heavy engineering resources so tread with caution!

As your business progresses, you will have more need for access to your raw customer data using interfaces like SQL that are flexible. Before you get to that level, the best thing is to leverage hosted tools and use their reporting as much as you can. If you set up a low cost data warehouse now and carry out quick dumps of data to them, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and give yourself an advantage in the future.

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