Data is regularly underestimated. There is a bounty of value in data but small businesses generally aren’t taking advantage of this priceless information. Profiting from the benefits data can bring is something large corporations are accustomed to doing. Indeed, data is one of their primary focus points. Without their customer data they wouldn’t be able to do any direct marketing (online or offline), produce accurate analytics, forecasting, research or deliver quality customer service.
Dealing with data is very much like a dance: failing to embrace it, interpret it and improve your business processes via learning from it, results in you being out of step with your customers, not moving to their rhythm but ultimately being out of touch and tune with them instead. Without utilizing data there’s no point giving most marketing methods a twirl or sales a whirl because your efforts are likely to be fruitless without being based on the proper studying of solid customer data and trends.
The perfect dancing partner for data is a Customer Relationship Management system such as Zoho. With these 8 ways for SMEs to harness the power of data and catch up to big corporations, here’s why:
- Identify what ‘data’ means to your business. What information should your team be capturing, learning from, developing to help your customers and enhance your brand?
- Save ALL of your data somewhere safe and secure.
- Review your data – How much do you have, can you collect more, have you been efficient in the past, do you need to get some of it scanned into electronic format?
- Analyse your data if you can – Simple summary reports give a lot of insight. A natural starting point is looking at where the relationship between your existing customers and your business began and what is your most successful ‘channel’ for meeting people or getting new business.
- Look after your data and build on it – Find the right system that works for your business. Structure your data so that it’s fast and easy to find key information when you need it. Never underestimate the importance of labelling data as this forward thinking can be a time (and life!) saver in the long run.
- Think ahead – How can you use your data and be more proactive? What about communicating with the people that you have in your database/list/system? Why ‘waste’ contacts that may have been inactive or ‘dormant’ for a while by not engaging with them?!
- Be smart about what you say to who. You can be a lot more accurate when you have your data structured into specific categories. The common mistake small businesses tend to make is to inform everybody about everything that they do. This isn’t targeted enough. People want to feel special, like you are talking directly to them. They don’t want an email or letter/leaflet telling them about everything that you’re selling.
- Give – Data is valuable but so are the people that are included in that ‘data’. Don’t look at the data process as an opportunity to sell and talk ‘at’ your contacts and customers; look at it as an opportunity to give something. Giving doesn’t always have to cost. You can give your knowledge for free in short videos, blogs or newsletters sprinkled with top tips related to your field of expertise. That’s what people appreciate. Once you have a relationship with your contacts and they ‘like’ you, then they will choose whether to buy from you or not. They won’t buy from you just because you have sent them information about your services (well not in the majority of cases anyway).
Just like professional dancers only reach the heights of perfect poise and glorious grace through practice and nurturing their talent, data needs to be looked after for the following reasons:
- Relationships – How can you build genuine relationships with everyone you meet if you don’t look after the data you collect about those people?
- Business Asset – Many small business owners don’t look at it this way but data is an asset to your business. Without coveted customers and contacts, organised in a system, where is the value in your business?
- Insights – When you analyse or review your data (even with simple charts/reports) you gain powerful information that allows you to shape, direct and grow your business in the right direction.
- Speed and follow-up – Data in a structured system saves you time and effort. You can search quickly for information and you can follow-up on relationships/tasks without forgetting.
- External Security – Data protection can be a scary subject for some businesses, especially those that are B2C and record personal information about their clients. We’ve seen many examples of this kind of data being stored in spreadsheets on laptops, which can easily be accessed or stolen. It’s not difficult to comply with European (and UK if you need to) data protection laws. When you are choosing a system make sure that relative company is signed up to the Safe Harbour Privacy Principles agreement, as a minimum requirement.
- Internal Security and Ownership – What about protecting your data internally and knowing which member of your team has created it, changed it or followed-up on it? Organising your data into a shared system creates very effective collaboration and team work. However, it does also open up the risk to internal members taking data away with them if they leave. Most online systems now allow you to shield your data from unwanted exports or deletions. It’s an easy step with a big, big saving in terms of lost business, clients or reputation.
- Marketing – Without data how can you carry out any targeted marketing other than leaflets/banners and brand awareness?
We have lots of experience helping clients address some or all of these areas. A great example is the support we gave The Real Cider Company. We analysed all of their historical sales so that they knew exactly what their best sales channel was (and could then focus their time and resources more effectively) and built an online system for them so that they could all collaborate as a team, following-up on leads and clients. We also advised The Real Cider Company on marketing campaigns to send from the new system.
For more of our case studies in handling data visit our website, or, if you think you and your business dances with two left feet when it comes to data, get in touch!