Think of these activities as a natural extension of what a business already does. They’re almost certainly used to thinking carefully about a target market, but now they simply need to find the best ways to identify where more of that market is to be found. Having done that, they can work out how to contact them – by post, through a leaflet campaign, via email or on social media.
There is skill needed to understand the numbers and more skill in strategising the next steps forward - these can be brought in on a project basis. Analytics isn’t the preserve of the big companies either.
The final piece of the jigsaw is, of course, the message – what a company will say to these potential new customers. Again, data can give an edge. A company can personalise the message if you know they’re dealing with and also think about what message is likely to be most effective for each target, as well as when and how to deliver it.
For example, for a local clothes retailer specialising in school uniform, knowing where every parent with school age children in the area lives will pay dividends. If they focus on getting in touch with special offers over the summer months, when most parents buy school uniform, they’ll do even better.
Similarly, if a business is providing specialist accountancy services to other small businesses, knowing where those firms are to be found – and their deadlines for jobs such as filing tax returns – gives an edge over competitor firms without that data.
Using such techniques can grow a business much faster. And this is likely to be just the beginning. Increasingly, apps are available to help SMEs integrate different types of data into their business development work and the software-as-a-service model. So, for example a local taxi firm can use technology integrating data sources such as live transport updates to despatch cars to railway stations just when passengers are about to arrive in their droves, usurping the need for an Uber.
In the end, it’s all very old school - knowing the market, knowing the customers and anticipating demand. Using data alone to do that gives scale but lacks nuance. Using local knowledge gives some insider knowledge, but that knowledge remains limited by personal experience.
The canny use of data and personal relationships with customers can give some SMEs the best of both worlds - small and scale to drive their growth.
At Galway Business School you can learn to deliver innovation through a Certificate in Data Analysis programme as part of the our part-time suite of courses. Or browse all of the business courses we have available.