Businesses have tangible and intangible assets. In the same vein, they have strategic assets of which data is one of them, and they are at the intersection of tangible and intangible assets. These assets create persistent benefits unique to the business and cannot be imitated. Some of them include intellectual property, customer relationships/data, proprietary business processes and algorithms, novel revenue streams, and brand value.
To develop a business strategy, you need to importantly get data. With data, you can chart an appropriate course for your business and differentiate yourself from other businesses.
Though data collected may be units of quantitative or qualitative information regarding past events, you can take advantage of them when analyzed to predict future occurrences and plan ahead.
In our article on tracking and using data for decision making as a business owner, we identified customer data, financial data and employee data as some of the data types that can be used to make decisions if properly analyzed. In this article, we will address a typical process you can follow to gather and make good use of the data gathered to enhance the development of a business strategy.
- Data Collation
Collecting data can be done through different means, either online or offline sources. Some online sources include your website, email, or e-commerce platforms; while offline sources include one-on-one conversations (e.g., customer care cases) or vendors / agents, amongst others. As a small business owner, to adequately gather reliable data, you need to:
- Ascertain your company’s goals, why you need the data and what you want to achieve.
- Be clear on the data sets you wish to capture. For instance, a fashion designer may be more interested in the age, gender, and location of his/her customers; the rate of purchase of each customer and how they make their orders, the rates of various suppliers of fabrics over a period or the cost of recruiting tailors and managing them or outsourcing. On the other hand, an auto parts dealer may be interested in the income level, social status of his/her customers or exchange rates. This shows that the type of data each business owner is interested in differs.
- Classify and identify all the possible touchpoints you need to harness to get the data.
- Develop a format/structure that can enable you to collect the data. For businesses that are mostly offline, you can use a google form or MS Office form to list the data you require and craft a beautiful appreciation text message or email that you can share with your customer with the link to the form for them to fill. Bear in mind that you need to also assure your customers of the privacy of their information and be transparent about how you intend to use same.
- Establish how often you want to collect the data. Some data sets are static and may not change for a while, while others are dynamic and change at intervals. Thus, you need to be clear about the frequency of data collection.
- Data Analysis
This is simply the process of making meaning out of the data collected by identifying what happened, why it happened and sometimes what is likely to happen if certain aspects of your business operation change. In analysing your data sets after collation, you should consider incorporating visualization to quickly make sense of the data. With a business intelligence platform, you can achieve this easily. For example, the OZÉ business intelligence tool in collaboration with FCMB can enable you analyse your financial data seamlessly.
- Data Utilisation
Now that you have the data and you have analysed them, then you can create actionable plans to utilize them to your advantage. For instance, the fashion designer who collated the age, gender and location of her customers would most likely now know the age range, gender and location of the customers that patronize his/her business the most and the least. With this insight, she can choose to increase her clientele base in the location that patronize her the least by attracting them with exciting offers e.g. free delivery to that location, or give loyalty cards to the age group or gender category that has patronized the business the most.
Ideally, the insights gained from analysing the data collated enables you as a business owner to decide on the strategy to adopt vis-a-vis your business goals and objectives.