Data-driven decisions add up for small business

Oct 15, 2021 8:25:00 AM

Data is a currency of today’s economy and its impact on society, politics and commercial success is undeniable. We hear a lot about big data, but is that relevant to small business? Let’s explore how you can benefit from data and statistics in your business decisions, and what data is available to you.

Data can help you forecast and uncover things you may otherwise miss

Business often requires us to make decisions based on our predictions of the future. This may mean anticipating busy periods, adapting to new trends or guarding against increased competition.

Our forecasts are likely to be more accurate with two things; a clear picture of what’s happened before and a wide range of indicators for what’s to come. In fact, using predictive analytics doubles your likelihood of identifying high-value customers and marketing successfully to them, according to research by marketing intelligence company, Aberdeen Group.

When stakes are high, an objective perspective can help us avoid blind spots. This is one of the reasons Business Mentors are so highly valued. It’s also why data and statistics are such an important reference point.

Statistics and data can tell you about your company, customers and competitors

One of the places data and statistics are most powerful is in helping business owners to understand their customers and market. Our blog about Understanding your Market offers ideas on how insights can help guide our approach to investment and advertising with data. But that’s only the start.

You can use data to understand more about your industry. In turn, this can help you choose a direction that will either set you apart or more closely align your offerings. For example, statistics New Zealand has tools that let you see the number of new companies in your region, check business survival rate in your industry, and see broad financial performance for your sector.

Closer to home, the data you already have can show you opportunities to improve efficiency. You could monitor the time you spend and charge for customers, the number of hours your team spends preparing or administrating projects and so on. This may uncover where value is lost or gained, allowing you to respond. Connecting this to your marketing can also show where your advertising spend is most effective.

Big data lets you learn from global standards

Data from online activity often lets you tap into the benefits of ‘big data’ to see how you compare. For example, mail marketing tools usually show an ‘open rate’ compared with industry norms and may even suggest times where your readers are more engaged.

Likewise, many media channels, such as Facebook, will show you how small tweaks to advertising wording or placements may yield better results. Such tools are continually refined based on marketing activities of countless businesses on their platforms. It means you don’t have to make a guess – you can rely on similar intel to the biggest brands in the world.

You can access useful data freely

In New Zealand, businesses can access broad census statistics and other data from government research. Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa is New Zealand's official data agency. It collects and publishes insights and data about New Zealand and helps people access it.

Local Councils offer access to a range of data categories. For example, Open Data sites for Auckland Council and Wellington Council give you information on sustainability, transport and more. Toitū te whenua Land Information Services offers geographic data against maps. Most other government ministries offer their own sets of statistics.

FigureNZ is a charity that as set up to make it easy for everyone to find and use our country’s numbers for free. The website draws together useful sets of data, as well as helping people learn how to use those numbers.

For business, FigureNZ curates useful data sets that you can search. You can find graphs such as

‘Sales value for retail, accommodation and food services in the Bay of Plenty Region’, or ‘Age of staff employed in hospitality in New Zealand’. Related information is then suggested, in the same way shops offer ideas based on your browsing. As a business owner, FigureNZ gives you access to instant benchmarks without demanding complex terms to define your search.

Start by defining your data needs

If you’re ready to ensure more of your decisions are data-driven, its useful to begin by sorting out what kind of data will be most useful to you and why. If you need external data, then Business.Govt or StatsNZ may be able to offer you guidance on where to start. If you’d like more information about your own company, then having a conversation with your Business Mentor may help you get clarity and create a plan.

Sound data and statistics can give you confidence in your business decision-making, from planning staffing, to determining new product lines or understanding industry opportunities. Data-driven decisions have an extra dimension of objectivity and combined with experience and empathy, they can help you thrive. These benefits are the perfect complement to those that come with a Business Mentor.

If you’d like to find out about being matched with a Business Mentor, then get in touch with us today through our website, or simply start the application process, here.