Data Driven Differentiation - An Apt Alliteration

Most small business owners will say the same thing; they started their business knowing their industry but not much else. Owning a business is one of the most brutal School of Hard Knocks in which people will willingly enroll. And while some are at graduate level, most are still taking the 101’s. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of the most important aspects of running a business is not practiced by many; establishing and keeping an eye on metrics.

Outside of sales, there are very few metrics that are routinely reported on in most small businesses. And even though the sales numbers are watched, marketing is vastly under reported on, considering the direct result it has on sales. For example, assuming it makes sense to say that meeting new potential clients or center of influence individuals would help your sales goals, do you a record of how many networking events, new connections or introductions you or your sales staff realize each month? Do you have a goal for these? Measuring these things will most certainly not just give you better results, but guidance on what works and what can work better.

Marketing is a very easy example to make and for most companies it will also be much more than that. The things that can be measured are vast, the things that should be measured are limited and unique. As a matter of fact, what you measure and what you do with that information will likely be a major contributor to your differentiator. This is what makes them unique. Going back to Amazon as an example, how many different books they sold was not what set them apart, it was how fast they got them to you and how easy it was to buy from that made them who they are today. In a world of Barnes and Nobles and B. Daltons, selling books was not a differentiator. But when they measured how fast they could get them out to the client and how many clicks the client had to make in order to place the order, they fine-tuned their processes all the way to world domination.

When we first opened, we stereo typically measured just our bottom line. A pair of IT professionals with years of experience managing networked environments and a passion streamlining small business operations with technologies that made sense.  We gave each our clients special attention but until we started to experience traction in our business, we started to lose some focus. Then we started to listen to our clients. We wanted to know what it was they liked about what we did and we started to find ways to measure for those qualities. The result was a regain of focus and a reputation for what we do.

If you find it difficult to differentiate yourself in your market, talk to your staff. Ask them what is important to your clients. Then review your processes and figure out how to measure for that. Make sure that you are not just collecting the information but using it to create that differentiator you want.

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