To be able to survive any crisis and still manage to grow, you've got to make the most of your data.
When the world gets turned upside down overnight, it can be difficult to know how your business should respond. Do you sit tight and wait for it all to blow over? Do you discount aggressively to maintain sales? How long can you survive if things get worse?
Without robust data, businesses are flying blind in these situations, and that’s not a good place to be. McKinsey research found that long-term strategic adjustments are required for sustainable success in an evolving business environment.
And while instinct may have done you well in the past, it’s time to make those long-term strategic adjustments through the lens of robust data looking at the business as a whole, not in distinct siloes.
Many SMEs have been in survival mode since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the UK in March 2020, and rapid evolution is now essential for those businesses if they wish to succeed in the new climate. There are reasons to be optimistic, however – research shows that the SMEs that invest in innovation and manage to adapt quickly will begin to thrive again more quickly than competitors.
To understand the market and stay competitive, small businesses need to embrace a data-driven approach and use tools to analyse their data. By doing this, they can get a clearer picture of their own position, identify areas where they can improve operations, and understand how customer behaviour is changing. This is especially important during challenging times.
For example, some businesses have seen unexpected upturns because of the change in people’s working lives and their new pastimes. Coffee shops in our cities are struggling while home coffee makers have seen big increases in direct consumer demand. The boom in the DIY market as people stay at home has tested the UK supply chain and resulted in consumers taking a more direct route to manufacturers.
The SMEs that are slower to adapt operations to these changes might be feeling restrained by legacy processes, such as their existing sales order processing data capture and links to their marketing campaigns.
To maintain momentum and drive revenue, its’s important to use better data capture processes and encourage greater use of that data. How fast SMEs can adapt will depend on their existing business processes in this area.
Consider the customer data you already have on record – it could be spread across online databases, spreadsheets and paper files if you don’t already have a CRM system. When a customer makes an order via telephone or online, do you capture their email address and phone number? How easy is it to change these details?
Take it to the next step: If you’re capturing these details, what do you do with them? Can you quickly set up a series of intelligent email campaigns based on stored data about previous purchases and emerging buying patterns?
By making simple changes to how you enter sales orders and using that data in marketing, you can increase your revenue. To do this, you’ll need to integrate your systems and customize your processes. Platforms such as Sage200 and SAP Business One can be used to capture data from anywhere in the business and bring it together to help generate insights on customer behaviours.
“In these uncharted waters, where the tides continue to shift, it’s not surprising that analytics, widely recognized for its problem-solving and predictive prowess, has become an essential navigational tool,” writes McKinsey. “Analytics supports numerous urgent tasks facing businesses today: forecasting demand, identifying potential supply-chain disruptions, targeting support services to at-risk workers, and determining the effectiveness of crisis intervention strategies, to name a few.”
Data is nothing without a business culture that supports it, and SMEs need to not only invest in the tools but also make data a core part of employee workflows and mindsets. Data must be made available across teams – get it out of silos and into analytics tools. It must be treated as a product with real ROI. With this approach to data, businesses can be much more agile and ready to make the most of the market, whatever its state.
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Functional silos aren’t as rigid as they appear, and your organisation is more agile than you think. You’re already sitting on a goldmine of data – it’s time to bring it all together and use it to drive your business forward.
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