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Lacking insight, SMEs' leaders rely on gut instinct

Written by Ryan McChrystal on Tuesday, 11 November 2014. Posted in Sales & Marketing

A survey has found that most SMEs are making decisions without knowing exactly what the customer wants

Lacking insight, SMEs' leaders rely on gut instinct

Whatever happened to 'the customer is always right'? Traditionally, knowing your customers and what they want is vital to success but in today’s climate of more sophisticated and demanding customers it is becoming increasingly difficult to accomplish. That’s why 72% of SME leaders make decisions based purely on gut instinct rather than any statistical, qualitative or quantitative insight from customers.

This is according to the figures in a recent report by SurveyMonkey, which also found that 90% of these leaders felt this level of insight was the sole preserve of big brands due to traditional costs involved. Seemingly these entrepreneurs don't think they have the business genius of Steve Jobs – who once famously said "people don’t know what they want until you show it to them" – but more they are trusting their instincts because they feel they have little choice. More than one-third (36%) of SME bosses complain that their business lacks the customer data required to make timely decisions and four-fifths (81%) of leaders would like to access customer insight more regularly but complain it’s too expensive and too time-consuming to gather.

Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey said: “It’s not surprising that with all the data available today, business decision makers still rely on gut. This is because it’s hard to get quality, actionable data as fast as the speed of business.”

When asked about their own behaviour, half of bosses admit they rely either mostly or completely on instinct alone when making business decisions, while barely one-in-ten rely mostly or solely on data. The study reveals that surprisingly few businesses are accessing external sources of insight to stay abreast of customers’ changing wants and needs. Less than a third of SMEs perform market research polls (30%) or source customer insight via social media (32%). Meanwhile less than a quarter (22%) of SMEs access market analyst reports and just 15% employ ‘big data’ analytics of customer behaviour.

Goldberg said: “Two-thirds of business leaders tell us they only trust market data ‘to some extent’ – in short, most take it with a pinch of salt.” He added: “However, many leaders also tell us that with regular access to fast, accurate customer insight, their businesses would be more agile, more competitive, more innovative and would ultimately grow faster.” 

About the Author

Ryan McChrystal

Ryan McChrystal

In a previous life McChrystal wrote about asset management in the Middle East. A history and politics graduate from the north of Ireland, he now focuses his efforts a little closer to home. 

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