Kate Burnett, General Manager of the DMA’s Talent division, discusses the barriers preventing many business leaders from embracing it as well as the opportunities for those who do
SMEs face a multitude of challenges in today’s fast-paced and digitally driven business landscape. From increased competition to changing consumer behaviours, staying relevant and profitable requires innovative strategies and customer insights.
One of the most valuable tools at their disposal is data. Yet, surprisingly, many small business owners still hesitate to fully embrace data-driven marketing and decision-making.
These businesses are not only missing out on opportunities to better engage with customers and to maximise marketing spend efficiencies, but they are risking losing these benefits while their competition is obtaining them.
Data’s unique benefits
Listed below are five of the most important benefits of a data-driven mindset.
Customer insights: Data allows small businesses to gain deep insights into their customers’ preferences, behaviours, and demographics. This information can be used to tailor marketing efforts, create personalised experiences, and anticipate future trends. This does not have to be complex, and the analytics does not require huge investment in software — most businesses already have the right software.
Cost efficiency: Data-driven marketing is highly cost-effective. By targeting specific customer segments with precision, small businesses can maximise their marketing budget and avoid wasteful spending on broad, ineffective campaigns.
Competitive edge: SMEs can use data to stay competitive by identifying gaps in the market, understanding their competitors’ strategies, and adapting quickly to changing market conditions. Furthermore, with new technology always on the horizon, small businesses should be constantly looking out for data-orientated opportunities and threats to their business.
Improved decision making: Data-driven decision making reduces the reliance on gut feeling and intuition. It provides concrete evidence to support strategic choices, reducing the risk of costly mistakes.
Customer retention: Small businesses must use data insights to build strong relationships with existing customers — this is often essential for survival and growth. By understanding customer needs and preferences, businesses can provide better customer service and retain the rightcustomers.
Challenges limiting uptake
Unfortunately, many decision makers at SMEs remain concerned by several common reasons that are preventing them from adopting data-driven strategies:
Lack of expertise: Small business owners often feel they lack the technical expertise to collect, analyse, and interpret data effectively. They may feel overwhelmed by the complexity of data tools and analytics platforms. Data ‘experts’ make it sound so complicated when it doesn’t need to be — it can simply be a case of investing in basic training for a couple of staff.
Budget constraints: Investing in data analytics tools and talent can be expensive. Many small businesses prioritise immediate expenses over long-term investments, leading to missed opportunities by being distracted with short-term vision.
Data privacy concerns: In an era of heightened data privacy awareness, small business owners may be hesitant to collect and store customer data due to concerns about data breaches and regulatory compliance. Again, this is easily rectified through core training.
Resistance to change: Change can be uncomfortable, and some business owners may resist transitioning from traditional marketing methods to data-driven approaches, even if it’s in their best interest.
Misconceptions: Small business owners may have misconceptions about data, perceiving it as a complex and unnecessary endeavour that only large corporations can benefit from. It simply isn’t. Every business can have access to it if they understand how and why.
Undertaking upskilling opportunities
This year, SMEs have a tremendous opportunity to harness the power of data for marketing and decision-making. Data provides invaluable insights, cost-efficiencies, and a competitive edge that can help businesses thrive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
Short-term costs remain a huge barrier though. Fortunately, There is a government-funded training programme launching in London and online in November 2023 — the new Data Strategy, Analytics and Measurement Skills Bootcamps, funded by the Department for Education (DfE) through its Skills for Life Programme.
This is a great opportunity for the community with 90% funded by government (SMEs pay just £350 for staff to acquire a Level 5 accredited qualification), as this type of training will help marketers, or staff who also manage marketing responsibilities, to better understand, acquire and analyse their customers’ data insights, which is vital for enhanced customer engagement and retention.
Small business owners must consider investing in data analytics training for their talent to unlock the full potential of their businesses and ensure their long-term success in the digital age. By doing so, they can create more personalised experiences, improve customer retention, and make more informed strategic decisions, ultimately driving growth and profitability.
While there are legitimate challenges and concerns associated with data adoption, the implications of not embracing it are far more detrimental.