Running a business means making decisions. Every day there are challenges to be faced, important choices to be taken and ultimately the responsibility is yours. You need to make the right decisions that avoid problems for your business: avoid loss, avoid reputational damage, avoid closing off opportunities for the future. You also need to avoid the fallacies and mental traps that can draw you off course: false economies are tempting but they offer a short term for a long term disadvantage that may be crippling. Confidence can tip over into arrogance which leads you to make bullish decisions that founder when they run up against reality. Caution can turn into anxiety that paralyses you when you to take action.
It’s a minefield, but there is a map to it available! Using data gives you the confidence to make decisions without freezing up, and acts as a reality check. You’re not going to run headlong into a bad decision if you’re serious about gathering information first. As well giving you objective facts to measure your personal confidence against, the process of research and interpretation builds in reflection time to your decision-making process. It stops you plunging ahead without thinking, which, regardless of the outcome is a poor habit to get into.
One of the most important means of data gathering is working with a market research firm. It’s vital to know what consumers are thinking, feeling and planning. While you can conduct your own market research you don’t have the ability to reach people beyond your own customers, and while it’s important to stay in touch with them to ensure they feel valued, it’s not going to tell you anything about people who’ve not chosen to use your business! It’s not going to be a route to growth, and that’s one of the most vital ways for data to justify the investment you need to make in it.
Brand tracking is some of the most vital market research you can invest in. It shows you how consumers think about your brand and your competitors. It’s great for checking on the general state of your business: all the different decisions you take feed into the overall strength of your brand so tracking it over months and years gives you the data to assess how successful recent decisions have been, and then begin to predict what the outcome will be for future decisions. Interpreting the data gives you a clear guide that helps you avoid bad decisions and steer your business into a brighter future.