There is no question that we live in a data-driven world, and it is easier than ever to access a wealth of information at the click of a button. But knowing that data is important and knowing which data is important are two very different things. Many people interested in starting their own business (or thinking about starting their own business) become quickly aware of the data readily available through consumer platforms like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn.
But today, using the data results from these platforms alone are not enough, or, at the very least, need to be leveraged against other informative data.
Whether you’re building a physical location for your business or you’re simply looking into niche targeting techniques, taking advantage of any-and-all geographic data around your target audience is a must. In the restaurant industry, new location possibilities are judged on a myriad of metrics: number of households, number of businesses, traffic patterns and counts, and income levels to name a few. For non-storefront businesses, these same metrics are crucial for locating and understanding your target audience’s behavior.
The U.S. Census Bureau analyzes locations by population size, age, sex, income, transportation preferences, and other factors, all searchable by zip code, and is a great place to start doing your own consumer research in your area for your product or service. The Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) combines community lifestyle and demographic information in an interactive dashboard, providing even more targeted consumer market information.
The baseline here is: understanding your consumer behavior is essential for engagement and product offering.
It’s In Our Psychology.
Like it or not, consumer trends are often driven by our shared group traits: occupation, household income, and family values. Business owners can gain tremendous insights by studying these human patterns and how they apply to any given industry.
Take the time to gain as much insight about your customers — what are their hobbies? Age, marital status, median income, etc.? By generating a target audience based on your current customer profile, you will be able to consistently cater to a well-engaged group of prospective consumers. From proximity advertising to geosocial media, the opportunities for both gathering information about your market and communicating your message to your customers are growing every day. This data is critical for any successful up-and-coming entrepreneur, need to be leveraged.
Learning From Results.
Data is a great guide for any business owner or potential startup, and platforms are getting better and better at capturing people’s data and displaying it. But just having a pretty display of your data is not the same as understanding it.
The best way to start understanding your data is to approach it with a very specific question you want an answer for: for example, “what is the average age of my user?” If you’ve been tracking your data correctly (or using platforms we all use such as Google or Facebook which will capture this information for you automatically), the information should be readily available. Now that you have it, start to apply it to help you build a larger profile – what geographic areas does this age populate? What are their behaviors there? What are their interests at this age and what are they searching for? And, most importantly, how does your product fit into what it is this customer is potentially seeking.
Don’t Forget To Meet People.
Cutting-edge technology and top-of-the-line software is fantastic if you have access to it, but some of the most illuminating and crucial information you will find can be gathered through interactions with members of your community.
Join your local chamber of commerce. Attend city council meetings, and national conferences/conventions when available. Talk to real estate brokers who can share location and site analysis reports with you. Speak with other business owners in your area about their experiences, both good and bad. Your local fire and law enforcement departments may have access to more detailed and up-to-date information about traffic patterns and city developments than even the most sophisticated AI programs.
Regardless of whether you’re new to the business world, a franchisee, or an independent owner, a business’s success will greatly depend on your ability to collect and analyze data at every level. There’s a wealth of knowledge you can gather without ever spending a penny. A willingness to put in the time to learn will set you on the right path straight out of the gate.