Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - January 23, 2008

Information vs. Action

We all like to read survey results, and many service providers take particular interest in surveys of their customers, collections of responses that reveal how those customers are acting and thinking.

Unfortunately, far too often, "that's interesting" is as far as they get! I am often surprised to meet organizations and individuals who don't take the next step, who don't ask what how they can apply that "interesting" point to be more successful with those customers.

For discussion purposes, let's look at the ongoing small business survey series from Discover Financial Services. Their "Small Business Watch" presents results from independently conducted polls of about 1,000 small business owners and 4,000 "potential users of small business products and services" every month. They always report on respondents' confidence in the economy, and on financing issues. But they also poll other aspects of small business life that can guide us in serving this market.

Now, I have suggested before that small business owners greatly value reduced hassle, high efficiency, and flexible service. "Who wouldn't?" you say. But consider these findings released in May of 2007:

Given those findings, how much more will these business owners appreciate any time savings and efficiency, compared to your average customer? Do you think they'll be impressed when, if they call your business while their regular contact is away, no one else can help them?

Findings like these help you identify areas where you can gain some competitive advantage over your rivals, but only if you take action.

And don't make the mistake of paying so much attention to data that confirms what you already believe that you don't pick up the pockets of opportunity hidden in the information. In December of 2007, this survey of small business owners revealed that 65% of them believed general economic conditions were getting worse, and 42% experienced cash flow issues over the previous 90 days. Times are tough, credit is tight, businesses are hunkering down, right?

In the same survey, 32% planned to increase spending on activities on business development activities, advertising, and inventory. 28% of them said that economic conditions for their own businesses were improving! Opportunities may take a little more searching, but they haven't vanished, by any means.

You can find similar surveys and information on just about any niche you serve, not just small businesses. Looking for that information is a good idea.

Acting on it is a great one.