Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Using data to design your business

How information can help you better target customers

Watch a game on television and you will often hear the announcer comment about how one sports team seems to know what their opponent is going to do before they do it.

What if you could find a way to make this type of scenario work for your business? We are not suggesting the customer is an opponent, but we can find and use information so that you can understand what they are going to do. More importantly, the information can help you determine what you can do to get more of their business.

You could begin gathering this information through your local utilities. A report is created of all the new accounts each month. Obtaining these reports from the utilities, you could cull through them to determine those new residents in the part of your community you consider to be your trade area. Creating a marketing piece to reach out to these people, you can invite them to visit your business in anticipation of the new homeowner wanting to find new places to shop. Many of the businesses that have used this type of marketing have offered an initial discount or gift certificate to entice the new residents to visit and establish a shopping relationship.

The concern with this list, while being that of new accounts, does not let you know if that account has moved from across the country or simply across the street. A marketing piece that says, ‘Welcome to our community. We hope you enjoy your new home” will appear odd going to someone that has been a resident of the community for years.

There are companies that offer a service of gathering this information and culling through all the names to provide you a list that is appropriate for your business. These same companies likely offer services to create the initial marketing piece for you. All of this is good, but it represents a one time initial contacting of a new customer.

You can do a lot more. What if you knew about those individuals within your trade area; not just the new ones but all of them? Knowing more about your customers is a lot like the coaching staff that has information on their next opponent.

The challenge is finding this demographic information and finding it at an affordable price. Places to start the search begin with organizations like the local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Development Council. Another place to gather some of this information is the media; television, radio, and newspaper can all tell you something about the people in your area. You should also consider looking to the companies that distribute direct mail material.

While we would not question the validity of the data from any of these sources, we do need to look at components of the information. With the data of the radio and television, it is going to tell you about who watches and listens to those particular media. It is data that is helpful in selecting whether or not that particular media is right for your business.

A newspaper may have distribution and editions that are specific to the various neighborhoods or communities. The newspaper may have data about each of the neighborhoods or communities that will tell you about the residents of each of those distribution areas.

The direct mail company, the people that send the ‘junk mail’ and targeted mail pieces, will have information about the areas they distribute in. Of course, with any of the companies providing the information, their desire is that you use them to get your message to the buying public. What is important is your using the right one.

Past your selection of the appropriate media, there is a second and perhaps more important reason for you to look at their data.  This information can help you to build your business. What could possibly be that valuable in this data?

Having looked at some of this data, one item to look at is the percentage of residents that own the home they are living in. The local garden center knows a home owner is going to take better care of the place than a renter will.

Two pieces of data that work together would be the price of the home and income of the residents. Look at this data for the area around your business as well as for the area around your competition. What is the quality of the merchandise you are selling? Is the merchandise of the appropriate price range?

What percentage of the homes have swimming pools? In addition to pools, should the local hardware store consider selling barbecue grills, patio furniture, and anything else related to the outdoors? The data will also tell you if there are any children living in the residences in your area; do you have products for children to use? Clothing stores want to know this.

Look for information about the age of the residents. Are you selling to retirees or to those who are working? In conjunction you may see how far the working people are driving to work. This information can tell you when to expect your shoppers to visit your business. The driving information can tell you how late you should be open. If the customer is driving an hour to work each day, you will see why closing at 6pm means you are not going to get any evening business – your customer is still driving home from work.

Studying this data and learning how to make decisions will profit your business as well as help make decisions about media choices. This data gives you a tremendous competitive advantage of knowing the opportunities before you. The more you know, the more you can profit.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179