Data Blind- Growing Businesses where Data Does Not Exist

In the world of data mining and endless research, the risk involved in starting or growing your business has been reduced considerably. With market research data giving businesses a better idea of the preferences of their target market, companies are making more comfortable choices successfully. A silicon valley firm, for instance, increased its revenues by 24% in the last quarter of 2016 as a result of their data driven strategy. Now, there are downsides to every new strategy, but the business world generally views research data as a blessing.
The question most African entrepreneurs will however ask is with the lack of data in the developing world, these stories might as well be fairytales, right?

There are still businesses out there which go through the tedium of detecting the preference of the market and determining how to present products in a most appealing form.
It’s like magic, isn’t it?
Inside the crystal ball however, are hours of information gathering and redesigning, which end in an estimate of the perfect product or service for the end user. Let’s try and navigate this mysterious space by studying the success of some industry players.

You’re your first customer, but not your only customer
First and foremost, you are your number one customer. If a different company was sampling views on their product, they will have no qualms with tailoring their specifications to your preferences. There is therefore no challenge with making a product which you and your team would love to use. But don’t be so attached to your design that you choose your personal ideals over what has obviously been approved by a wider audience. You’re not your only customer.
Since your target market includes you, it becomes easier to estimate what the preferences of the market are. Do you remember those long queues at the bus stop after lectures or having to wait hours for food to be delivered? That is the information you need to design your product or service. Before you hit the streets to sample the views of potential customers, have a brainstorming session where you write down every aspect of the problem your product is out to solve that you can think of. This will be the basis for designing your minimum viable product (MVP).

Don’t stop developing
If there’s no data on public preferences on your business area, you can get your own data by taking your MVP out to the market and sampling public views on it. The changes that your sample audience recommend can end up developing a totally new product, but it will suit the needs of your target market better.
When Apple faced challenges in iPhone sales last year, they spent a projected $10 billion on R&D, a 30% increase from 2015. This shows that no matter how popular your product is or how much of a strain it is on your resources, it is important to continually invest in interacting with your target market and continually developing your product to serve the needs of your customers. Your product is only perfect till you find a way to make it better.

Stay trendy
Though it is vital to have a unique selling proposition, it is just as important to observe growing trends in your industry and incorporate into your design. Between 2009 and 2013, Blackberry dropped from being the fastest growing company in the world to having 3% market share, because they could not keep up with Apple and Google. Whilst consumers across the world were wowed by increasing apps and touchscreen keyboards, Blackberry stubbornly stuck with its “strictly business” model, and jumped on the wagon too late.
To avoid this problem, you will need to keep you finger on the pulse by observing the competition and checking what the latest trends are for you target market. It could be something unrelated to your core business, like twitter hashtags or a viral video. But if you find a creative way to incorporate these trends into your product and marketing model, you will remain relevant and maintain top of the mind awareness in your market.

The challenges with not having readily available data to feed into your business plan are considerable and the situation needs to be remedied immediately. In lieu of this, however, life must go on. Taking up these challenges also means you will be blazing the trail for others to learn from you. So go out there and make it happen! Maybe in a few years you’ll be the success story we will analyse.

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