Consistently with small businesses I hear a similar line of reasoning that involves Customers, wants or direction. The thinking goes down one of these two paths. My existing Customers tell me….. or I sold a lot of these over a certain period of time.

The issue that comes up is how do you make decisions or choose direction based on an incredibly small amount of data points. In fact, sometimes only one. On a parallel course is the concept of “is what you have done to get where you are what you need to do to get where you want to go”. These issues collide in these conditions.

If you have sold 60 pieces (out of 75 – I sold a lot) all to one Customer (of 3 that bought the product -my customers tell me), can you make an observation that this is a good selling item or not? Can you make an observation about whether this product is productive for your entire company? Can you even say whether there is any reason to keep it going forward?

No, you flat out can not because you need context about the possibly successful customer. How did they get great results? Did they even get great results or did they give away 50 pieces in a promotion? Is this customer repeatable in the market place? Can you get 100 customers to get the same result?

There are dozens, hundreds and thousands of ways that single data points can kill your business because you made black and white decisions based on some assumption you made about the very limited results you have seen thus far. Those decisions could encourage you to keep going or suggest you stop on a marketing effort, a product direction or even an entire strategy.

Don’t get caught in a limited data decision without knowing everything about the limited data you have and match it to what you are working to achieve. When the knowledge of the limited data result is thorough, or the time has been allowed for limited data to become broad data, then make your decisions. In the meantime, keep going on the strategy, plan, effort you have laid out and get the data that you need.

When you look in and find that only 3 of 100 stores bought the product, it does not matter whether you have sold 60 to one or 75 to three or not. The problem is in the selling the product into the channel, not the item itself.

If you can’t get this level of understanding with the systems you have in place, you are the equivalent of driving a car at night with a flashlight and no gauges in the fog. Sure you might get where you are going or you might not and either way, it’s going to be really slow, or really dangerous. Choice is yours.