This election has influenced people in a number of ways, both good and bad. One of the emerging political trends though that isn't at the forefront of people's mind, is the use of data analysis. Both campaigns' data analysis strategies have been covered here and here), demonstrated on blogs such as FiveThirtyEight and the New York Times, and served as the cornerstone for every major news network when it comes to election coverage (just google search "Data Journalism" to see what I mean). Data is such a pivotal part of the election and has been for several election cycles now, with polls serving as the main source of analysis, that it's importance can easily be overlooked.

All this investment in data analysis means good things for small businesses and startups. With big money being thrown into data analysis, it's helped further the investment in tools and technologies that small businesses and startups can now take advantage of to grow their customer base.

Here's just a couple of the ways you can take advantage of the same tools and technologies national parties use to target voters, and grow your customer base

1. Location & Demographic Analysis

Different neighborhoods tend to attract people that fall within similar demographic groups, which is how campaigns target who to hit with ads, campaign events, etc. Though it's obvious to most small business owners, they don't always leverage the data surrounding that fact to influence marketing / advertising. Before you decide where to spend marketing dollars, either via offline (radio, paper ads, bulletin boards, etc) or online (social media, website, etc), take a hard look at who your customer is via their address. If you have zip codes of customers, look at where in a city or state they live and use that as a basis to better understand who your customer is based on where they live and why.

There is a lot of free data online for analyzing demographics by zip code (here for example), and can be analyzed using a number of tools including Microsoft Excel, or Google Sheets. If you're just starting up, one option is to sign up for Microsoft BizSpark and get Excel for free as you're getting started. If you get lost though, consider working with a third party or service initially to get a strong start to analyzing this type of data. DISCLAIMER: My company, Equinauts, is a current "BizSpark" member.

2. (Meaningful) Social Media Analysis

Everyone today is looking at social media to try and grow awareness of their business. A company can spend a lot of money though with very little return, if they don't leverage social media the right way. Start with a series of small "experiments", rotating things like messaging on different social media channels, then measure the impact on sales (not traffic / likes). Once you've determined what drives the most revenue, expand on that approach as you analyze the outcomes till traffic dies down, then repeat the "experiment" in a month or two.

There's a number of tools that are provided via ad platforms, such as Google AdWords, that you can use to analyze the effectiveness of campaigns. Before signing up for an expensive paid service, consider if the free tools can tell you enough about what's working to start.

If you don't sell your products or services nationally, don't advertise nationally. It's easy to dive into social media analysis and not target people close by, which translates into a lot of likes but not much revenue to show for it if you rely on foot traffic to drive sales. Make sure you're targeting people that can make a difference to your business vs just growing popularity and awareness online.

3. Separating Good vs Bad Customers

In politics, showing up to support the candidate when they're in town needs to translate to volunteering or donating for a campaign, or the candidates will lose steam quickly. Consider analyzing past sales to figure out who you're incentivizing and why, to make sure you're creating incentives for the right customer's versus rewarding bad behavior (ex: giving coupons to customers that only shop when there is a promotion going on vs. giving coupons to customers that end up buying more products at full price).

Experiment with promotion programs, to see what drives customers to grow their lifetime profitability vs. total visits. These "daily deal" customers will initially look like they're valuable because of how often they buy and so they get targeted for more promotions, but may not be very profitable to your business because they never buy something at full price.

There are several other ways you can begin to leverage data to grow your business. The key is to start small and prove the return on your investment before subscribing in to more expensive services that may be harder to understand.