Are you still relying on gut instinct, proven practices and product or service differentiation to maintain your competitive advantage? It’s a strategy that has worked well for many small businesses to date. However, as big business takes full advantage of big data to gain valuable customer insights, it’s likely your larger competitors are gaining ground — or maybe they’ve already outpaced you.
The good news is corralling vast amounts of complex customer data and making data-driven decisions isn’t just for large corporations with deep pockets and sizeable IT departments anymore. Thanks to the proliferation of cloud-based services, social media, mobile applications and analytics tools, small businesses can now harness custom insights to strengthen customer relationships, improve marketing efforts and enhance products or develop new ones.
Here are some tips for how you can make big data work for your small business:
1) Find a Partner that Understands You
It’s true that many marketing automation solutions designed to manage big data were developed for large enterprises. And, it’s very likely the providers of those solutions aren’t accustomed to implementing or customizing their technology for the needs of small business. However, as more and more big data companies emerge, you will find among them many entrepreneurs who have started out small and built their business on being nimble — just like you. Seek out partners who have an understanding of small business and offer either solutions that are just right for you or are willing to tailor solutions to your specific needs.
2) Start with Your Website
There are plenty of website analytics tools you can pay for, but Google Analytics is a free web performance monitoring tool that you can implement right away simply by adding a tracking code to your site. It provides a wealth of insight into your customers’ behavior, how they interact with your site and short- and long-term trends. While there is a learning curve to take full advantage of the program, once you’re up to speed you will find it’s worth the time and effort investment. Plus, there extensive tutorials available online. Here are just some of insights you can glean from Google Analytics:
- How much traffic your site generates and where visitors go when they get there.
- What social media channels are performing and referring visitors to your site.
- How many visitors are using mobile devices — even the specific device type.
- What your visitors are interested in, their age and gender.
- How much revenue your e-commerce site generates and how long it takes for customers to make a purchase decision.
3) Consider Multiple Solutions
Typically, big data solution providers have one solution designed for big corporations that come with a high price tag and require a complex set to skills to run and manage. There’s little to no flexibility for smaller operations. Often, small businesses do better with multiple solutions that work with specific business systems and applications already in place for sales, marketing, human resources and accounts payable. Starting from scratch would be too costly and time-consuming for most small businesses.
4) Remove Geographic Limitations
One of the distinct values of the cloud and big data is it eliminates geographic boundaries for your business. Through the cloud, you can share information and connect with customers—anywhere, anytime—no matter where you are located. With data that tells you where you customers are and what products or services interest them regionally or even locally, you can target your marketing more precisely and uncover new opportunities to grow.