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Using Big Data for Your Small Business

Big data is, well, big. It may be so big that it almost overwhelms you, like some towering stack of documents threatening to spill and cover the office floor. You spend more energy propping up the tower than scaling it down to manageable size.

But you can. You can conquer the stack of paper, and you can master big data—not to mention use it to impact your small business for the good. Big data is big, but it’s wholly beneficial, too. With it, you know how your business is performing. You also understand your customers better, which allows you to improve marketing and sales efforts and subsequently grow profits.

Make Big Data Small

The trick lies in making big data “small.” You don’t need all the data in the world, only the data important to your business.

That’s small data. It’s the information that shows gaps in workflows, assesses customer satisfaction and identifies inventory needs. As such, it creates a foundation from which to make sound business decisions.

Understand Big Data’s Role In Your Business

Many people call the capability “business intelligence.” You can use any term you like, but the result’s the same: enhanced business performance.

But big data offers other advantages. You can use it to accomplish some of the following tasks.

  1. Segment customers. Big data delivers more detailed customer profiles, giving you the chance to segment people by occupation, geographic region or life stage. You can then use the segmentations to personalize communications, such as email newsletters and social media campaigns.
  2. Identify trends. You probably can’t spend all day watching the stock market or news, so let a big data solution do the work for you. Use it to follow current trends. You should also use it to examine past trends, including sales cycles and workforce needs. You can then combine the two data pools to inform hiring and cash flow needs.
  3. Study the competition. Big data essentially turns you into a private eye. Gone are the days of combing through web results and digging into websites. Big data does the work for you, and then some. It captures all sorts of data from a plethora of sources, giving you the information needed to stand out and stay ahead.
  4. Hire top talent. Big data also allows you to sift through employee applications, saving you time and money. You can now hire the best candidate and be 90 percent confident that the new hire will be a cultural fit for the organization.
  5. Change your business. Big data can show gaps in your current business model. It can also identify products and services that should be retired or developed. If you follow what the data dictates, you’ll improve business efficiency, productivity and profits.

 

Overcome Big Data Barriers

“That’s all great,” you may be thinking, “but how do I actually do any of that?”

Great question. Many small business owners fear the amount of time needed to maintain big data or the expense of investing in a big data solution. Fortunately, Software as a Service (SaaS), which includes big data platforms, has dropped dramatically in price the past few years.

You also don’t have to be a data scientist to take advantage of big data. All you need is your already-existing business acumen and a couple of tips.

  1. Identify what matters to your business. Take some time to figure out where you would like to focus efforts first. Some business owners may want to grow the bottom line. Others care about getting in front of new customers.
  2. Decide on technology. Technology enables your work in big data. When looking at potential platforms, ask about flexibility, scalability and ease of use. You should also ask about integrations. You want a tool that automatically pulls data from your existing solutions, not one that requires manual data dumps. You also want one that will grow with your business and be easily accessible to pertinent managers and employees. Business News Daily and Capterra both offer recent lists of affordable big data solutions for small businesses.
  3. Establish metrics. Once you decide what to give your attention to first, develop metrics and benchmarks for the category. Then, regularly measure your efforts and results against them.
  4. Put the data into practice. As you measure, tweak your marketing, sales or other business efforts. The alteration doesn’t need to be large. When first starting out with big data, it’s a good idea to take it slow. Make a change and see if it produces the desired effect. The process will build your confidence in using data to drive decisions, as well as grows your data analysis skills.
  5. Make data and measurement a part of the culture. Finally, get everyone on board with big data and metrics. This step could be the hardest because it requires people to change how they think and behave. But if you can show them how big data aids their work and the company, they’ll be more open to the idea.

 

Big data makes a BIG difference at your small business. It provides detailed information about employees and customers, allowing you to increase satisfaction and loyalty on both fronts. Big data identifies business needs, too, such as additional inventory or product development. Finally, it can grow your business by enabling greater efficiency and helping you to differentiate from the competition.

Now’s the time. Make 2017 the year you embrace big data and keep that pile of paper from collapsing onto the floor.

 


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