Big Data for Small Business

  •   Ryan Peterson

By Ryan Peterson

Big Data has been buzzing for a while and small businesses should get in on it.

As a digital marketing agency, we love data – a lot of it.  For smaller, non-enterprise level businesses there has been some fear that they are missing out on BigData because of the intimidating price tag and technical aptitude required to leverage it. For these businesses,
it's not about the amount of data they can store and analyze, but what they can do with their
existing data to improve their sales and marketing in general.

In this instance, size doesn't matter. The objective for any small-to-medium size business is to gain a deeper understanding of their customers—just like the big ones.  Who your customers are today is not who they were ten years ago, or who they will be in the future. Consumers evolve over time, businesses grow, and the relationships between them and their customers change.  That means the local bakery needs more than just a fresh pastry waiting for Nick in the morning to keep him loyal.

Every minute there are more than 2,000,000 Google searches, 685,000 Facebook updates, 200 million emails sent and 48 hours worth of video uploaded to YouTube. Not in a day or a week, but in a minute.

This is a vast amount of information constantly streaming over the wire and most businesses are struggling to know what to do with it. One survey showed that 70 percent of businesses are overwhelmed by the amount of data they are receiving and only 25 percent have a plan to deal with it.

Content image (Photo: University of Salford Press Office/Flickr)

(Photo: University of Salford Press Office)

The question most of our partners (how we think of our clients) is what to do with all of this data. Here are some ways this data is being used by market ledeers today:

  • Risk Management
  • Understanding When & Why
    Customers Leave
  • Driving R&D
  • Improving Customer Targeting
  • Understanding Customer Needs
  • Analyzing Social Behavior

When it comes to the data that small businesses should care about, it’s a good idea to zero in on the information that can improve customer service and business operations. For instance most companies have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a company profile on LinkedIn.  Alongside their social and web presence, businesses will capture email addresses from existing customers and from new customer ledes.  All of this information can be leveraged through analysis to better serve customers and acquire new ones without costing a fortune.  There is a large number of software and services available, some that are relatively cheap, that will analyze and organize this data into actionable reports and dashboards.

“Only about 14 to 18% of small businesses use CRM systems which keep track of interactions with customers,” says Steve King, partner at Emergent Research. “That’s low-hanging fruit. Everybody should have a CRM system. They are cheap and give insight into your customers.”

CRMS To Consider

When first picking a CRM (Customer Relationship Management), many business owners never change it, even if their CRM doesn't quite fit or lacks much needed features. If you are feeling tied down and need a new option, here's a quick list of some of the CRM's we like and why we like them.

Nutshell - Nutshell is a great CRM for a couple reasons. Not only is it one of the nicest to look at day in and day out, it has a ton of hidden gems that you only truly appreciate when using it day to day. With a company/client overview including local weather, and the current time combined with it's typo-proof search and mobile apps, Nutshell is simply a elegant CRM that is a joy to use.

Contactually - Contactually isn't nearly as robust as Nutshell in the sense of useful features or nearly as nice to look at, but it gets the job done if you spend most of your time managing pipelines. It's core strength comes from its social integrations. If you use a fair share of social, contactually has some tools to make managing social interactions easier.

OroCRM - I would be amiss if I didn't at least mention one open source option. OroCRM is a Symfony based open source CRM built by a couple members exiting the team behind Magento – one of the ledeing open source ecommerce systems.  The best feature of OroCRM is the ability to create custom business objects (forms of data) as well as manage and implement various custom workflows for pipeline management.  Being open source, OroCRM is quite easy to extends and has recently opened
up a add-on marketplace which should start to fill in the gap of features between it and its commercial competitors.


Big Data Is Possible

The truth is that Big Data for small business is no longer "impossible". In the past, businesses seeking to tap into Big Data needed to purchase expensive hardware and software, hire consultants, and invest huge amounts of time into analytics. But trends such as cloud computing, open-source software, and software as a service (SaaS) have changed all that. New, inexpensive ways to learn from data are emerging all the time. The question is where to start. There are manageable ways to approach Big Data where you can garner some pieces of information
that may very well set you apart from
your competitors.

Some tips for companies looking to leverage their Big Data

  • Establish six or so key goals/insights you want from your data. Targeting a small set of key indicators and metrics can make the volume of data less troublesome while building your Big Data strategy.
  • Leverage Data on Demand and Aggregators that allow you to set your budget and data requirements. Some of these include companies such as Attensity, Kaggle and Gnip.
  • Traditional data brokers have become more competitive in pricing with the rise of new companies in the data market and therefore offer highly useful data at prices that smaller organizations can afford.

Business can also tap into open and free data available online. Primarily comprised of government and federal data pertaining to things like weather, traffic patterns or property registrations, all of which can be used to help the business. For example, a local yogurt store could harness weather forecasts to learn when there’s a cold front coming in the next couple of weeks. Instead of running an empty store, the shop can run a promotion during those cold days to keep business booming.

Companies using big data are five times more likely to make quick, strategic business decisions according to a Bain & Company report. This means being more agile in the marketplace and can lede to bigger and better market share and customer engagement.

Header photo by thinkpanama