How SMBs Should Be Using Big Data and Insights to Get Ahead

More SMBs these days are getting ahead thanks to the emergence of big data. With business intelligence (BI) tools and software, local companies and organizations have a way of achieving success rates previously only thought possible for large corporations. Ultimately, it comes down to how well SMBs use the acquired data.

Here are a few ways to approach big data and BI insights in a way that yields a net positive.

  1. Cultivate an Analytical Culture

Big data is no longer just relegated to an internal IT department, which most SMBs can’t even afford anyways.

Data should encompass a part of the work culture from the owner down to the entry-level worker. It’s up to you to foster a data-inclusive environment.

Your workforce shouldn’t just be data-literate, but they should actually be enthusiastic about it.

This culture can be fostered by getting everyone up to speed with the implemented software and system.

You can also create greater involvement by permitting access through personal devices. Just be sure the latest security and encryption tools are in place.

  1. Make Use of Unstructured Data

80% of data is unstructured. Unstructured data is essential information found in text-heavy sources, such as social media postings, emails, phone conversation transcripts, etc.

This type of data does not contain hard numbers that you can plot in a graph or pie chart.

Nevertheless, they’re just as valuable, and the information derived from it can be used as a gauge for progress or lack of it.

If multiple social media postings, for example, indicate a general dissatisfaction with a particular product, then that information is just as useful than numbers derived from a BI report appearing on the dashboard.

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Some of the newer and more sophisticated BI software out there has features for quantifying unstructured data.

  1. Focus on the Future

Most BI tools also have business analytic (BA) features. Whereas BI is often a parameter for analyzing the past and current data, BA is about predicting possible future outcomes based on current trends.

Too many people get caught up in analyzing what went wrong that they forget to focus on short-term future goals.

With predictive analysis tools, SMBs have information at their disposal for making important decisions based on actual numbers and statistics.

Some BA tools can predict the likelihood of a particular outcome, such as the probability of a client switching to a new vendor.

  1. View Data Pictorially

Take advantage of the latest data visualization tools, which is included in most BI systems.

Instead of staring at hundreds of numbers, all those digits can be made into a report that is presented through various visual charts.

This makes it easy for the layperson to derive information by looking at a single bar graph or pie chart.

Most BI tools can automatically generate these highly visual reports using a number of chart types that you can select. These charts can also be updated in real time as new data pours in.

  1. Mine for Data on Social Media

Photo credit: Entrepreneur

There are endless statistics regarding social media for marketing.

One study, for example, showed that 71% of consumers are more likely to recommend a company to their friends if they had a positive experience on the company’s social media channel.

Get a complete picture by seeing what people are saying about your industry on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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Don’t just look at the number of likes, shares, and retweets, though those are all useful as well. Look at what people are actually saying.

This encompasses the unstructured data that was discussed earlier. Also, don’t forget that sites like discussion forums and YouTube also constitute as social media.

  1. Put the Information to Actual Use

Big Data is worthless if you don’t respond according to what the information reveals.

Some companies go about as business as usual even when the numbers indicate the need for a different way of doing things.

The term “data storytelling” is grossly underused. Data tells a story about the current state of your business and the likely direction it’s headed if no changes are made.

Big data gives you this knowledge so you can change the trajectory. Don’t just sit on the information; act on it.

  1. Don’t Jump Right into Big Data

Photo credit: Yolo Clients

SMBs are advised to adopt what is sometimes referred to as a “crawl, walk, run” approach. This means to start small and gradually work your way up.

Perhaps you can start with a base BI service. The smaller investment will help you test the waters and get acquainted with the system.

You can always upgrade at a later point. Starting small also means the risks are small should you stumble, which you most likely will since it’s all a part of the natural learning process.

Big data is your friend; it’s also in abundance. It’s at your disposal when you extract the information through a BI tool.

This will help you make smart and sound decisions based on consumer behavior.

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