How SMBs can get more value out of their business data
The facts are straight: many businesses don’t know how to handle their data.
For some of them, customer details only exist for record-keeping purposes and basic operational needs, like storing an email to confirm a purchase. These businesses have a hard time recognizing the value of it before they even start extracting any insights. With such an attitude, the potential source of business insights, product ideas and revenue goes untapped, which can lead to stagnation.
While not everyone recognizes the value of business intelligence (BI), SMBs of up to 100 employees showed the biggest BI adoption rate in 2018, according to Dresner Advisory Service’s 2018 Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study. The market forces smaller businesses to be agile in the ever tougher competition, and for this they turn to advanced data analytics as a treasure trove of business-critical knowledge.
The following is a suggested line of action for those ready to follow this example set by successful SMBs and leverage their data deposits that still lie unused.
Set Your Data Free
Your company probably sits on a pile of data that you need to make sense of. The bulk of it may be irrelevant from your perspective, and just like you, your employees may find a chunk of information that goes through them to be useless.
For example, your website admin won’t care how many people purchased something on your website as long as the number of visitors doesn’t crash the server. However, it’s a two-way street.
There’s plenty of data that your employees might need but can’t access, but you’re not alone in this—data silo is a pretty standard term that describes this kind of information that is available to a limited number of people or departments within a company.
Such limitations create many barriers and choke points for your business. The most important one is the barrier to innovation and collaboration in every process that’s being governed by your employees. If your company can’t innovate, it can’t monetize. It’s as simple as that.
So what can you do to prevent these restrictions from hindering your business? There is a range of solutions. These are data visualization, exploration, and reporting tools. They might have different designations or buzzwords attached, but the basic principles are the same, as they provide:
- Full access to the data you store.
- Self-service exploratory features, which allow non-programmers to extract information through a user-friendly GUI.
- Various forms of data visualization that enable the user to make basic assumptions.
- Advanced, predictive analytics powered by AI.
Now your marketers won’t have to go to an IT guy to get customer data but find it in a central data hub that is also accessible to sales, customer support reps, and other customer-facing specialists.
Enrich Your Data
There are always going to be gaps in your data. Not to mention that even the data that you have won’t always be correct, as we’ve all submitted fake names, birthdays, and other data to various destinations online. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to augment the data that you already have with additional information, which can help you make better decisions.
Fortunately, there are tools that can enrich your data and be easily connected to CRMs and other marketing and sales solutions such as Oracle Eloqua, Marketo, etc. This additional information can provide a valuable source of marketing and sales insights, especially if your organization is in B2B and practices account-based marketing.
Depending on the particular tool that you decide to go with, you’ll be able to:
- Enrich user profiles with additional details like links to social media pages.
- Verify or discover email addresses.
- Get their geo location data (country, state, province, etc.).
- Get particular information about their business, like their annual revenue, and so on.
There’s also a subcategory of these data enriching tools that lets you see what companies visited your website. Sure, you can get that information with a proper Google Analytics set-up, but it won’t have that added data enrichment that you’ll also be getting with such services as KickFire, WhoIsVisiting or LeadFeeder.
Protect Your Data
This notion seems pretty simple, as everybody uses some form of protection for their files, systems, and controls. Yet not many companies invest in a real cyber-security solution that will be able to protect business growth and adequately shield customer data.
If you run a small to medium-sized business, a single data breach can threaten your company’s existence. WannaCry that rushed through the internet in May 2017 has crippled 200,000 computers worldwide, and future attacks can be even more devastating. Even if you use cloud services like 94 percent enterprises that are doing it right now, there’s always a way to get your password, social-engineer you into providing the access, or breach your data otherwise.
But there is a number of precautions that you can implement to protect your business. The simplest one is to create a cyber-security plan that considers all the potential vulnerabilities and associated risks depending on your data management systems.
The US National Cyber Security Alliance provides some great resources to get you started.
But as a single most impactful step, you should start thinking about a commercial cyber-security solution. Not all of them are expensive, and some do offer products for small and medium enterprises. Keep in mind that investing in data security means investing in your strategic business future. That’s why one of the best things that you can do with your data and that will have a lasting effect on your bottom line is to protect it.
Use Your Data
Companies that find a way to apply their data effectively see multiple benefits, from budget savings to bottom-line growth. Data democratization, mentioned earlier in the article, is instrumental in attaining these benefits. But unless your organization is geared toward making data-driven decisions, this approach is never going to maximize the impact of data.
Here’s a simple checklist that can help you realize what gaps might be present in your organization as well as data structures, and what prevents you from effectively executing a data-driven business development strategy:
- What data do you lack?
- What data can’t be used or no longer relevant?
- What data can be considered duplicate and removed from your systems?
- How data affects the effectiveness of your processes?
- What data is missing and how it affects your business?
- Have you lost any revenue due to missing data?
Today’s connected world offers incredible business opportunities for those companies that know how to handle and analyze their data. What used to take years of marketing and business research could now be extracted from data within days or even hours. For this to happen, businesses have to maintain and nurture their infrastructure where business processes revolve around operational and customer data.
A data-driven culture can only be built when access to data across operational verticals is democratized. Demolishing data silos should be one of the top priorities for any business that wants to reap the benefits of big data transformation that’s taking over practically any online and offline business niche today. But even when the walls of your data silos are ‘broken down’, it’s important to keep data safe, so the focus on cyber security should be omnipresent.