Small Business Sailing The Seas Of Big Data

small biz and big data

Big Data is watching you.


Does the term Big Data make you slightly uncomfortable? A la “Big Government” and “Big Brother,” there’s something ominous about it.

The ubiquity of information requires just about everyone (unless you’re living under a rock) to contribute to big data to some extent. For example, my search for “aromatherapy for sinus headache” today tells Google/Big Data that someone in Austin needs relief during a rainy week in January — no surprise there, as this is the pinnacle of our merciless allergy season — as well as an almost-infinite number of other things that flesh out my identity. Like the fact that I recently searched for sparkly dance shoes on Zappos, bought the ebook “No Easy Day” on Amazon, and commented on an article on Media Post.

On top of that, think of the personal data you store in a cloud. If you keep your schedule on Google Calendar, or use any web mail service, you contribute even more information about yourself. Integration of your geolocation further pinpoints your behaviors and preferences. If you are online or use a smartphone, you are an open book.

We all are constantly feeding the beast of Big Data. As a small business owner, is there a way to dip into that data to effectively enhance your marketing efforts? Do you even have a chance to compete?

Large businesses have the ability to churn this information into predictive marketing, targeting ads to micro niches and very specific demographics, preferences, price points and locations. They use data to analyze and predict future behavior of consumers. Some use it to entertain and inform their audience.

As a small biz marketer, don’t you wish you could do this too? If you knew that someone who had traveled to Indonesia within the last year, had Liked HBO’s Facebook page, and ordered a free range turkey for Thanksgiving last year…and had also purchased a child’s bicycle from your local cycling shop; what would you do to bring them into your shop again? (I admit I’m stretching a bit. But not by much.)

Would you market your business and sell your products in the same way if you had access to that information? It’s theoretical question for most small businesses. You want to know your customers, but maybe not that well.  😮

Here’s the thing. Small business owners can actually walk out on the floor or pick up that phone and strike up a conversation with them. That’s the old fashioned way of retaining customers.  However, you can’t always be there for every customer, every time. You suspect you are missing opportunities to connect with them on many levels.

How do you take the data you have right now (yes, you do) and turn that into a personal and engaging conversation that leads to more?

Any data actually used well is “Big Data” to small business. Tweet this.

Here’s the answer: Big Data WILL become accessible, affordable and manageable by small businesses. Until then, access the metrics you CAN, and spend 20 minutes each week looking at it and responding with a plan. Ta-daah!

So I’m telling you something you already know…here are some easy ways to break it down to short, actionable steps. “Fun-Sized Data” for small businesses…

5 things you can try this week to engage more customers: 

Have you seen the back room of your email service account lately? (1) Check out your email metrics and responses and act on one detail. For example, do a search for the most-clicked-on link from an email in the last 6 months. Analyze the link: the linked-to content, the wording of the clickable text, was it a graphic button or plain text? Send an email reproducing one of those variables. Analyze those results next week.

(2) Test some things in your next email. For example, send an email at a time you’ve never sent an one, just to see what that does to your open rate. As you can see today, I’m sending and posting on a Sunday afternoon instead of a weekday morning, just going on a hunch that folks who own their businesses catch up on blogs and marketing stuff during the weekends. Some who usually don’t open email or read posts during the business week — may open and read on the weekend. Are they the same readers who engage regularly or a different group entirely? Act on your discovery.

Look at your Google analytics. (3What’s your most popular blog post? Since it’s a topic with some traction already, you can assume that people want to know more. Update it or make a slide show about it and post again.

(4) Improve your highest ranked exit page. Examine the page from which most people leave your site and figure out a way to get them to stay. (Find it under Google Analytics > Content > Exit pages.) You could try adding enticing internal links or an opt in form.

I’ll share a case study here at MyTeamConnects: Ironically, the post from which most people exit the website is also currently the one most people land on. Those “bounces” from my website had me scratching my head. People were landing on the article, then simply leaving without further ado. That information convinced me to hire someone to help me improve my site’s navigation, the results of which you will see very soon. I will let you know if the exit metric changes in the next month or so.

If you spend time posting on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In, you’re probably already aware of apps like Hootesuite and Buffer, which allow you to schedule updates and analyze which ones impacted your followers.

One way to make use of the simple data they provide is to (5) analyze why one tweet was popular and another bit the dust. I one case last week I discovered a few simple copywriting adjustments I could make to improve all my tweets. Here’s what I did right, and what I did wrong.

Amidst all the data and sales tactics, is there still a place for wonder and magic in the marketplace?

While Big Data potentially changes the game for all businesses, big or small, it can’t replace genuine relationship, innovation and surprising encounters in the marketplace. You stay competitive by using the data that is available to you now and striving to delight your customers every day.

Though you can’t measure intuition and drive, it’s one of your assets as a solopreneur or small business owner. Combined with even a little bit of data and a truly awesome product or service, you’re unstoppable.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Visulogik

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