“Big Data” Is Not Just Helpful for Big Companies

Even mom and pop wastewater businesses can benefit by focusing on the trends of a few important metrics to raise the bottom line.

“Big Data” Is Not Just Helpful for Big Companies

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Big Data is critical to business success because it provides important insights and information. Large enterprises use sophisticated systems to track data and often have internal analysts on their team to crunch their numbers. Or they hire outside experts to do it for them. Yet any enterprise can take advantage of Big Data, no matter their size, especially if you reframe your definition of “big.” You can use your data to better understand customer needs and buying patterns to further develop strategies that could impact sales. Insights like those developed using data become amazingly useful to any company, no matter how small. 

Don’t Be Afraid of Analytics

You’ve heard some people say, “I’m really not a numbers person.” Perhaps they use this as their excuse for avoiding data, much less Big Data, because they might feel reluctant to dive in and give it a try. You do not need an MBA or finance degree to begin working with the data associated with your business. Anyone can learn and understand at least a couple of the key metrics that impact how businesses operate and what drives financial success.

If you are reluctant to launch into data analytics, begin with baby steps. Start by identifying two or three key metrics you want to better understand about your business or your customers. Once you have these key metrics identified, focus on getting the data you need to better understand how you can increase your company’s performance. Those metrics become the fundamentals that shape your thinking about strategies and actions to better achieve your business goals. 

Focus on how the data — what you have or what you can gather — links to your business strategies. The key is to search for the critical data metrics that influence decision-making. Look for the information that provides you with insight on the variables that impact your revenue and profitability. 

Use Your Tools

You do not need a complicated computer system or major data management firm to figure out what you are already using in your business for data capture. Frankly, many small businesses are not fully utilizing the existing software they have to gather basic information. 

Frequently, software programs have the capability to export information into analytical programs such as Excel. Once the data is put into an analytic format, you can do all sorts of evaluations based on variables such as customer demographics, profitability, geographic location, purchasing patterns, buying volume, etc. Reviewing data points for various time horizons provides a comparison to see how much is changing during different time periods. 

Engaging in analytical assessments of your data often provides valuable information on shifts in your target market and identifies new sales opportunities. You might even uncover areas of business vulnerability before they cause major challenges. 

Many companies do not fully access the information they have already obtained about their customers. Taking time to input detailed information into a contact relationship management (CRM) system can be a first step. Consolidate the insight from your other information systems to develop a comprehensive customer profile. Then drill down into the information on your customers and tie them to financial measurements such as sales volume, degree of profitability or key target marketing variables. 

It is not uncommon for small businesses to have their most valuable customer information written down on sheets of paper or in someone’s head. If you enter your data into a CRM or Excel, you establish the foundation for a more robust data assessment. Then you can begin to pull insights by looking carefully at key variables. 

You will have a more effective way of targeting your desired consumers as you drill down deeper into the data to see which customers are most valuable to your business. You will be able to make better decisions if you are using thoughtfully mined data. When you get the data organized, you also minimize the vulnerability to losing important information if a key employee becomes ill or leaves. 

Metrics and Dashboards

When you begin working with data, it is essential to create metrics and dashboard reports focusing on the valuable information so it can be tracked on an ongoing basis. Then set up the mechanisms and policies that ensure it is tracked by your employees. Holding your team accountable for reliably gathering the data and tracking it in a timely manner is also an important step to effectively use data. 

You can certainly do some of this work yourself, but it might be even better for you to loop in key employees who may be better skilled than you at putting it together. Then you can review the information and draw conclusions. 

Another option is to work with an outside consultant who is not going to struggle with a learning curve. Outside experts can help you discover details you might have overlooked while managing the company day to day. You are likely to gain better insights — and move much faster — by bringing in outside expertise for a short duration rather than trying to struggle through setting it up by yourself. Invest in learning from an expert and then take over once you develop the foundational skills and gain confidence in your own abilities.

Final Thoughts

Learning to leverage data is essential in cultivating the growth and success of any business. As you become more comfortable using your initial metrics, you can add on additional key metrics. Use a disciplined approach and continue to look for more metrics to measure. Have fun with it! You will soon have a robust data management system that you and your team can use to more effectively manage the business and customer relationships. This will provide you with new pathways for business growth and enhanced success.   


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