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How SMEs Can Get More Value Out of Their Business Data

How SMEs Can Get More Value Out of Their Business Data

The facts are straight. Many businesses don’t know how to handle their data. Most companies keep customer data for record-keeping purposes and basic operational needs. And not so many SMEs explore all of the various facets where they can apply internal data. Some don’t even know how to properly enrich and analyze it, let alone extract valuable insights out of it.

This development is especially worrying when you think about the growth of the Internet and how the volumes of data have increased over the years. This potential source of business insights, product ideas, and revenue goes untapped. And some companies cease to exist as a direct result of it.

That’s why being able to juggle your data and extract every bit of useful information out of it is crucial for a modern online business. Let’s take a look at some valuable and actionable insights on how to properly treat and utilize all the business capabilities that your data holds.

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 the information that goes through them to be irrelevant. 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. Then it’s their problem. But it’s a two-way street.

The sad state of data utilization

Data Source: Analytics Magazine 

There’s plenty of data that your employees might need but can’t access. 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 your company.

All of these limitations create many barriers or 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. And 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 and its performance? There are tons of solutions that help you do just that. These are data visualization, business intelligence, and data exploration tools. They might have different designations or buzzwords attached, but the basic principles are the same, as they provide:

  • full access to the data that you store
  • exploratory functions, which allow non-programmers extract information through a GUI and not queries
  • various forms of data visualization that enable the user to make basic assumptions about the data

A number of these tools also offer advanced analytics, in some cases powered by AI. But this functionality is usually available beyond the affordable pricing packages accessible to SMEs. Here’s a basic list of these tools that you might want to explore.

Now your marketers won’t have to go through an IT guy to get customer data. Now you don’t have to worry if Google Analytics shows you the correct information since you can always cross-check it with one of these tools.

Enrich Your Data

There are always going to be gaps in your data. Not to mention that even the data that you’ll 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.

How data and its quality affects businesses

Data Source: 2017 Global Data Management Benchmark Report

Fortunately, there are tools that can enrich your data and be easily connected to CRMs, as well as other marketing and sales solutions such as Eloqua, Marketo, etc. This additional information provides a valuable source of marketing and sales insights, especially if your organization is in B2B and practices account-based marketing (ABM). 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 profiles
  • 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 are plenty of tools that will offer this or similar integration. A number of them are pretty costly, others have free versions, but here’s a list to get you started:

There’s also a subcategory of these services that lets you see what companies visited your website. Sure, you can get that info with a proper Google Analytics setup, but GA won’t have that added data enrichment that you’ll also be getting with such services as KickFire, WhoIsVisiting and LeadFeeder.

Protect Your Data

This notion seems pretty simple, as everybody uses some form of protection for their files, systems, and controls. But not many companies invest in a real cyber-security solution that will be able to protect business growth and adequately shield customer data.

How cyber attacks affect SMBs

Data Source: 1, 2

If you run a small to medium-sized business, a single data breach can threaten your company’s existence. WannaCry just recently rushed through the Internet, crippling 2,000,000 computers. Future attacks can be even more devastating. And even if you store your data in the cloud, there’s always a way to get your password, social-engineer you into providing the access or do other things to damage your business.

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 takes into account all of the details and mechanism that your cyber-security setup should encompass. Luckily, FCC has a tool that lets you create the plan on the go by inputting some simple details about your business. The US National Cyber Security Alliance also has 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. The selection below offers everything from simple malware solutions for your servers to comprehensive hardware-and-software packages for the highest class of protection:

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

Over 60% of organizations use less than 50% of their data when they make decisions, which means that thousands of companies don’t use the full potential of the information available to them. The democratization of data, which we mentioned early in the article, helps to improve the situation. But unless your organization is geared towards making data-driven decisions, this approach is never going to maximize the impact of data.

There are tons of complex definitions and ideas that revolve around building a data-driven organization. But it all boils down to one simple question:

Are you making your decisions based on business data?

Here’s a simple checklist that can help you realize what gaps might be present in your organization as well as data structures, preventing you from effectively executing a data-driven business development strategy.

Are you ready to start making data-driven decisions for business. Check yourselfConclusion

Today’s connected world offers incredible business opportunities for those companies that know how to handle, multiply 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. But for this to happen, businesses have to maintain and multiply their data infrastructure – with every business process revolving around operational and customer data.

That’s why it’s important to build a data-driven culture within the company. It can only be achieved when access to data across the operational vertical is democratized. Demolishing data silos should be one of the top operational 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 when the walls of your data silos are ‘broken down’, it’s important to keep data safe. Investing in cyber-security should become a top priority even for the smallest businesses.

Remember that big data can lead to big failure. It’s always recommended to ask for professional advice. There are companies that build or transform data infrastructures for businesses to make them more susceptible to the onslaught of big data from their customers. So first, shop around and seek help from a professional eCommerce development company specializing in business data solutions.

How do you utilize data for your business objectives? Is there something that’s out of the realm of usual analytics that helps you drive the business forward? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Maria Marinina

  • Kate Pioryshkina

    I have to agree on the problem of siloed data, this obstacle is not limited to SMEs, even large companies are still grappling with customer data scattered across the business in systems that do not talk to each other. In fact, the data silo problem is even worse today than it was ten years ago. The same customer can have data stored in marketing, sales, accounts, and even human capital -your employee is probably a customer too. Marketing could even have more than one version of the truth, with a social media database, a demand gen database and a campaign database. The level of integration and synchronisation between all these silos can be very poor. For instance, the name of this customer can be recorded differently in each data store and there is no way of identifying that this is one and the same person, especially if his name and surname are quite common. Is Bill Jones in the marketing campaign the same person as William H Jones in the accounting records? Bill Jones address is a street address, while William Jones address is a post office box.

    Before you apply BI to all this disparate and risky data, you need to implement an oversight into how data is managed. Master data management covers all the risk points you need to manage, from data quality, access and preparation to data governance and integration. Once you have policy and process in place for managing all your data, you can start getting trustworthy data at the right time. It will take time to move to being a data-driven organization, but a common approach tohow you manage the data will put you on the right path.