Why aren’t small companies as successful as big brands? One very common answer to this question has to do with the resources available to the entrepreneur – they just don’t have the budget to access the Big Data leading companies use to effectively connect with their customers.
In response to this phenomenon, we see all kinds of companies – social media platforms, search engines, and other marketing services – bending over backwards to position themselves as purveyors of data. Some of this data can be accessed for free, such as Google Analytics and LinkedIn’s new Content Measurement Tool. Other data needs to be paid for. The promise is clear: with the magic of metrics on your side, your small business will be able to compete on a more equal basis with the larger brands.
There’s just one problem with this. It’s not true.
Big Data’s Big Lie
Data – whether you have only a few meager points or servers packed full of the stuff – in and of itself, doesn’t help you. Information is not the same as insight. Absent analysis and interpretation, data won’t do a single thing to help you build your business.
Let’s say you know 67% of your website visitors are between the ages of 18 and 25. That’s data; statistic information derived from objectively observable phenomenon. This is a single data point drawn from a Google Analytics report – small data, if you would. Aggregate hundreds of thousands of similar points about your marketplace, and you have Big Data.
Knowing 67% of your web traffic is 18-25 years old doesn’t help you. The value of the data kicks in when you say, “How does this information affect the way I do business?”
Perhaps you are thrilled to be attracting visitors in this age range. They’re your target audience, and their continued presence is a sign that something you’re doing to attract their attention is working. Or it could be you’re not sure why the majority of your web traffic comes from young people. This data point can result in a re-examination of your offerings, your marketing message, or even your understanding of who your target market should be. Looking at data should provoke a lot of questions in the business owner.
Data can’t answer those questions. Only analysis and insight can do that. This can be do something you do on entirely on your own, or you may want the assistance of professionals who have seen what similar data sets have meant for other organizations. But as long as we remain fixed on the acquisition of data rather than deriving actionable insights from it, there is no hope of progress being made.
Before you spend any more time, energy, or resources tracking down new sources of data, ask yourself if you’re really making use of the data you already have available to you. Delve into your POS system records, your Google Analytics, and social media metrics. Spending time with this data – time spent focused on figuring out what it means, and what the applications of it are in terms of business growth – is a smart decision.
Mindlessly chasing after data for data’s sake, on the other hand, just makes you dumber and dumber. Eventually you’ll dumb yourself right out of business. It’s time to stop chasing data and start using it. Are you ready?