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3 Reasons Small Businesses Fear Data, and Why You Shouldn’t

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by: Bruce Field (@bruce_field)
10 May 2013

Many small businesses are afraid of data. That’s understandable: It’s a lot to process — literally!

But marketers are starting to see the value of this data. Two-thirds of marketers plan to increase spending on data-related marketing initiatives this year. Do they see something you don’t? If you’re biting your nails at the thought of all that data coming in through your intake process with nowhere to go, read on and get over that fear.

What Is Big Data?
You’ll hear a lot about big data this year. I like Frank Moss’ definition of big data from his book, The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives:

"Every time we perform a search, tweet, send an email, post a blog, comment on one, use a cell phone, shop online, update our profile on a social networking site, use a credit card, or even go to the gym, we leave behind a mountain of data, a digital footprint, that provides a treasure trove of information about our lifestyles, financial activities, health habits, social interactions, and much more."

For small businesses, big data is the information trail your potential customers leave online, all of which helps you understand your customers individually and connect with them by way of an automated, highly personalized marketing strategy.

Three Common SMB Excuses
In the case of data, resistance to change can significantly handicap your current and future effectiveness in communicating with customers. Still, I’ve heard all kinds of arguments from small businesses. Do any of these objections sound familiar?

1) “We’re too small to handle all this data.”
If you think you’re “just a small business” that can’t process big data, you couldn’t be more wrong. Small businesses are exactly who should be using it. Intuit President and CEO Brad Smith said it best when he argued that big data creates a "data democracy" — small businesses gain the strategic edge of larger corporations at an affordable time and cost investment.

2) “I don’t understand how to interpret data.”
Remember when Web pages required programmers to build? Now, thanks to new tools designed with the marketer in mind, they’re as simple to create as Word documents. Similarly, data is now easier to analyze.

3) “Data will make my biz a robot.”
It won’t! In fact, it makes you more like that shopkeeper of yesteryear who knew exactly what items his customers wanted. He knew what brand of cereal his customer preferred, and could pick out the best avocados for Mrs. Smith before she came in, as always, every Friday. In the same way, by understanding your data, you’ll be able to anticipate customers’ needs before they express them.

Small Changes = Big Results
Still overwhelmed? The good news is that implementation and maintenance aren’t as complicated, costly or time-consuming as you might think. It’s time to embrace a robust data management strategy, and this post is the first step.

Next step: Tweet me @bruce_field, and share which excuse you used to use.

Related Resources:
1) Blog: “5 Steps to Behavioral Marketing Success
2) Video: “Big Data in 2013
3) Blog: “4-Step Guide: How Small Businesses Win with Big Data and Marketing Automation




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