Data for Small Businesses

Forming Data Strategies for Small and Medium Businesses

Capitalize on the potential for data to empower your SMB by forming a data strategy that establishes concrete goals while carefully considering architecture.

Did you know that the data from your cash registers could be filling them with more money?

Technology has gotten us to the point where even the smallest businesses can take advantage of a data-backed marketing strategy. By coupling owned data with third-party data and a healthy dose of experimentation, businesses can make smarter, more-calculated decisions.

Many small and medium businesses (SMBs) know about these benefits but still struggle with the challenges of capturing and implementing a data practice. To make clearing these hurdles a little easier, they can form a comprehensive data strategy that guides policy while directing investment dollars. Putting a data plan in place acts like a guiding light instead of feeling like you’re fumbling around in the dark, and it represents a huge first step for capitalizing on the true potential that data offers SMBs.

Ensure your plan is set up for success by considering the following action-oriented steps:

Set Goals and Identify KPIs

First and most importantly, SMBs must know exactly what they hope to accomplish with their data-backed marketing program. They cannot afford to simply capture mounds of data and decide what to do with it after-the-fact. Every investment and effort must have a purpose to solve a specific business problem or provide clarity on a hot-button issue. When establishing these objectives, businesses must make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based).

Once you have these in place, you can know what metrics you need to measure to meet those goals and which key performance indicators will be the strongest barometers of success.

Form a First-Party Data Intake Strategy

Useful data surrounds us if we know where to look. Almost every SMB already uses some of the most important tools for generating data such as a customer retention management system, point of sale system, and company website, as well as social media accounts. These owned data sources lay the foundation and framework for any data-driven marketing campaign, as 81% of marketing managers report strong ROI when leveraging them.

Decide How Data Management Will Be Handled

SMBs benefit only from data that’s made actionable. To make data actionable, organizations will need to avoid data silos and instead allow it to commingle. Storage practices, software investments, and internal policies for capturing and servicing data stores will all affect how accessible data is to both people and programs. Stakeholders must also establish procedures for cleansing and quality assurance checking (QA’ing) to avoid having erroneous data points skew their perspective.

Visualization provides another critical component in making data actionable. By visualizing data, we can more easily process the story it tells us, giving insight into even the most complex global problems, as this video from statistician Hans Rosling shows. As more employees are able to rapidly create visualizations through self-service business intelligence (BI) reporting tools, your organization can gain input from internal and external stakeholders to ensure your data breeds valuable insights and confident decision-making.

Establish Policies for Data Security and Compliance

Data privacy has quickly become one of the leading issues facing not only our industry, but the entire technology and digital landscape. This step requires SMBs to think like big corporations. For example, fitness company owner, Jen Cohen Crompton, defines who can access what data from what device, and she restricts permissions to log into their third-party BI platform from the backend.

“While this may seem like overkill for a five-person operation, we want to be careful with our data and know exactly who is interacting with it and how,” Crompton states.

Similarly, organizations must establish concrete policies for data flow and access control while ensuring compliance with legal regulations like the payment card industry and health information security laws.

Start Planning Your Data Strategy Early

It’s never too early to start planning your SMB’s data strategy, even when you are just putting your business plan on paper. When proper data management is made a priority, you make fewer mistakes during the business process and are able to inform better decision-making. Therefore, don’t hesitate and start strategically defining (or redefining) how data will empower your company.

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