How SMEs can use data to be more productive

Deep down within the inner workings of your business, there are streams of data waiting to be put to use. This data has the potential to be used both offline and in real-time to make your business more productive and competitive.

The trick for SMEs, who may not have the budget or resources to invest in sophisticated data analytics solutions, is to get smart with their data. From email marketing and customer service calls to contact databases and IoT sensors, there is a wealth of data waiting to take you to the next level.

Big data is not a necessity

Big data is certainly changing the game; allowing businesses to eliminate guesswork and make better decisions with clarity and confidence. However, most SMEs can’t yet reap these rewards because they can’t invest in data at this scale. SME data is often held in CRM or ERP systems at best, and at the most basic level in a rudimentary contact database. This data still holds immense value and can be used to improve conversion rates, lead generation, product and service development and customer lifetime values.

There are typically three main areas of confusion preventing SMEs from harnessing their data correctly:

  • Knowing what data to analyse and why
  • Choosing the right software and tools
  • Understanding how to convert insights into action

What data to analyse and why?

While you know that your business is collecting data, knowing how to turn that raw data into something tangible can often seem like a daunting prospect.

Before you take a deep dive into any data analysis, the first question you should ask is "What do I want to achieve with my data?" Adopting a mindset of curiosity will help you seek out the challenges your business faces and define the problems you want to solve before you start mining your data. It is a good idea to focus on any areas where your business strategy is lacking, as data analytics might be able to fill the gaps. For example, you might choose to focus on improving new customer acquisition or the satisfaction of existing customers.

Data can reveal a goldmine of product ideas, business insights and new revenue streams that would otherwise go undiscovered. Once you have defined what you want to achieve with your data, the next step is to identify the data that holds the most potential.

Digging a little deeper

You may be under the impression that capturing data is time-consuming and expensive, however you may already have access to more data than you realise.

For example, digging a little deeper into the intelligence that lies within your social media accounts can reveal quantitative and qualitative data that can be used to shape communications with your target audience. All social media platforms come with built-in analytics features that allow you to set marketing KPIs, monitor impressions in real-time and compile in-depth reports.

Something as simple as an email address, when integrated with a CRM or inbound marketing system, can reveal insights into buying behaviour and how customers are reacting to your emails. What are the products your customers are most interested in? When did they last use your services? Which emails are they opening? Analysing the answers to these questions can reveal profitable ideas.

The right tools for the job

The right tools for the job

One of the biggest challenges in data analytics is selecting the right analytical tools and resources. Do you get by using systems you already have in place, or do you invest in a new solution that allows you to do more with your data? At the very least you should be looking for business intelligence tools that offer the following features:

  • Access to various file types, including text, comma-separated values, XML and Excel. You should also be able to pull out data from specific applications such as your CRM.
  • The ability to drill deeper into data sets and filter data values.
  • An intuitive web-based user interface for more flexibility and agility than a static desktop based system.
  • Visualisation options that allow data to be extracted to a variety of graph and chart formats.
  • Robust security features that designate who can create data analysis routines and interrogate data.

Consolidate data to
unlock insights

Another challenge that exists for many SMEs is that their data is held across multiple locations and systems. When data is disconnected in this way, it’s not always easy to see the big picture. For data analysis to be truly effective, all similar sources of information should be consolidated and connected.

For example, contact databases that exist in multiple locations can be imported into a central CRM system that sits in the cloud. This not only consolidates information for a clearer and more reliable picture, but it also makes it available on both desktop and mobile devices.

Turn insights into action

Here are some ways that intelligent analytics can help you to put that intelligence to work:

Boost conversion rates

When you incorporate customer data into your email marketing campaigns you can significantly improve conversions rates. Simply including the recipient’s first name can make your emails appear more relevant and boost engagement. You can also include more complex data sets into your efforts.

For example, using customer browsing history can help you to target your customers with automated follow-up emails and personalised offers that include details of products they recently looked at. The more relevant information you can include in one email, the more chance there is of a customer opening it, reading it and taking action.

Gathering data for
personalised offers

Customers in today’s mobile-age tend to respond well to hyper-targeted offers and experiences that are tailored specifically to them.

SMEs that use customer data in a creative way are in a much better position to strengthen brand loyalty and grow their customer base.

Data such as membership anniversaries, birthdays and the customer’s last website visit can all help to create relevant communications via scheduled email, SMS and other direct mail formats. Don’t be afraid to ask customers for these details. If a customer hasn’t visited your website in over 30 days, use the opportunity to re-engage them with a personalised offer.

Identify data patterns that
could harm business

When a customer complains or has a query, do you have a process in place to log that communication digitally? When a customer issue is reported to employees out on the road or in another business location, are they able to log that problem in real-time on their mobile device? Being able to log and analyse critical business data allows you to identify specific actions or business processes that might be causing lapses in operations and take relevant action.

The challenge is to effectively aggregate and blend data so that it reveals the patterns that could be harming your business. Smart SMEs ensure that customer-related data is available to as many relevant departments as possible and build a coherent strategy that can be adopted by everybody, from sales team leaders right up to the CFO.

Riding the next wave
with IoT data

Of course, it’s not possible to talk about intelligent analytics today without mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT). Many SMEs are starting to switch on to IoT, capturing data from a plethora of connected devices. This data provides insights into how customers are using a product, environmental conditions in which a machine operates or the performance of a corporate asset. The application of intelligent analytics to this data helps inform decisions and improve productivity.

Discover the true value of your data

To get the most from your data, it must be organised, connected and available. The best way to do this is to avoid human intervention by automating as much of the data gathering and analysis process as possible. Capture and organise data well and be ready to act on it.

The opportunity now is to discover the true value of your data. The bulk of it may seem irrelevant, but with tools and strategies that deliver data enrichment, visualisation and exploration functionality, you can uncover valuable, actionable insights for your business.

Next Steps

Talk to an expert from
our Business Advisory team on 1800 200 016.

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