By nature, big data is a big topic. And it is getting bigger by the day. So, we asked David Taylor, who will be speaking at Kent Vision LIVE on behalf of the Federation of Small Businesses, to share his thoughts around what falls under the scope of big data, and how you can use it to inform and support your business strategy.
Many businesses will now be familiar with the term Big Data. It sounds like something out of Blade Runner or Star Trek and for many organisations it is seen as just another headache to deal with, along with cybersecurity, doing tax digitally and auto-enrolment.
However, data – or more accurately what you do with data – is something that will underpin your business.
Also, with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) coming up this May, now is the perfect time to get to grips with how data is used in your organisation.
Below is a diagram that shows some of the data sources that most organisations will now have to deal with.
Customer Relationship Management system (CRM). This is your database of clients and contacts. Is it in a neat Excel spreadsheet, a shared folder on your devices or is it just a clump of old business cards at the back of a drawer? This database needs to be active, regularly updated and socially enabled.
Data Security. With data breaches happening on almost a daily basis and causing real headaches for businesses large and small, it is critical that you keep your data secure. And it’ll be even more critical once GDPR (more on this later) comes in this year. Not only could you lose your data but you could be fined too, to rub salt into your wounds!
Competitor Analysis. It is now simple to keep tabs on what your competitors are doing, particularly online. Every organisation has a digital footprint which can be monitored. The question is whether you are looking in the right places. A simple private list on Twitter is a quick and easy way to do this but there are more sophisticated (and costly) techniques.
Brand Monitoring. At the same time, it is important that you are monitoring your own brand to see what your customers, competitors and the press are saying about you. There is a vast array of software available from free to thousands of pounds per month to do this. The speed of response can be key in an always-on world.
Hashtags. On Twitter, these are conversations that can be tracked to give you insight into events and conferences. Whilst on Instagram, it is possible to search for specific topics. Tracking hashtags should be a day-to-day part of your strategy. These can be done on the channels themselves or via social media monitoring tools like Sprout Social or Hootsuite.
Google Analytics. If your website is your key marketing tool then the analytics will give you a breakdown of just how well it – and indeed all your marketing – is performing. Check it daily if needs be! It can give you so much valuable data from site visits, the performance of marketing campaigns and referrals to how well your social media channels are working.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This piece of legislation is coming in next May and has big implications for how all organisations use data. If you don’t know what exactly this means, then you really need to get up-to-speed now. Check out this resource for a basic overview and there are a huge amount of free resources and seminars on this topic.
Facebook Insights. As with Google Analytics, it is imperative that you check the performance of your Facebook Page, and indeed all your over social media sites. This will enable you to see whether you are meeting your original objectives. Not only that but it can also chart the performance of any advertising campaigns you may be running.
Research & Development. In order to innovate, meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers and keep creating new products, it is vital to listen and analyse trends. Large brands will be spending millions analysing data from social media to aid their R&D divisions. It is also now possible to reach out directly to influencers via sites like Influencer.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator. There was a key reason why Microsoft bought LinkedIn. They wanted the huge amount of data contained within the site. Using paid-for LinkedIn products like Navigator, Careers Pages and Marketing Solutions, it is possible to use this data for your own business. In fact, it could become your CRM system.
So how do you make sense of all this data within your business? More’s to the point, how on earth do you avoid getting overwhelmed by it?
The answer is to incorporate it into your business plan and see where it fits. In the DNAsix model below, Data represents the sixth pillar in your strategy.
Depending on how large or small your business, you’ll then need to think about who is the Data Controller, and the Data Processor as well as understanding the rights of your Data Subjects. (Click here for more details).
You then need to take monthly snapshots of your data to ensure the continued success of the business. This would be fed back into your overall business strategy for the medium and long-term. Suggestions could include:
- What your competitors are doing?
- What insights have you gained from your customers or suppliers?
- What is happening at key events?
- What is being said about you online?
- How well are your online sites performing against your original plan?
- How active are your staff online?
- What are the key new developments in the sectors in which you operate?
- Are there new markets you could be operating in?
- Are there markets you should be coming out of?
- How is your CRM system performing?
- How secure is your data?
If I had a crystal ball, I’d say that within the next few years even smaller companies will need to have a full-time data analyst working within the organisation to process all this data and feed it back into an ongoing business strategy.
For now, though, different managers within the business – sales, marketing, IT, finance, customer services, PR – will have to factor in data monitoring in their day-to-day role.
So what is your plan for using data within your business?