New technology makes customer data easy to access and understand, even for small business owners on a budget.
Today, marketing is all about data, and that can be pretty intimidating for a small business on a budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable solutions to help you gather and understand your data.
Big data is the endless realms of information available about your customers and contacts. It's gathered from social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, and saved from direct contact—transactions, emails and phone calls. Data offers unparalleled insight into consumer wants, needs, opinions, and buying habits.
Many small business owners feel data is out of their reach, but things have changed. New technology makes data accessible for businesses of all sizes. If you think data analysis is beyond the scope of your resources, maybe it's time to re-evaluate.
Keep it Simple
You may already be using data. Do you ask for customer opinions or suggestions? The responses are a data set, and help you make marketing decisions. Data doesn't need to be complicated or intimidating. It just needs to be filtered to meet your needs.
One of the key components of your data solution should be plug-and-play simplicity. Only a few years ago, data was delivered in complex and incomprehensible spreadsheets. That's all changed. Now your decision rests more with determining what data will be most helpful.
Today's tools offer integrated functions and simplified reporting to make understanding data fast and easy.
Putting Your Data to Work
Here are some of the ways data can enhance your marketing strategy:
Improve Your User Experience
Google has a huge suite of free tools designed to help your business. Set up Google Analytics on your website for real-time information about your website visitors and your web traffic. Bounce rates, for example, tell you which pages people linger on, where they come from, what browsers and devices they use, and which pages people leave immediately. Information you can use to improve your website.
If you understand where your visitors lose interest, you should be able to figure out why. Do they linger on pages with more, or less text? How is the information presented? Does a popular page have a single focus or a lot of varied subjects visitors can choose from?
Knowing where your visitors came from identifies where you need to concentrate your efforts. The bulk of your visitors may come from PPC advertising, social media or the search engines.
Utilize Heat Maps
Crazy Egg is an web tool designed to present your websites hot spots, which in turn indicate where vistors spend the most time. Heat maps visualize what draws the most customer attention on your page and experiment with layout and calls-to-action (CTA) to find what works best. You can use the information from heat maps and hot spots discover the most active location for your CTA.
Image via Crazy Egg
Analyze Your Competitors
You don't need to be the website owner to keep track of your what your competitors are doing. An overview of your competitors SEO and social media success and how compare helps your business to better concentrate your social media efforts, discover what customers respond best to and improve the quality of your content.
Industry fans who rewteet, respond and share your competitors content can be valuable contacts for you. Reach out, follow and engage in a natural way with any active industry fans you can identify.
Find Out What Your Customers Want
You're probably already using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to keep track of your customers, but you may not know that you can use it for a lot more. Consumers regularly share their likes and dislikes on social media; all you have to do is pay attention.
Related Article: It's Time to Make The Switch: Cloud-Based CRM Solutions
An analytics program that integrates with your CRM can grab your data and present it in beautiful charts that anyone can understand. For informational reporting, you can take this a step further with custom filters. Segmenting your contract list by specific demographics allows you to generate an informational report that resolves both your and, more importanltly, your customers' needs. Use this data to identify patterns, predict trends and understand customer behavior.
Image via Insightly
A sophisticated CRM can even map connections between your contacts. You can find out which of your customers attended the same trade show or conference, and tailor a special offer just for them and then send it out via your integrated email program with one click.
By paying attention to the information your customers share on social media, you can hone in on what they want to talk about and join the conversation. If you're lucky, you'll discover what they like about your service or products, and what they hate about it. Customers want to know you're paying attention to their concerns, and they appreciate it when you respond. Minor complaints are an opportunity to show your customer respect and build trust.
Related Article: How to Meet Your Big Data Needs Without Crashing Your Budget
Goodbye Numbers, Hello Charts
There was a time full of spreadsheets and numbers where you had to have an advanced degree in data analytics to figure out whether your customers would prefer creampuffs or cupcakes, but no more. Wonderfully visual tools combined with social media make the inner workings of consumer desires easy to access and leverage.
For small local businesses, data offers the kind of information that helps you decide what products to stock, what foods to put on the menu, or what services to offer, and at what price. If you manage to hit that sweet spot where your profit margin is good, your products or services are in demand and your customers are happy enough to engage with you and tell their friends, you're well on your way to success. Low or no cost big data solutions help you to find this sweet spot, no matter how small your business.