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11 years ago
“Big data” for your small business: some basics to start thinking about


Heard of big data but not sure what it is? Here is a basic introduction to the concept and how it might help your small business.

[Data mining and “big data” are buzzwords in business IT circles. We spotted this basic introduction to the topic in CRN magazine and decided to share it with you below.]

Data mining can sound like an incredibly complicated thing, but take the example of Troy Adams from Betta Computer Services:

Troy collects very specific information about clients to show they care. How large is the business? What is the birthday of the owner? What football team do they follow?

Most importantly, Troy engages all of his staff to help with the process. In casual conversations with clients, his engineers might find out some specific information and then use that data to personalise their offering.

And ultimately, that is what ‘big data’ is all about. Personalising the offering to make the client feel as if an offer is targeted just at them.

Personalising the offer
I always have on file what type of coffee a client drinks. Then when I turn up to a consultancy meeting, I have a coffee in hand that I know the client prefers. As far as the client is concerned, I simply remembered his preference (if I do it right). The database backing me up should appear seamless.

In a similar vein, Hendrik Kruizinga from Crucial Cloud Hosting focuses his data collection around existing clients and using that data in a way that enhances their experience with them. They focus more on profiling and client feedback rather than mining large data blocks.

Netsurit’s Neil Smith looks at the big data phenomenon differently. Neil sees it as a perfect way to grow their business. By using social Media (specifically Facebook and LinkedIn) Neil can gain background information on organisations and find key decision makers. The real key here is to work out methods to determine attributes of potential clients – such as appetite for risk, IT maturity and the like rather than just the pure traditional demographics.

Using the data
As Jamie Warner from eNerds puts it, it is one thing to mine the data. Then you need to use it effectively. The key here is to develop specific marketing campaigns to match up to identified opportunities.

In Jamie’s example this can be as simple as partnering with a key vendor to market hardware solutions to clients with hardware that is over three years of age, or targeting clients with older versions of Windows Server to help guide those clients through the process of upgrading or designing an entirely new solution – quite possibly incorporating the cloud.

The data might already be in front of you
I started selling mobile phones way back in 1990. That was back in the days of the Motorola ‘brick’ phone and the bag phone. Our most popular seller was a car-phone – permanently installed in the car complete with curly-cord handset.

These were cheap at only $2K installed – compared to the best handhelds at $6K. There was no such thing as carrier subsidies so you paid the full price of the phone upfront. Then subsidies were introduced and suddenly phones were incredibly inexpensive – but only when you first connected.

About seven years after selling my first phone, I started contemplating moving out of that business altogether. The market had reached saturation and sales of new phones were sporadic. With no subsidy on upgrades – only new connections – clients held onto their phones until they were completely dead.

Then two things happened. Firstly, carriers started subsidising recontracts and, without realising it, I started a ‘big data’ marketing campaign. We knew exactly when each client’s contract was finishing, we knew their monthly spend, we knew their age and we had all their contact details including their mobile phone number.

With a specific tailored targeted campaign via mail, text and phone calls (to the higher spending individuals) we tripled our mobile phone sales within a month and still continue to use variations of those methods today (over 15 years later). Sometimes the information you need is staring you in the face!

Not just for big business
Just the term ‘big data’ implies, well, BIG! But don’t be fooled. Some computer resellers have told me that they don’t really deal with ‘big data’ because their focus is on small businesses. ‘Big data’ is not about big business.

All resellers (and companies with small businesses as customers) need to focus on maximising the data available to them to ensure their customers feel special. The number one reason a clients will leave your business is perceived indifference and if you aren’t mining all the data available to make your clients feel special, someone else out there will.

By: Mathew Dickerson
Originally published at bit.

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