There’s a lot of hype about “Big Data” and how it’s answer for big companies trying to use their massive data stores to find hidden gems of insight. Even in big companies with millions on the line and Petabytes of data, front line managers still rely more on gut instinct than hard data.
The reason more managers don’t use data, and the reason I think that many other businesses don’t use it, is that it seems too technically complex and not worth it. The term “Big Data” makes it seem like only the Amazon’s of the world with armies of data scientists can make sense of this stuff.
The truth is that there’s great, free technology out there to help any sized business use data — and it doesn’t need to be “Big”. It starts with the crucial first step of being really clear about what business outcome you want to achieve through your digital marketing spending and your website.
You spend money on advertising to bring in visitors, but wouldn’t you love to know how many new visitors stick around and actually browse your site? And does your website do a good job selling what you have to offer so visitors actually “convert” by making a purchase or providing an email so you can follow up?
These are all questions you can answer with hard data using totally free tools like Google Analytics that are painless to set up and really powerful. If you want to go deeper on this, there’s a great post by Avinash Kaushik, that lays this out really simply.
OK, so what do you do once you have data? Well, now is where it gets fun – you get to be a scientist!
If lots of visitors are leaving your home page immediately, you can try to change the copy, style or layout to see if it gets more visitors to stick around. In my experience working on big e-commerce sites, the big winners end up being the trivial little tweaks — a bigger font, a larger image, or different copy. And again, tools are available that plug-in to popular web publishing platforms that let you set up and run web experiments easily with no software development.
The key is to just start, keep it simple, and keep doing it. The more you test, the more chances you have to find winners.
The bottom line is that all businesses can be a lot more efficient and effective by using data. And the data doesn’t have to be “big data” to be really powerful.