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The Power of Data

Mark Dalton - Monday, March 21, 2016

Business owners have known the importance of data to a business for many years – whether that relates to understanding current customers to improve the service they receive, identifying and targeting potential customers or looking inside the company to improve processes, save money and increase profits.

Not so long ago ‘Big Data’ was headline news, and not just in the technical press. The ability of organisations such as Google or Facebook to analyse huge amounts of data and make meaningful decisions which are relevant and benefit users gave them huge competitive advantage and power.

So how can small and medium companies use data to their advantage without the large teams of data analysts and budgets available to large companies?

      • The first tool which every business should have is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system which, if used and set up properly, is incredibly powerful. All customer interactions from initial contact through to sale and renewal can be tracked and reports run to identify your best customers, customers at risk of leaving or the types of companies or individuals you should be targeting. Integrating with other systems, such as accounts also has the potential to streamline your processes and save time in duplication of effort by staff. This will cost money but it doesn’t have to blow your budget entirely.
  • The internet has huge amounts of data freely available and many businesses would benefit from harnessing its power but this can often be a time-intensive, and therefore expensive, activity. There are, however, some incredibly powerful tools out there able to extract data from websites. For example Magic by import.io is a free tool that does just that. Some of the ways that this tool can be used are:
    • Retailers wanting to analyse products being sold online across many different websites to understand your competitors’ price and service levels to identify gaps in the market or how you compare to your competitors. Magic will develop a code for you to extract this data and import into software such as spreadsheets for you to analyse. No programming skills are required but, as with all data analysis, some level of intervention will be required to ensure data isn’t duplicated and that you are comparing like with like.
    • Identify potential leads. Web scraping has a very bad reputation and association with spamming but, as with many tools, the key to success is in how you use it. If you understand who is likely to buy from you and approach data collection in a focused way and then use the data for a targeted and personal follow up, then a tool such as Magic can be amazingly powerful and save many hours of work.
    • To analyse complex data from multiple sources to highlight trends and gaps, for example by journalists or businesses developing white papers. For uses such as this, if data is being extracted from multiple sources, you will need to ensure the data is robust to that your report is credible.

Data has the potential to transform a business but its effectiveness depends on how well systems are set up in the first place to ensure data is accurate and the quality of the analysis to provide meaningful information that a business can act on, not just a set of numbers.

We have undertaken a number of consultancy projects to help companies set up systems and extract data that can be used to drive their business forward. So if you want to harness the power of information in your business and would like to know how technology can help just get in touch for a chat. You can send us an email or call us on 01256 636214.
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