A small investment in Big Data helps a small business make big gains

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I recently moved house which, in itself is not particularly worthy of a blog post and would probably even fail to excite the most avid Twitter follower, as thousands of people up sticks every day. But it was that last fact that led to a minor eureka (that’s Greek for “this bath is too hot!”) moment, and the opportunity to help a client increase their business as well as some real revelations about the power and leverage of Big, or not so big data.

Once in my new house I had to update my personal details with all of the businesses that I patronize, and while there are companies that will do this for you, I’m paranoid enough about identity theft to want to do this myself and know that the information is in the right hands. This relatively simple task turned into a time consuming and frustrating exercise in self-flagellation, as over 50% of the companies that I had to contact had no facility for being able to do this on-line. These dinosaurs, the same ones that make you repeat your details after you’ve slogged through their mind numbing, time wasting, incomprehensible IVR on a 084X number, made me call them and/or send an email, thus wasting my & their time and significantly increasing their cost. Not only that, but none of the people that I spoke to, or responded to my email, seemed remotely interested in finding out more about my circumstances. Had I won the lottery? Inherited a small fortune? Come to my senses and left London? How crazy is that? With the number of people and companies that move on a regular basis, many organizations are missing out on a great opportunity to reconnect with their customers, gain better insight and use the information to enhance their relationship, and improve their profitability.



So it got me thinking about how this could be turned into a positive experience and, on a recent trip to Canada, I spoke to some friends that have a growing software company and who were looking to improve their performance in terms of both existing customers and new business. However, they didn’t want to invest a small fortune and take months, or years, to do it. We looked at what they already knew about their customers and prospects and decided that it was worth seeing if adding some carefully selected, but relatively small and actionable pieces of information, would help them target and convert more effectively.

Once they’d decided on what they thought would be valuable they added a section on the log in page that provided a brief intro about the mutual benefits of fulfilling the request and asked customers to take a few moments to update their data and to add some new information. They promised not to sell the list and also asked if they wanted to opt out, and effectively not participate in this exercise. Most people agreed and provided more good info, which was no real surprise as we all know that Canadians are very nice people and not at all boring (I can say that, I do have the passport).

All they asked people to do was to update their contact details and add some additional pieces of information on their business and buying habits. As a result, their lead conversion rate improved by 22% and their sales to existing customers jumped by 6%. Both numbers translated into some reasonably serious revenue, while also increasing the feel good factor with their customers. And the really great part was that other than agreeing on the information needed and designing a very easy to follow landing page, their costs were minimal and it was all done with very little human intervention. They were using Salesforce.com, so it was really easy to have the updated details find their way into the contact record and then to run a short report that identified who had updated their record. How simple is that and measurable?

However to really make this work you need to adhere to three basic concepts.

The information that you gain needs to be actionable and contextual to help you make timely offers that can provide immediate, valuable and recognizable (to the customer) benefits



The offers need to be relevant and closely matched to the customer’s profile and growth potential

The offers must be personalized and content rich so that the recipient can see that you’ve used their information intelligently and that you understand their needs, wants and preferences

Although you may argue that this wasn’t really “Big Data” in the current definition, it was important data, that had a big impact, especially for a relatively small business, and, as the results showed, had a profound effect on both customers and the company. There are still lots of real, or perceived, challenges about Big Data, not the least of which is agreeing on what it really is, as well as how to gather and use it, effectively and appropriately – but that’s a whole other blog.

For my friends in Canada, my moving experience turned into a game changing event for them that led to new insights, and new customers, as well as increased profits and shows that there’s no reason that this type of approach can’t be equally valuable, and effective, for all businesses large or small. This doesn’t mean that it will work that well for everyone, but there’s a fertile seedbed of data out there waiting to nurtured, harvested and used creatively to spot new business opportunities, develop new products and enhance the customer experience. So what do you have to lose by not at least watering the garden every now and then?



Only your customers, and your business.

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