TECH, BUSINESS AND CAREER INSIGHTS

How SMB Owners Can Use Data Aggregation to Grow Their Businesses

By: TSP Blog | @TSProckstars

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Most small business owners have a treasure trove of information at their fingertips that could be the key to unlocking even more revenue and spurring growth. You probably already use spreadsheets, databases and customer relationship management tools to manage the business on a daily basis. Therefore, the question then becomes how to leverage this data to analyze what's working well, what product or service is most successful, or what efficiencies could be gained?

It’s time to consider the power of data aggregation.

IBM defines data aggregation as the process where raw data is gathered and expressed in a summary form for statistical analysis. Raw data can be aggregated, or gathered over a period of time, to provide statistics and presented in a readable format so that management may gain insights about particular resources. So how should small business owners utilize data aggregation? Consider the following tips as starting points.

SET OBJECTIVES
Your first step should be to set clear goals for what you would like to accomplish. Examples might include cost reduction, pricing optimization, new product identification or even new customer identification. Once you set clear objectives for what you want to analyze, determining the next steps for implementing data aggregation processes become a lot easier.

You will realize the real value of your data if it’s presented in a format that inspires you to make strategic and organizational changes. The data should be problem-oriented and not too general or overwhelming. Real-time information allows you to spot trends immediately and act accordingly.

EXAMINE YOUR INTERNAL DATA
After the specific goals, examine your internal data to determine the information that could be analyzed and summarized to provide valuable insight. This type of data may include sales receipts, social media analytics, website analytics or email marketing reports. For example, many of the analytics tools associated with social media tools are free. Analysis of likes and page visits provides valuable insight into your customers’ behavior and preferences when interacting with your brand online. This data combined with an examination of your sales trends could unlock actionable information to expand your customer base.

In addition to the organization’s specific data, you may want to subscribe to third-party data providers specific to your industry. You should proceed with caution, however, to identify valid providers who are attuned to data integrity and security. Especially prevalent in the financial industry, these third-party aggregators bundle information from multiple sources into a format that allows for easy integration. A hallmark of a good data aggregator is one who is able to gather high-quality accurate data and a large enough amount to create relevant results. Because these third parties are focused on the industry data, they’re able to embrace innovation and spot industry trends that might not be apparent to the individual small business.

INTERACTIVE DASHBOARDS
The key for any aggregation and analysis is the constructive and timely presentation of the data. The data aggregation tools that you use to analyze the data and to present it effectively are dependent on the type of business and the platforms that you may already be using. Remember the goal is to create a live dashboard that provides access to operational analysis and key factors needed to run your business in real time.

The human brain is wired to process information visually, making visualization one of the best ways to explore and understand data. Interactive dashboards quickly engage end-users with a wide range of technical acumen and provide an intuitive experience with easily digested insights. Dashboards provide Return on Investment (ROI) by quickly highlighting trends and providing insights. As a small business owner, you may need a variety of dashboards. High level summary dashboards may provide an overall picture of your business, but you may also need very specific dashboards that allow you to drill into particular problems or questions.

In the end, all dashboards should be focused, visually appealing and simple to digest. The goal of the dashboard approach is to compile datasets that are dispersed throughout your company and perhaps your industry into one single place to get a comprehensive overview.

END GOALS
The use of the data aggregation concept and dashboard presentation allow you to view your data not as an overwhelming mass but as a collection of answers to a specific question. A small business may have an advantage over larger corporations in that once a trend or actionable item is identified, you have the advantage of making decisions more quickly than a corporation where approvals and red tape are involved.

Additionally, if your small business has good internal communications and you empower your team with the same information that you're using, you're all working toward the common goal of business strength. Business intelligence doesn't have to be overwhelming and difficult — you just need to approach it with the right tools and analytics. You can then use the data to make better decisions for future growth.

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