Why Small Brands Need Big Data

Daniel Newman

Did you know that 90% of the world’s data was generated in the past 2 years?

big data analysis of small brandMoreover, every minute on the internet there are more than 2,000,000 Google searches, 685,000 Facebook updates, 200 million sent emails and 48 hours worth of video uploaded to YouTube.  Not in a day or a week, but in a minute.

That is a ton of information to process and frankly most companies are struggling with what to do about it.

In fact in one survey, it was found that 70% of companies are overwhelmed by the amount of data coming their way and only 25% of businesses had a plan to deal with big data.  What makes it the big data even more complex, especially for small business is that not all data is created equal.

While some data comes in structured formats, such as sales data, web statistics and marketing lists, much of the data comes in free-form or what is referred to as unstructured.  This data is much harder to utilize and leverage than its counterpart because it is comprised of the information inside of presentations, images, videos and blog posts.  Both of these data types are seeing tremendous growth with structured data growing at a rate of 60% year over year, and unstructured at an even greater rate of 80%.

Every day business uses for Big Data

With so much available information there is a tremendous opportunity for companies that can identify and isolate key pieces of information that can help them improve their business.

Here are some useful ways Big Data is being used today:

  • Risk management
  • Understanding when and why customers leave
  • Driving R&D
  • Improving customer targeting
  • Understanding customer needs
  • Analyzing social behavior

While these are just a few of the ways Big Data can be used to drive better business decisions, it is becoming more and more clear each day that businesses that can use information to better manage decision making will be at a distinct advantage.

The emerging problem is that data visualization is expensive and as one Harvard Business Review article points out, we are going to be moving to a world of Data-Haves and Data-Have Nots, and it is going to be based on financial wherewithal, an area where most smaller organizations come up short.

The information outlined above represents the quandary of not just small business, but of all business, so let’s drill down one level further.  What is the biggest challenge for Small Business looking to take advantage of Big Data?

Big facts, Big Data, small business: Solved by cloud, software, and tools

The truth is that Big Data for small business is no Longer “Mission Impossible.”  According to Phil Simon, author of some of the leading books on Big Data including Too Big To Ignore: A Case For Big Data and The Visual Organization, “I found that plenty of small and midsized companies are doing interesting things with data, and they aren’t spending millions on it.”  Simon goes on to say in an article (Also in HBR):

“True that in the past, companies seeking to tap into big data needed to purchase expensive hardware and software, hire consultants, and invest huge amounts of time in analytics. But trends such as cloud computing, open-source software, and software as a service have changed all that. New, inexpensive ways to learn from data are emerging all the time.”

In short what Simon is saying is that if you are a business big or small, there are manageable ways to approach big data where you can garner some pieces of information that may very well set you apart from your competitors.

Some recommendations for small businesses looking to tap into Big Data

  • Take the time to understand what your goals are for Big Data.  Are there a few very specific pieces of information you seek such as customer demographics or attrition metrics? Making big data goals smaller can make the potential of implementing a Big Data program more realistic.
  • Look at data on demand sources like Kaggle where you can choose the size of the project and the amount of extractable information you seek.  Much like a Priceline “name your own price.”
  • Finally, many traditional data brokers have become more reasonable with mounting competition and therefore offer highly useful data at prices that smaller organizations can afford.

How is your business responding to Big Data revolution? How do you plan to keep up?

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.


About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist