Using Big Data as Part of Your Business Plan

By Steven D. Peterson, Peter E. Jaret, Barbara Findlay Schenck

Big data is the term for collected facts and figures that reveal trends and patterns for your business plan. It used to apply to those businesses with big operations and big budgets, but today it’s for everyone because data is now so readily accessible, and data analysis tools are often free or almost-free.

To leverage available facts into information that help you define and predict your market and customer conditions, take these steps:

  1. Set your sights.
    With so much data available, the smartest first step is to focus on what you want data to help you accomplish. Do you want more customers? More sales of certain products or services? A larger, more engaged customer community? These kinds of questions can guide the collection of data that can assist your planning.
  2. Collect the data.
    Obtain information by studying sales records, by researching customers and by tapping into information compiled by business suppliers, government agencies, industry sources, media outlets, and online searches for the kind of information you’re working to compile. Also, check out Google Shopping Insights, a free tool that explores trends and popularity of products across the United States.
  3. Analyze the data.
    Make sense of the facts and figures. Use collected multi-year statistics to plot and project growth trends. Use facts from your recent sales history to determine which of your product, customer, and geographic market segments are growing or declining. Use Google Analytics, a free Google tool, to obtain data on your website visitors, including where they come from, what devices they use, which pages they visit, bounce rates or how long they stay on your site, and traffic trends that help you analyze which promotions and social media efforts are successfully driving site traffic.
  4. Use the data.
    Depending on your marketing goals, the data you collect and analyze can guide decisions regarding which customer or market segments are your best growth targets, which products or product features are most apt to see increased customer interest and adoption, and which kinds of messages and offers are likely to pull the most interest. The result? You can prepare marketing and business plans based not on guestimates but on facts, figures, probabilities, and trends.