Do you need Big Data for your Small Business?

The reality is there are two advantages a small business has.

One is they are small, can react quickly and at a very local level.

The second is that a large amount of what is called Big Data is actually in the public domain available for a small business to analyze and use. If a small business can use this data, they have the opportunity to compete with companies much larger in size.

“Big Data” is a term being thrown around a lot in the media today. Everyone it seems is collecting and analyzing large sets of data to help them run their firm, industry or even government. The ability to collect and analyze large amounts of data would appear to gives huge corporations an even more unfair advantage than they already have over the small business owner.

Which of the following five following “Big Data” sources will work for your business?

1. Census Explorer

The Census Explorer is a tool on the Census.gov site. The Census certainly counts as a “Big data” set. It is public and it also has some great analysis tools already built. The Census Explorer is one. This is a mapping tool, that lets you type in an area as small as a zip code, and see all sorts of key facts about the area and all the neighboring areas too.

Being able to visually see key facts about your small businesses trade area is invaluable. Your ability to react quickly and locally to it is a real advantage too.

2. American Fact Finder

This is another pre-built tool to get at different sets of Census data. It is also found off the Census.gov home page. I really like its ability to look at commuting patterns, school enrollment and number of businesses right down to the census track level.

These are key facts, which you can use to adjust your marketing, store location or other sales efforts.

3. Trade Stats Express

This is big data about exports from Export.gov. If you want to explore selling internationally here is where to use a pre-built tool to analyze what is popular from your state and industry and which countries are buying these products.

The information you gain here can be an important first step in customer development you decide to take your small business global

4. Trends – Google, You Tube, Twitter….

How about filtering millions of searches, video views or tweets and knowing what is popular in your city or in the age group you are trying to reach. All these popular sites and others offer pre-built trend tools or simply report trends real-time.

This is a huge amount of instant data available, which you can utilize in your small business’s messages to the groups you want to connect with.

5. Your Big Data

While your sales may not be to millions of clients but, the data from it is critical to you. Having a way to collect client information, email or other data is something you should really be doing. One area to consider is your credit card sales — can your merchant provide data collection and analysis for you. If you use credit cards for your own purchases, this too is data that can be collected and analyzed, maybe together with your merchant data if you have a single financial provider.

While “Big Data” seems unrelated to small business the availability of public big data with pre-built analysis tools can actually be a real benefit that any business owner can capitalize on.

Taking the concepts of “Big Data” and applying it to your firm — collecting and analyzing your own data — is equally important to explore and to your firm it’s maybe the biggest data of all.

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