How SMBs can use business intelligence to compete with big brands

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By Raul Harman, Technivizors

Business intelligence (BI) has become a frequent topic of discussion amongst progressive business people. However, we are often unsure what business intelligence is really about and why should anyone consider it. We find ourselves excited by what BI tools should offer, without knowing what BI can actually do.

Business intelligence leverages various business intelligence software solutions to convert data into actionable intelligence that directs a company’s tactical and strategic business decisions. BI doesn’t tell business leaders what to do. Neither is it only about generating reports. BI offers a way for them to examine data in order to derive valuable insights into current trends. BI tools enable users to access and analyze data sets and provide findings in summaries, reports, charts, and graphs to provide them with detailed intelligence about the state of their business.

They can use these insights to make the right decisions at the right time, improving their organization’s performance. Often do people think that BI is reserved only for large companies, but it can also benefit small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) that want to tap into new development opportunities.

Predictive marketing

In order to anticipate the evolution of your customers needs and create an effective marketing campaign accordingly, you need to understand their behavior. When it comes to traditional marketing, the aim is to understand consumers in order to bring them products or services that best meet their needs. Thanks to big data and BI tools, predictive marketing goes beyond product/service recommendation. It’s about knowing your customers’ desires before they do, and propose a service that evolves according to their behavior. Recognizing and monitoring patterns and behaviors allows you to take a stab at predicting where things are going, how product/service demand will change over time, and what will prompt it. Fifteen years ago, you had to go with your gut instinct, but today, BI is taking the guesswork out of the whole process.

Customer user experience (UX)

To understand your customers’ behavior and create a better experience for them through customer service, sales, and marketing, you need to use big data that reveal information about your customers and their shopping habits. As a small business, you can gain competitive advantage by offering a personalized experience for your customers, that eventually translates into growth and revenue. According to recent research reports, the Boston Consulting Group expects an increase in revenue by 6-10% for businesses that create a personalized customer experience.

Email marketing

Everyone is doing email marketing these days, as it seems, but so many companies approach it in the old way. There are solutions that offer tools for designing responsive emails, conversion optimization experiments with A/B testing, and modular landing-page creation. However, event-triggered email capability is the real game changer, which sends out messages with content or alerts to subscribers when they take actions on your website, when they haven’t visited a specific page, or for their birthdays. Simply, email marketing is no longer about sending emails only, but a blend of advanced business processes, relationship-building tools, and intelligence.

Recruiting and managing talent

Big data can help you identify the best recruitment channels, find the most talented candidates, and help engage your existing employees better. Most businesses already make a great use of their HR-related data (productivity data, absenteeism figures, staff satisfaction data, and personal development reviews). This allows companies to access data that wasn’t available before – information from sensors in ID badges, data from recruitment sites, social media data, and so on.

Improving business operations

With any process that generates data (e.g. sensors on delivery vehicles, machinery on a production line, customer ordering systems), you can use that data to optimize business processes, make improvements, and make your everyday operations more efficient.

For industrial or manufacturing companies, vehicles, machines, and tools can be data-enabled, connected, and constantly reporting their statuses to each other. In other words, they can be made “smart.” By analyzing this data, businesses can look for ways to increase their efficiency.

Another process that’s enhancing delivery route or supply chain optimization is a process that is benefiting greatly from big data analytics. Sensors and GPS are used to track delivery vehicles or goods, and optimize routes by integrating live traffic data. As for retail companies, business intelligence tools allow them to optimize their stock-keeping practices based on predictions generated from weather forecasts, web search trends, and social media data. This means they can stock up on the most popular items, and find optimal times to put them on sales and reduce the amount of unwanted stock lying in their warehouses.

Small business BI is a flourishing industry. Times have changed, and the same tech revolution that brought us tablets and smartphones, making the whole world fit in our pockets, also reduced the cost and size of analytical solutions. For the first time ever, small businesses can deploy business intelligence to analyze their performance, predict their future, optimize business processes, and make better decisions. In spite of the global economy taking its toll on small businesses, they can still prosper if they invest in the right tools, as BI has enabled them to compete with many of their rivals by offering more carefully tailored services.

Raul Harman is a business consultant, tech enthusiast and editor in chief at

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