Knowing the market and your customers and suppliers is standard for small business owners, and insight services like CreditHQ.co.uk can really give you that edge. But shouldn’t you be getting all data-savvy and wade into the Big Data revolution? For most small businesses the answer is yes, but it should be more about smart data, than Big Data.
There’s been a lot of noise made around Big Data in recent years; about analytics changing how businesses can succeed. This is certainly true if you have millions of customers and interactions with your services, or if your operation demands advanced data analysis – the Met Office’s recent announcement that it has commissioned a £97m supercomputer is right on trend, and of course, essential for its work.
For small businesses though, the budget won’t stretch quite that far! But there’s no need to panic – it’s possible to utilise the skills you’ve refined while running your business to achieve a lot with little. Your resourcefulness and ability to learn will allow you to work smart with data.
Get the tools
To really get the insights your business needs, you’ll need two things: analysis tools and data. For the first, while there is a world of software options now available for advanced data analysis, the reality is that for most business research needs, a simple spread sheet will suffice. This is because a lot of the work, after you’ve got hold of the data, is in organising and presenting the results, which spread sheets can achieve simply and quickly. So fire up your favourite spread sheet software now! You probably already have one installed on your computer. If not, there are various free options available, such as Open Office or Google Sheets.
Before moving on to data, let’s banish any spread sheet fears. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, a little rusty or highly experienced – if you can’t figure out how to do it, simply ask the internet! Go to your favourite search engine and type in the name of the software you’re using followed by what it is you’re trying to achieve. There is an abundance of pages out there to help with every possible task – make the most of them.
Get the data
Now for the data. This depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If it’s market research, then your first port of call will probably be the Office for National Statistics website. There you can download all sorts of data on human and business populations across the country to help focus your sales areas; revenue information for all business sectors to help you understand the scale of your markets; along with plenty of other stats on the state of the economy and nation. All of the data is available to download into your spread sheet to allow you to pick out the parts relevant to your business.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to understand your customers’ behaviour better, some simple analyses can go a long way. For example, start by getting your sales figures into your spread sheet – this could be by exporting from your record-keeping software, or manually entering (it’s worth the effort).
Now you can do things like creating a chart of your sales over time, or using a pivot table to group your sales into daily or monthly totals. Once you’ve standardised your data into daily totals, for example, you could insert formulas next to your data to calculate the moving average over, say 30 days. Charting those values alongside the raw sales figures allows you to see more clearly what the trends are, effectively smoothing out the noise in the data. Another useful approach is to insert a formula next to the monthly totals which subtracts each month’s total from the previous one. Charting this month-on-month change data allows you to easily see what your long-term growth looks like.
Got the insight!
So you can see how easy it can be to gain a lot of insight for your small business, using readily available tools and resources. For the small business entrepreneur, you don’t need Big Data to give your business the advantage, just use smart data analysis!