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How small businesses can mine big data

Christopher Null | Aug. 28, 2013
Your customer data contains hidden gems of business intelligence. Here's how to make it work for your company

How can your small business use big data?
If you're a typical small business, just crunching along from day to day without any real strategic direction, the ability to finally get your arms around your business by digging into the data you already have probably sounds enticing. But big-data service providers don't make it easy. There are literally hundreds of companies out there, all of which promise to open your eyes to your company's future by "harnessing big data."

These companies can be wildly dissimilar. For example, Tranzlogic provides a Web portal for merchants where they can track sales, how various locations are performing, and whether promotions are paying off. It uses "big data" analysis of your credit card transaction data to do this. Or consider MaxxCAT, which makes a network appliance and accompanying software to pluck data from your internal servers and hook those results into processing systems. It's also a big-data service, but the two companies couldn't be more different.

Knowing what kind of big data service to work with depends on the type of data you're looking to analyze.

A look at the big data landscape
Big-data companies vary widely in scope and scale. This overview will help you understand the types of companies out there. Some of them are large-scale providers that can analyze data from a wide variety of sources. Others work in extremely narrow niches. Again, choosing a big-data partner depends entirely on the data. There's no sense in signing with a provider that specializes in slicing and dicing Salesforce databases if you don't use that system.

InsightSquared:  This service is designed to analyze sales and the selling process, with a distinct focus on hooking into Salesforce and similar apps to examine your CRM database. You can further refine this by adding in data from QuickBooks, Zendesk, Google Analytics, and other sources. InsightSquared provides sales forecasts, a pipeline visualization, a marketing cycle report, and more. Pricing starts at $99 per month.

Canopy Labs: Canopy is designed to predict customer behavior and sales trends, offering a variety of scenarios for the future that you can use to help guide marketing and promotional efforts. (For example: Should you target loyal customers or try to bring back those who haven't shopped with you for a while?) Supports Constant Contact, Salesforce, MailChimp, and more. Pricing ranges from free (up to 5,000 customers) to $250 per month (up to 100,000 customers).

Radius:  A big-data tool primarily used to help identify sales targets and aid with lead generation, especially for businesses working with a large number of prospects. A big focus is correcting outdated customer information, so sales reps don't go calling on shuttered businesses. The company says it aggregates data from more than 30,000 sources. Pricing is $99 per user per month.

 

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