Competitive Intelligence: The Key to Strategic Advantage: A Guide for Small Business Owners

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Make better business decisions faster. It is no question, starting a business is hard work. If your business is a startup, it can be even harder.


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Startups are paving paths in unknown territories while having to constantly prove their worth to the market and investors. Businesses need to continually make all of the right decisions to move on from startup status to an established industry presence. To make these decisions and grow a business, they need the right information. The good news is the growth in the BI market has given businesses of all sizes unprecedented access to the information they need. They just need the right tools to access it and clear out the noise.

All startups are small businesses, but not all small businesses are startups. Telling the right data story is especially significant for startups. Startups are a unique breed. Successful startups do this by constantly monitoring and analyzing their data. To survive, startups also have to effectively translate this data story to investors, board members and other stakeholders to survive.

Boost your Ecommerce marketing ROI through competitive intelligence

Progressive startups are turning to business intelligence for small business to ensure they have the right tools to analyze, visualize and present their data. Presenting accurate and fast data to key stakeholders has become a must-have in the business community. Whether big or small, data must be evaluated and taken into account if a company wants to survive on the market.

That being said, we will explore tips to utilize your big data, and implement them into the small business data analytics realm. Big data strategy for small businesses should incorporate and exploit analytics to reveal business trends and make decisions. It should be made with agility in its approach, starting with a small hypothesis, involving the team and using smart data sources and tools.

It has been reiterated countless times in scientific and business publications and promises the moon: uncovering hidden patterns of customer behavior, predicting KPIs, helping to plan budgets. However, all the steam coming out of the Big Data hype machine seems to be obscuring the truth: big data is useful only if we are able to use it as an aid in everyday business operations.

That means that big data is a tool, not a solution to your business issues or setbacks. It can be used to effectively draw attention to some operational concerns that were not seen before, or to compile all those datasets dispersed throughout the company into one single place, to get a neat overview.

A company might take on data scientists, invest in enhanced servers, use sophisticated analytics and data mining applications to crunch lots of different types of data, then, send it to an external hi-tech data warehouse, where complex algorithms will process the results and display it in detailed reports.

In fact, such scenario is put into practice only in big, well-funded enterprises. But the volume of big data for small businesses is only a fracture of what big companies have to deal with. Moreover, the data small business accumulates is usually more structured and have easier to crunch formats. When you perceive your data as a huge pool with new information flowing in every day, this might be intimidating indeed. However, start to view your data not as an overwhelming mass but as a collection of answers to specific questions.

Approach it already with a question or a hypothesis in mind and check if the data gathered confirms your assumption. In this case, you will also avoid the hassle that arises when more people look at the same results but each of them interprets them in a different way. This happens when you approach the analysis without a strategy which can cost you a lot of money, time and stress. So first start with a singular question, go through easily available data and if you arrive at a positive answer, you might use it as a first step to more advanced research.

For example, you might want to know how to increase your revenue and net profit. If you gather all your financial points of interest into one single view, it is easy to spot every operational expense and see where the majority of costs will be concentrated. The Opex Ratio refers to the operational costs that a company incurs as a result of performing its normal business operations.

We see in the chart that the trend of earnings is on its growth path, meaning, you can easily conclude that the company is in a healthy and stable financial condition. When comparing these financial KPIs over different departments or industries as mentioned before, every dashboard can be adjusted according to the specific needs of a company , the figures might significantly change. Nevertheless, this template can perform a succinct overview of the most important indicators when evaluating the financial situation of a company.

Competitive intelligence defined

They might be better funded and have more data experts, but even the best IT guys can get tangled in red tape. While a huge company may need five approvals from a CEO, official e-mails and team meetings to get any change through, you can already start leveraging insights from big data in small business.

You will whisk away the customers without the bigger company even noticing.

How Information Gives You Competitive Advantage

By implementing the performance of your company into a simple interactive dashboard, your small BI operations will change its swiftness, meaning every information needed will be right on your screen, available with a simple click. If your team is of smaller or bigger size, usually it has to internally communicate to reach a common business goal.

As mentioned earlier, humans are wired to process information visually, and when that information is neatly gathered into one single place, the communication process also becomes simple and more efficient. In a small company with good internal communication, teamwork can become a reality rather than a slogan.

When all departments of a company, information technology, marketing, sales etc. The reason why implementing big data for small businesses can be so useful is that it increases the team morale and involvement levels. Employees are given the opportunity to better understand the customer, forecast market trends and monitor their own performance.

This, in turn, encourages them to make fast and confident decisions and benefits the company as a whole. Use smart data sources and tools. Start with easily available resources you can find online. For useful information about demographics, profession, interests of your customers, you can obviously go to Facebook Insights and Google Analytics. You can look for more free online sources about a chosen population or demographics in the region that interests you. Then, the same applies as for our third tip on getting started with small BI, earlier in this article.

How to choose the right tool out of many available online?

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First, check if the tool is easy to deploy and you can start using it within minutes. With its simple, drag and drop feature, an online data visualization tool will turn raw data into beautiful visuals, ready to interact with by using few clicks on which you can expand your data into specific time-frames and perform additional analysis of your overall business management process.

Depending on how much data you have, you will be able to choose a pricing scheme. You pay for the functionalities and capacity you need today but thanks to the subscription model you can scale up and add more features as the need for analytics increases. This is where the magic of online business software comes in hand: you can adapt it to your own needs and perform your own analysis, adjusted to your own values and business indicators.

Marketing Strategy: How to grow your business using competitive intelligence system

It also allows you to analyze data online, helps you stay proactive, visualizes your data, increases collaboration, and helps to secure your data. On a more team-related side, small data analytics also increases productivity, maximizes staff resources, simplifies complex data and analyses, gives your employees space for self-improvement and significantly helps startups.

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In small business operations, every minute and working hour is crucial to perform in its best and cost-effective form. It's an oft-misunderstood topic, defined by Cognitiv's Fain as "a more advanced type of machine learning that's capable of generating human-like insight. Sadly, In fact, most data-driven professionals has a steep climb ahead of us. We'll look back 15 years from now at what we're doing and say, 'Wasn't that cute? Big data, data analytics, and artificial intelligence go very much hand-in-hand. Artificial intelligence - and, by extension, deep learning - requires data, reams and reams of it.

The only way that deep learning can be effective for your organization is if you have a steady stream of information to feed it. As Fain points out , "The ability to more fully describe and understand a consumer's behavior is more complete than ever before, and that kind of data will make AI marketing tools even more effective over the next few years. At this point, all brands need a strong data strategy. Just look at brands like Macy's and J. Penney's today, who are struggling as a result of the data-centric approaches of e-commerce giants like Amazon and eBay.

Having the right strategy and, just as importantly, the right tools to get the most out of your data, is what will help keep your company competitive, and successful. Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post. Of course, it's important to note that you don't have to be a dominating enterprise like Amazon or Google to turn data into a competitive advantage.

As artificial intelligence becomes increasingly advanced and more widely adopted, we'll start to see a lot of companies - big and small - turning to AI in order to come up with better data strategies and win customer adoption, and to better compete against their competition. In theory, every brand is capable of developing their own unique data assets, because every brand has to be slightly different to compete.

This means that a brand's customers are, at the very least, slightly different from those of their competition, which means that they have a unique angle that they can utilize. Every piece of data you get on your customer or potential customer is therefore another piece of information you can use to craft an effective marketing or advertising strategy. In order to use this information effectively, you must first decide what your goal is. Are you looking for more sales? Are you trying to achieve higher foot traffic in stores? Is your goal to have higher market awareness of your product?

Once you've done that, you can look at the data to see if it is in the right format for use with deep learning. This is something that is hard to explain simply, but fundamentally, data has to be in a disaggregated state - that is to say, it has to come from multiple sources so that more in-depth conclusions can be drawn from it. That means you don't really need to know only how many people visited a store, but instead when exactly each person visited.

You no longer need to look at just how many sales you made, but also what each sale was and to whom. To get one step further, you must identify what touchpoints you had with a customer before they transacted with you, what ads they were shown, and when and where all the interactions occurred.

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