Nurturing a Lead is Required to Make a Sale

Times have changed.  Getting a lead is not easy and it is definitely pricier than in years past.  Nurturing the lead into an appointment is not easy either, but in the end it’s what will be required to keep your doors open.

What is a Qualified Lead?

A qualified lead is a prospect in your lead-tracking system who has expressed interest in buying your product and passes a set of lead qualifications in order to progress further down the funnel.

This does not mean that they are ready to buy today. But it does mean that they have been qualified to need your services and/or products.

What Should You do With a Lead?

You’ve launched an ad campaign and started to attract great leads. Leads captured online are typically from individuals who saw a proposal and took an action (usually a click that takes them to a landing page).  At that point they took the time to read your ad and then took the extra step to provide you with their name, phone number and email address.  These are not disinterested individuals.

Your job now is to keep those leads happy, while gently leading them through the sales cycle. If your sales cycle is a long one, the task is more complicated.  And, by the way, hearing aid sales fall into the category of having a long sales cycle.

If you aren’t getting sales from leads, there may be several reasons why:

  • Lack of lead nurturing is the most common cause.
  • Lack of persistence.  Kapture CRM reports that it can take up to 8  to reach an actual prospect.
  • Lag time. Your staff does not respond to the lead quickly enough.
  • You aren’t providing feedback to the individual handling the marketing that will allow them to refine the quality of the leads.
  • Unqualified or untrained salesperson. The person returning the calls has to understand that their role is to function as a salesperson. The staff member’s role is not to act as a just a receptionist whose sole purpose it to schedule an appointment. Give the “salesperson” the tools they’ll need to convert the lead to an appointment.  At a minimum make sure they understand the offer being promoted through the ad that attracted the lead in the first place.

Good News/Bad News

It’s important to keep in mind that 50% of qualified leads aren’t ready to buy. They might be open to education, and delighted that you can identify their pain points, but actually signing up for your solution? They’re not there yet.

So, what’s the good news?

Research studies state 80% of these people are going to buy from someone in the next 24 months. This is where lead nurturing comes into play.

Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.

The biggest mistake you can make is to think that one contact, for example, one message left on an answering machine is all that is required to “nurture a lead”.  If you have a lead that has responded to a “call to action” by providing their contact information, they’re a qualified lead.

How Many Contacts to Make a Sale?

Some articles say 12. A few of the more optimistic ones pick 7 as their answer. Some go for a range between 10 and 15. The truth is, it takes as many contacts as it takes. If you’re lucky enough to get an impulse buyer, 1 contact may be plenty to cement the deal. If you have a cautious buyer in a bad economy, you could be looking at 20 or more contacts prior to conversion.

An often cited statistic suggests that more than 80% of conversions take place sometime after the 5th contact.  A study from Dartnell Corp investigated the number of times a prospect was called before a salesperson waved the proverbial white flag. Here is their data:

  • 48% quit after the first contact
  •  72% stop after the second contact
  • 84% give up on a prospect after the third contact
  • 90% wave the white flag after the fourth contact

As you can see, almost half of all salespeople quit after the first call. And the vast majority (90 percent) quit relatively soon after.

What Most Entrepreneurs Get Wrong

It’s all about the sale, so why do 90 percent of salespeople quit so quickly? There are many reasons, and the simplest is that they let business and life get in the way. Some get caught up in busywork because it is easier than having to follow up. Others just lack the discipline to make those follow-up calls.

The fact is that 10% of salespeople make the 5th call, and studies show that 80 percent of sales are made after that fifth sales call.

The difference between success and failure is persistence.  It’s true with most things in life including turning a lead into a sale.

Content Marketing for Audiology

A blog can be defined as a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis. In the early days of blogging, people wrote blogs along the lines of a diary, a way to express their thoughts and feelings.

The Role of the Blog

Over time businesses began to embrace the role of blogging as a way to provide information to both potentially new and existing customers. Business owners began to realize that blogging online gave them the ability to expand the information provided to customers about existing products and services, answer the most frequently asked questions, address common misconceptions, introduce new products and services and so on.

Blogging is also important for giving your practice exposure and to build a sense of community. It’s one of the best ways for you to establish you and your practice as the authority in your area for all things related to Audiology and hearing healthcare.  What else can a blog do for your practice?

Preventing Buyer’s Remorse

You have just spent an hour, maybe an hour and half convincing a patient that spending upwards of several thousand dollars for a set of hearing aids is a great idea. They are now about to leave your office. One of the best ways to prevent buyer’s remorse is to use your blogs to continue the sales process once your patient leaves the office, for example:

“Mr. Jones, when you go home take some time to go through our website. I know I gave you a lot of information over the past hour. Most of what I just told you can be found on our website, but you may also find a answer to a question or two that you hadn’t even thought of. We like you to know that we have the answers to your questions 24/7.”

Your website and in particular your blogs represent you and your practice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s almost like have a full-time employee who does nothing but answers patient’s questions 24/7 and who never calls out sick.

Content Marketing and Ranking

Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material, for example blogs that do not explicitly promote a brand but are intended to stimulate interest in it’s products or services.

Your blog should be designed to answer a question.  Today’s search engine are designed to respond to real (or natural) language queries.  Natural language search is search carried out in everyday language, phrasing questions as you would ask them if you were talking to someone. These queries can be typed into a search engine, spoken aloud with voice search, or posed as a question to a digital assistant like Siri.

Why the Evolution of Search?

First of all, search engines – particularly Google – have improved their search capabilities so much over the years that people expect to find exactly what they’re looking for on the first try.

Secondly, search technology has improved to the point where we can begin to teach search engines to understand longer, more complex queries, with different components that modify each other and can’t operate independently.

The third key component contributing to the development of natural language search is the rise of voice search and digital assistants. It’s becoming a lot more common for people to search by talking into their phone.

Quality content is far more than just a buzzword marketers throw around for fun.  It’s what savvy marketers strive for, and what Google and people look for. It’s what separates the winners from the losers online; it’s what will help your site rank well in the search engines, and what will help you build trust, credibility, and authority with your audience.

How to Go from Clicks to Calls

If your brand is targeting older adults online and your ultimate goal is to get foot traffic to your “brick and mortar” location, it can sometimes be challenging to turn those website visitors into in-person visits. If you aren’t seeing the conversion results you’d like to see from your online campaigns targeting seniors, start by considering a few things.

First, are your marketing efforts effectively reaching your target audience, or are you, perhaps, targeting too broadly?

Second, are you reaching your audience at all stages of the sales funnel – from initial awareness to decision time?

Third, are your website visitors taking the desired action? Are you effectively getting that “in-store foot traffic?”

Let’s take a look.

The Right Traffic

The first step toward turning web traffic (visitors) into in-person visits is to ensure that you’re generating awareness with the right audience. After all, if you’re driving the wrong crowds to your site, all they’ll do is leave.

Oftentimes, when it comes to generating awareness, you’re starting from scratch. Users aren’t yet aware of your product or service, or don’t yet know that they need it. This is what we refer to as the “top of the funnel.” As a brand new senior living or active adult community, for example, you’d need to start by making those in your city aware of your new community.

One way to do this is by using Google Customer Match. You can upload your existing list of email addresses (at least 1,000) to create a custom user audience that is similar to your existing email subscribers. This helps you to reach users with similar demographic and online behavior.

With Google Customer Match, you can target users on YouTube or Gmail (under the Promotions tab). Similar audience targeting is available through the Google Display Network, where you can use display ads to target users based on demographics, interests, and more. Here, for example, if you are an assisted living facility, you could run ads across the entire Google Display Network next to content related to assisted living, health conditions, etc. And, yes, this can also be geographically targeted, so only users in a certain area would see your ads.

On Facebook, you can increase awareness by showing ads to friends of those who already like your page, or by creating custom audiences that fit your target demographic.

While it may seem obvious that, if you’re marketing to older consumers, you’ll want to gear your content and campaigns toward them, consider ways to narrow your audience around topics, interests, income, etc. There is always additional segmenting that can be done to ensure you’re optimizing your audience to reach the older adults who will find your offerings to be highly relevant.

Creating awareness with the right audience is the first step to making sure that your web traffic isn’t fool’s gold.

Remarketing to Re-engage Already-Interested Consumers

Now that users have visited your site, you’ll want them to take the next step and visit in person.

Because they’ve seen your site, either as a result of other direct marketing efforts or a search query, etc., we are able to monitor user behavior with analytics. If users spend some time on your site but do not complete a desired action (ie. Submitting a form to request more information from your retirement community), we are able to utilize remarketing to get in front of the user again. By tagging visitors with a “cookie” (a piece of code), we can essentially follow users around – showing them ads – as they browse the web. This may sound a little creepy, but it works! Why?

It’s because the people you’re remarketing to have already shown a genuine interest in your business. In cases where there is a long sales cycle or it is a highly considered purchase, it’s not unusual for a user to take his or her time moving forward in the funnel. This is why it can be very helpful to remarket to these users online to keep them engaged. Here are a few ways to do this:

Via Google Display Network

Use graphic (aka banner) ads or text ads to re-engage user. As a senior living or active adult community, a good idea would be to suggest that users return to your site to register for an upcoming event or to tour the community.

Remarketing on Google Search

You can use RLSA to show carefully crafted messages to searchers who have already been to your site, but haven’t yet converted. To re-engage, maybe invite users to view your floor plans or extensive photo gallery.

The Full Funnel Approach

From awareness to conversion, turning web visits into in-person visits requires a comprehensive approach to digital marketing. The secret is something we call the full-funnel approach. While we’ve written about this in more depth before, it’s worth mentioning again. All of your awareness generation, remarketing, and offers need to be synthesized into a cohesive, optimized strategy that reaches each customer with the right message at the right time in the sales funnel. The targeting, ads, landing page copy, and call-to-action all need to be strategically planned and work cohesively in order to generate what you’re ultimately looking for – qualified in-person visits.

Is Social Media Valuable?

Still not sure about the power of social media?  Below is a series of posts that came from my personal Facebook newsfeed.  The names and identifying information have been obscured for privacy reasons.

Value-of-Social-Media

So what does this tell you?  People use social media to get information.  The person who posted the query is obviously a fan of getting information online.  She has been given two options Dr. ABC and Dr. XYZ.

The next logical step 

Rather than guess at what her next step would be, I called her and asked her what she did.  She was already online so she googled both names and looked for more information about both doctors.  She scanned (her words) their websites and read a few reviews and then chose on of those two doctors.  In essence she used social media to get an answer to a question and then “shopped” the answers all without leaving home.

Was this a scientific study, of course not, just a casual observation.  If you own a business particularly if you rely on the patronage of the “locals”, you need to be involved in social media.  Get a Facebook account and  a Twitter account if for no other reason than to stay in the loop.  Every so often, google your name and the name of your company, see what pops up.  You may be surprised at what you find.

First Impressions are Everything

If you think your website is just fine the way that it is, and it makes a great first impression read this to be sure.
It takes less than two-tenths of a second (that’s quicker than an actual blink of an eye) for a potential patient online to form a first opinion of your brand once they’ve perused your company’s website, according to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. And it takes just another 2.6 seconds for that viewer’s eyes to concentrate in a way that reinforces that first impression. The researchers found that specific sections attracted the most interest.
The seven sections that sparked the most interest are below:

  • The logo. Users spent about 6.48 seconds focused on this area before moving on.
  • The main navigation menu. Almost as popular as the logo, subjects spent an average of 6.44 seconds viewing the menu.
  • The search box, where users focused for just over 6 seconds.
  • Social networking links to sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Users spent about 5.95 seconds viewing these areas.
  • The site’s main image, where users’ eyes fixated for an average of 5.94 seconds.
  • The site’s written content, where users spent about 5.59 seconds.
  • The bottom of a website, where users spent about 5.25 seconds.

A customer’s first impression of you and your business used to be via the yellow pages. Their expectations were fairly low and they were never really able to form an impression about your business. The Internet has changed the potential customers “first impression” experience, and more importantly, it has changed their “first impression” expectations.
What does all this mean? You need a website. But not only do you need a website, you need a well-designed website. And not only does it have to look good, it needs to function perfectly. Along with looking and functioning great, it needs to show a visitor what they want to know without the need to search for it since the researchers found that on average, a visitor spent 20 seconds on a site. And most importantly, you site needs to leave a fabulous first impression.
If it’s been a while since you really looked at your website, take a look. What is your “first impression”?

6 Easy Ways to Get Online Reviews

The past few weeks we’ve been discussing why online reviews are a critical part of your online marketing and SEO. What we haven’t talked about is how to get them. Enter this week’s blog! When you’re focusing on your online reviews, it’s easy to get caught up in one or two bad reviews you may have. But the easiest way to combat negative feed back is by loading up on positive reviews. Below are 6 easy ways to get online reviews from happy customers, as outlined by Nellie Akalp in Forbes.

1. Set Up Profiles on Multiple Review Sites

Consider all the sites that are relevant to your business: Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Local, Yahoo Local, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, and CitySearch. Even if you don’t think you are in a review-driven industry like restaurants and hospitality, general review sites like TrustLink and Trustpilot are great (Trustpilot has the added benefit of showing up on Google).

2. Ask Your Customers

Want to know the best way to increase the number of reviews for your business? Just ask. Your customers understand how important reviews are to your business, and as long as you provide an excellent product or service, they won’t be annoyed if you ask for a review. Don’t wait too long: customers are more likely to give you feedback right away.

The next time a customer compliments you via email, phone, or in person, mention that you’d appreciate if they left the same feedback in an online review on Trustpilot, Yelp, or the review site of their choice.

3. Make It Easy to Leave Reviews

Unless someone has a negative experience to share, the average customer is not going to look for ways to leave your company a review. That’s why you need to ask them to post a review and make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Put direct links to your review profiles in multiple places; for example, a follow-up email, newsletter, and your website. Yelp offers downloadable “Find us on Yelp” banners that you can use on your website or print out for your store.

4. Incent (but Don’t Buy) Reviews

Sometimes even your most satisfied customers need some extra incentive to take time out of their busy schedule to write a review. Offering a small incentive is a good way to show your appreciation. You just need to make sure your offer is for writing a review, and not for writing a good review. Monthly giveaways, where you choose one reviewer at random, are effective ways to encourage reviews, and there’s no semblance of a transaction where you are paying for a review.

5. Thank Your Reviewers

If the review site allows it, thank each person who reviews your product or service. In addition, you can even surprise a top reviewer by sending them a discount code or freebie after they’ve posted a review. This simple act will turn a satisfied customer into an incredibly loyal evangelist.

6. Make Reviews a Part of Your Work Processes

Make sure that all customer service and sales employees understand the importance of soliciting reviews from the customers they work with. At our company we saw the number of reviews rise after implementing an incentive program where employees receive a cash bonus for any reviews (for example, 3 reviews=$100; 15 reviews=$750).

Choose whatever kind of bonus and program makes sense for your business. It’s just an added incentive to help employees remember to ask for a review. Given the importance of reviews in the customer decision process, this is one of the most effective ways to spend your marketing dollars.

Do Online Reviews Affect SEO?

Customer reviews and ratings are essential items in the SEO’s tool belt, especially for optimizing local businesses. A Moz survey predicts that reviews make up almost 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank you. And it makes sense.

Like I said in last week’s blog, search engines love reviews because consumers love reviews.

Search engines are in the business of providing users with the most accurate information to help them predict and make decisions around their future purchases. The faster they can do that, the more consumers will turn to them time and time again.

But what do they take into consideration regarding reviews? Review signals. What’s a review signal? you’re asking. Good question. Entrepreneur describes review signals as different aspects of a company’s review profile online and include:

1. Review Quantity

The more reviews you have, the better. According to BrightLocal’s survey, you need seven to 10 reviews before most people trust you.

2. Review Velocity

How quickly reviews are posted for your business. Too fast, and you’ll get dinged.

3. Review Diversity

How many sites have reviews for your business

4. Quantity of Third-Party Traditional Reviews

How many reviews your business has on sites not owned by Google

5. Authority of Third-Party Sites Where Reviews are Present

Some customer review sites have greater authority with Google than others.

6. Overall Velocity of Reviews (Native and Third Party)

How quickly your business is accruing reviews, both on Google properties (a.k.a. “native”) and other review sites.

7. Volume of Testimonials in Review

This refers to the reviews used in microdata, also called “rich snippets.” Here’s where to see that:

8. Quantity of Native Google Maps Reviews with Text

Google’s reviews started out on Google Maps.

9. Diversity of Third-Party Sites that have Reviews

How many different customer review sites have reviews for your business?

10. Product or Service Keywords in Reviews.

It helps to have keywords in reviews, but don’t overdo them.

11. Quantity of Authority Reviewers

Some sites, like Yelp, give certain reviewers more influence than others. New reviewers on Yelp don’t even get their reviews published until they’ve submitted five reviews. Getting a review on any site from an “authority reviewer” could help your search rankings.

Ratings and reviews are a huge conversion factor, more influential for getting users to click through and make a purchase than business citations or most other elements of local SEO. If your search result has 4.5 stars and 14 reviews (compared to fewer for your competitors), that’s strong social proof that your product or service is trustworthy. But besides increasing users’ trust, recent search innovations have created new reasons that SEO-minded local businesses need reviews and ratings.

These three benefits: improved SEO, improved conversion, and increased brand trust, working together, clearly illustrate the value of attracting good reviews online. If, between two otherwise equal competitors, one business pursues better reviews while the other ignores them, the business that pursues better reviews will undoubtedly win out in terms of traffic and eventual purchases.

SEO vs. PPC: What Are They?

You have two options when it comes to boosting traffic to your site: SEO (or “Search Engine Optimization”) and PPC (or “Pay per Click”). But what do these actually mean? All jokes aside, you really should know what these acronyms mean for your digital marketing campaigns. Let’s dive into each.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Wikipedia defines SEO as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘earned’ results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users.”

In plain English, SEO is the “free” or “organic” way to earn traffic to your website. SEO means employing different strategies to affect search engines’ algorithms in order to get a good ranking in their searches. The lower your ranking (ie. being #1 in search results) gets your website more visibility, which in turn means more visitors coming to your site. In order for SEO to work, you need to be in the top results of a search, because, let’s face it, when’s the last time you looked at the 10th result in Google, let alone the second page? In order to be in the top results for searches related to your business or website, your website must be optimized for SEO.

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Wikipedia defines PPC (also known as cost per click or CPC) as “an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites, in which advertisers pay the publisher (typically a website owner or a host of website) when the ad is clicked. It is defined simply as “the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked.”

To break it down, essentially PPC is the “paid” option (notice “PAY” per click) to earn traffic to your website. Ads are set up to be shown on different publishers’ sites and displayed when a relevant keyword is searched or when the page has relevant content to the ad set. These campaigns are what you see as “sponsored ads” on sites like Google or Facebook. You pay each time a visitor clicks the ad to your site. If your ad is never clicked, you are never charged.

There is a big different between these two traffic strategies. Your marketing needs and budget determine which strategy or mix of these strategies is best suited to meet your marketing goals. We will discuss the difference between the two and pros and cons of each in the coming weeks.

How to Set Better Content Goals and Achieve Them

When I’m writing blogs every week, I learn new things all the time. While looking for an idea to write about this week, I stumbled upon a great article by Copyblogger about wide versus deep content. I’ve read a lot about creating content, but this article made me think about content in a whole new way. When you’re writing content, there should be many goals attached to it. Usually, you want to inform the reader about the topic you’re writing on, but what else are you trying to achieve? Gain your readers’ trust? Attract new readers? There are many things you can achieve when you create content. So how can wide or deep content help, and when should you use them? The following is a bit of Copyblogger’s article discussing these questions.

“Creating effective content is hard. I don’t want to deter you from crafting content for your business, but you need to set goals for everything you create.
Whether you produce content that is timely or evergreen, audio or text, knowing your goals will ensure you maximize the return on your time and resources invested in content marketing.
Each piece of content needs to be placed into one of two categories: wide or deep.
And each category has one specific goal:
• Wide content attracts new audience members.
• Deep content strengthens relationships with your existing audience members.
An effective content marketing strategy uses both wide and deep content, but an individual piece of content shouldn’t try to meet both goals.
Let’s explore each type of content goal.

Going Wide with your Content

When you create a piece of wide content, you attempt to reach the most readers, listeners, and customers as possible. In short, going wide is how to use content to find customers.
Wide content is not about immediate results. Instead, it positions your net to continually find new people who fill the top of your funnel.
You will notice a pattern with wide content: it’s perfect for repurposing. With a little planning and forethought, you will be able to repurpose wide content into different formats to reach a broader audience.

SEO Helps you Go Wide

The foundation of all wide content is built upon SEO, and Google is a top source of new traffic and visitors to websites.
Because of this, we need to consistently create useful and relevant content for our website visitors. It’s an excellent first step for all wide content pieces.
Our net spreads even further when people link to and share remarkable wide content.

Wide Content and Podcasting

With the recent rise in popularity of podcasting, content creators should utilize the reach of audio. Think of iTunes the same way you think of Google: it’s a massive search engine that helps your audience find you.
Starting a podcast does not have to be a daunting task. You just need the right platform.
In fact, podcasting is an excellent way to repurpose popular content from your website. If an article has been popular as a written piece, with minor alterations to the text, you may be sitting on a great podcast episode or two.
Cast your proven content far and wide, and craft audio content as you would any other content you publish on your website:
• Write engaging headlines for titles.
• Provide keyword-rich show notes.
• Keep a consistent publishing schedule.

Going Deep with your Content

When creating wide content, your goal is to reach as many potential readers, listeners, and customers as possible — but you shouldn’t try to reach everyone.
Always keep your focus on your perfect customer.
Going deep with your content nourishes and strengthens your relationships with those people you attracted with your wide content.
Deep content moves people from cold audience members to warm audience members, and then to customers. It’s like the second date and beyond with your audience.

How to Use Email to Go Deep

For years, people have been touting the death of email. Yet, to this day, email is the most powerful tool we have in our arsenal as content marketers.
There is no better way to deepen our relationships with our audience members than through access to their inboxes.
Email content, when done right, is powerful value exchange. You’re able to provide multiple points of value to your audience in exchange for their attention.
You could:
• Write a newsletter.
• Curate content your audience will love.
• Craft a useful email autoresponder series.
All deep content marketing strategies need to include email marketing.

Is your email marketing lacking? Here’s the easiest way to optimize your email marketing campaigns.

Can Social Media be Deep?

Social media is often viewed as a wide content vehicle, but when you think about it this way, you overlook its deepest value.
For example, think about why you follow someone on Twitter. Are you there to see an endless stream of promotion, or are you looking for a behind-the-scenes view?
Of course, social media can and should be used to promote your content, but without interesting personal insights mixed into it, your social media presence will flounder rather than flourish.

Clarify your Content Goals by Going Wide or Deep

As with everything in your business, crafting content without specific goals will diminish both the short-term and long-term benefits of the work you are putting in today.
As a bonus, there is often an overlap between content created to go wide and content created to go deep.
For example, your goal may be to go deep, but the same content may also help you find new audience members. Remember that this is a side benefit and shouldn’t be confused with your original goal.
Always focus on one type of goal for each piece of content you create.
Your goal is to either find new audience members or form deeper connections with existing audience members.”

Can Small Businesses Benefit From Big Data?

Last week’s blog post about targeting your clients spoke a lot about using your data, but from where are you collecting this data to use when planning your marketing?  In a perfect world a multitude of data accumulated by other individuals would be at your fingertips. Your job would be to merely sift through the data choosing the marketing pieces with the highest return on investment, determine a budget and make a plan. How easy would that be? You could probably plan an entire years worth of marketing in under an hour.

Good News, Bad News

The bad news is that in most markets, even in the franchise realm data gathered far and wide is often too vague for anyone to rely on at the local level. This doesn’t mean that you should discount the data provided by these larger entities. Use their data to spot trends, but collect your own data to make decisions about your business.

Big Data

From Forbes

Large corporations regularly use big data to get insight on consumer behavior, target their marketing and to boost revenue. But small businesses typically do little with big data. Until now, most owners have considered it too difficult, too expensive and just plain intimidating.

That’s changing. These days an increasing number of small businesses are collecting and crunching volumes of data to lift their sales.

“Small businesses shouldn’t be scared off by big data,” says Steve King, partner at Emergent Research. The growth of the Internet, wireless networks, smartphones, social media, sensors and other digital technology is fueling a big data revolution. Big data was the exclusive domain of statisticians and large corporations but not anymore.”

What can a small business do with big data?

For a start, it can boost efficiency and sales.

King gives an example. The Spillers Group, a company that owns three restaurants in Dallas, uses a data application called Roambi that enables it to share among management all the business information it collects, including point-of-sale data, labor metrics and accounting numbers. With Roambi, Spillers can link managers’ pay to their restaurant’s performance. The app has also cut Spillers’ labor costs 10%, saving thousands of dollars every two weeks.

“Before their data was a hodgepodge,” King says. “They had sales data in one place, supply data in another place and staffing data in another—and they never looked at how to bring them all together. So they were inefficient when it came to scheduling and supplies. When they brought the data together they discovered quickly they could cut costs by making minor changes. That’s a huge win.”

Small businesses that use data intelligently can do business better.

They can improve pricing and just-in-time supply chains. They can find cheaper suppliers that are closer to their location and that offer more price transparency. Small businesses can also use data to tailor products and services to individual customers.

Businesses can identify key customers and treat them better.

They can understand customer patterns, know when they’re likely to come in and reward them for multiple visits. “All this big data is helping to level the playing field for small businesses,” King says. “Even though the field is still tilted in favor of big business, big data is a way for small business to fight back. A lot of this stuff is made easy for small business, like Google GOOG -2.3% Analytics. You don’t have to be a data scientist to use these tools and get good insights.”

Why Data is Important

The more you know about each of your leads, the faster you can zoom in on the strongest prospects, engaging them with content that’s personally meaningful to them.

  • Quickly identify and rectify problems
  • Data can be used to decide which products and services should be marketed and which should be eliminated.
  • Aids in assessing employee performance

Accumulating data is a necessary evil. The alternative is to run your practice on a wing and prayer, which is not a strategy we’d recommend.