Big Data – Is it Really Worth the Effort for B-to-B?

 By John Sonnhalter, Rainmaker Journeyman at Sonnhalter

I understand the concept of what Big Data is, but truthfully, I’m having a hard time getting my arms around whether it’s worth the time, money and effort to track everyone’s movement.

Most studies, when citing companies that are using Big Data, are usually big consumer brands for the most part. But is it the right thing for the small- to medium-size company, or is there a better way to invest time and money?

Everyone is concerned about the customer experience. Wouldn’t it be just easier to ask them?

This might work for consumer behavior, but in the B-to-B world and especially in construction and the trades, it’s not all that complicated. In the world of design engineers, the process is a little more complicated, but the crucial piece of info we need is where are they in the buying cycle and what kind of info can we supply to help them make a better informed decision.

I’m not saying tools that will help you identify activity levels of potentials are not helpful, but where it fails is in the assumptions we make based on that criteria.

I’m of the opinion that if we think we really know our customer base and their pain points, why not give them good content to solve their issues and make their life easier? In my world, those folks would be top of mind when it comes to the actual purchase process.

What are your thoughts?

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  1. Michael Kotyck


    Interesting article. It seems for every era there is a trend or “must-do” activity for business. The current flavour seems to be big data with its promise of uncovering unseen customer behaviours by sifting through digital data collected day-to-day. I think it’s important to note that big data is never meant to replace direct customer interaction, even at the larger companies that use it regularly, but rather it’s used to add to one’s understanding of the customer and the market so you can tailor.

    There’s two problems with big data for small business: “big” and “data”. “Big” implies that you need terabytes of data to analyze, that you have to collect, digitize, and analyze the numbers in all of your interactions. “Data” implies the use of computer servers, complex database analysis, and added effort to find meaning in the data. For small businesses with limited resources, big data is a non-starter.

    It doesn’t have to be. If you use a computer-based accounting system and have an understanding of personal computers and high-school math, you can begin to analyze the data you’re already collecting. Simple things like: “where do my customers reside?” and “what’s the average revenue per invoice by customer?” can be pulled from any accounting software with its salt. The more comfortable you become with using these tools the deeper you can go.

    Is it worth it? If you’re already interacting with your customers and believe you know all there is about them, the use of big data – or more correctly data analysis – is an inexpensive way of better understanding them and tailoring your offering to them. For example, answering the question “where do my customers reside” will lead to better advertising decisions; determining “what’s the average revenue per invoice by customer?” can lead to finding the more lucrative customer’s to serve.

    Data analysis will not replace learning through customer interaction, but with a little added effort it can uncover information that can improve your business.

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