The phrase of the day is ‘Big Data‘, everyone talks about how it can boost your business and make you a successful organization.

But how can big data help a small business? Can you still use it to drive decisions and optimize your business?

The answer is: yes you can! In this post I will provide a few tips that can help SMBs to get up and running with data analytics.  

1. Start small and quickly

The first, and most important, step in order to become data-driven is using an analytics package as much as you can.

Even if the data is not perfect, understanding some aspects of your visitor behavior will provide an important background to you. Once you do, you will also be more educated and able to make better decisions regarding what data is missing.

One especially important tactic: train as much as you can with whichever tools/data you have. So here is my first advice: open your analytics tool at least twice a week.

Add a reminder to your calendar to simply open it and look at your initial page (usually a dashboard) twice a week. You will notice that after two or three weeks you will be getting deeper and deeper into data; the rest is history.

As I wrote in a previous article, this will be critical to build your analytics confidence.

2. Take an online course

One of the growing fields in the web is online education, the number of universities making their courses available for free is rapidly increasing.

So why not take advantage of it? Before making the time and money investment with conferences and degrees, you should check the available analytics courses online and take one.

A good place to start is the Digital Analytics Fundamentals, a course that “provides a strong foundation for marketers and analysts seeking to improve business outcomes through better digital measurement”.

If you would like to go deeper, you should also consider other resources, including academic programs and conferences. Here is a comprehensive list of analytics education resources.

3. Ask for data in meetings

Whether you are a manager or not, when someone makes a statement in a meeting (such as “this page is better designed than that one”), you should ask: which data can we use to prove that?

Be careful not to sound offensive, people may think you are disagreeing or attacking them.

But I believe this question can bring up fruitful discussions about which data is right for different purposes, and this can certainly lead to a better understanding of what you need to look at.

4. Learn from your peers

Open a book club! That might sound like a naive advice, but it is certainly an effective way to get a few people literated in Analytics, literally!

As you can see in this book discussion guide, there are several techniques that will help your club succeed, so as the group leader you should be aware of them.

And please, choose a cool name like Analytics Rocks (or maybe something more creative!) I would recommend the first book to be Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity. This book is a great way to get up to speed with the measurement world.

Another great way to interact with professionals is through social networks. Choose your preferred network and look for analytics professionals in there. On Twitter, it is worthwhile to follow the #measure hashtag, and on Google+ check the unofficial Google Analytics community.

An important part of the learning process for analysts is to interact with other people. The Web Analyst must be a communicator, both internally and externally.

Internally because s/he will need to discuss requirements and results with work colleagues; externally because you will need help!

5. Ask your customers for feedback

Analyzing online customer behavior to understand what is successful and what is not is a great beginning.

However, through Analytics tools we can answer to what people are doing and how they are doing it; but we cannot answer to why they are doing it. And that’s an important piece of information. 

For that you would need a tool like Google Consumer Surveys, with which you can ask questions to your website visitors.

Using this tool you can ask important questions to your consumers such as: How would you rate your experience today? Did you manage to find what you were looking for? What would you improve in the website? Which new product would you like us to sell?

Closing thoughts

As you saw above, there are plenty of steps for you to start with. But keep in mind that the most important is not to do all at once, but to start slowly.

As Moliere said: “the trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”