How Data Science Can Give Your Small Business The Edge

Richard Branson often speaks of the importance of trusting gut instinct. It’s easy for him to do so – he’s got it right, (almost) every single time. Who you don’t hear from are the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of entrepreneurs who trusted their gut and lost.

Data science offers a useful counterpoint to pure intuition, especially for small- to medium-sized enterprises with less capacity for risk. By using algorithms – complex code and automatic, branching calculations – alongside scientific methods and processes, bulk data is transformed into valuable knowledge. This knowledge can then be applied to your ‘gut feelings’ to distinguish which ideas have logic and reason behind them and which are wild speculation.

Alone, data is simply a tool – but when you ask the right questions, it unlocks meaningful insights that can define future success.


What Data Science Can Do

When people hear the word ‘algorithm,’ they often think of a computer screen crunching endless lines of code and spitting out percentages. But data science can be a useful asset in the day-to-day internal running of a company. Process automation, for example, identifies repetitive employee tasks – summarizing, sorting, classifying, retrieving documents, etc. – and handles them automatically, freeing up more time for more productive or creative matters. Data can also aid in talent scouting, searching through online profiles on career websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster for suitable candidates to add to the team, and saving your HR department hours.

However, data science really begins to shine when you apply it externally. Whatever your industry – non-profit, tourism, education – you can back up your theories and ideas by collecting data for crucial market research, client segmentation, and campaign feedback. If you’re a home developer, for example, you can drive sales and engagement in your company by targeting ads to shoppers who have previously visited other home developer sites online. This is represented in data collected through ‘cookies,’ tiny digital tags that identify a specific user ID as someone interested in specific topics.

“Cookies and data really changed the game as far as market research goes,” says WJ’s current Operations Specialist and experienced Digital Analyst Sarah Gavigan, “Before the rise of the internet, getting feedback on an ad’s effectiveness was only possible through surveys or focus groups. As you might imagine, the views of a dozen people gathered six months after the fact didn’t always accurately represent the wider market and where it was headed. Data gained from modern websites and social media, on the other hand, can literally provide you with the behaviours of every single person interested in your product in real-time and can also provide incredibly valuable trending insights. Even more importantly – you can study your competitor’s successes and failures, too.”


Using Data Science To Quantify Your Gut Feeling

The quantity and quality of the data you use to back up your gut instincts matter immensely. To paint the clearest picture and maximize the chance of your success – whether that’s expanding your market, acquiring new customers, or launching a new product – gather your data from as many sources as possible. Collecting information from Google Analytics, e-commerce databases, or native social media platforms, for example, gives you a broad outlook on the situation. Collating this data into a unified data frame provides you with a framework for ongoing strategy determining the best way forward through constant monitoring followed by trial and improvement.

It bears emphasizing, at this point, that none of the methods mentioned so far are particularly expensive to purchase or maintain. Google offers a free suite of data tools to cover the basics, and a half-dozen other programs complete an entire analytical set – from SEO and social media management to sales tracking, website strength, and CRM services.

Of course, you may be thinking – how the heck do I analyze data? It might sound overwhelming, but it’s not as complicated as you think. Along with the free suite of tools we mentioned above, Google also runs a free Analytics Academy, offering several short courses you can easily complete at home. That’s a good start to interpreting data, but of course, like in any field, the difference between a beginner and an expert can be profound. A well-trained, experienced data analyst can notice patterns, trends, and anomalies that a less-skilled operator might miss – and that could mean the difference between you or your competitor getting the edge.

“But where?” you cry, “Where could I find such a team of trained data analysts ready and eager to help my company move forward…?”


Real Results In A Digital World

WJ’s digital, communications, and social teams use analytics on every online project we undertake. Understanding data has helped us create in-depth websites and drive engagement on multi-platform advertising campaigns, among other accomplishments. If you want to back up your gut instinct with a little hard evidence, we’re here to gather, assess, and inform.

Succeeding at what comes next doesn’t have to be a matter of intuition – it can be empirical, too.