The volume of data available to businesses is expected to reach 44 zettabytes by the year 2020. That’s a mind-boggling huge body of information, one that businesses can use to assess the effectiveness of marketing initiatives, to use as barometers for better performance, and to identify new optimization opportunities in all areas of operation.
To make use of all that data, though, you need the right tools in place. And with the average salary for an experienced data analytics professional starting at $65,000 annually, smaller businesses may be at a disadvantage.
Even paying a third-party service or an individual consultant on an hourly basis can get expensive over time, especially if you regularly need information on how customers are responding to your brand.
Fortunately, SMBs have numerous alternatives to data analyst fees. If your business needs data but can’t commit a large chunk of your budget to get it, here are a few options.
Find existing data analytics options
Analytics are already built into many of the resources businesses use to promote their products and services. Facebook Insights, for instance, can deliver information on a business page’s interactions, while Google Analytics will provide basic information on the performance of your website.
Using Google Analytics alone, you can learn the demographics of your site visitors, the location of those visitors, and how they found your site.
In addition to Facebook and your website, you can track your activity on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Businesses can also use tools that monitor multiple social platforms to pull data into one dashboard.
Create or embed software
As powerful as built-in analytics can be, competitive businesses realize that they’ll need more intensive information if they want to excel in their own industries. In larger corporations, analysts would be brought in to monitor incoming data and regularly pull reports. These professionals would also be able to cull information from a variety of external sources, such as population information for your marketing campaigns or predictive analytics to help you determine the resources you’ll need for an upcoming sale.
A number of vendors are rising to meet the demand for a new generation of powerful and flexible analytics solutions. For example, Sisense’s embedded analytics solution enables companies to collate complex data from multiple sources in various formats and present them in embeddable dashboard widgets. These widgets can be placed in apps, team sites or wherever else business leaders deem useful.
The benefit of this flexible approach is that teams can access and analyze key data in convenient formats and easily leverage the insights gleaned from the dashboard to make critical decisions on the fly—no more VPN-powered tunneling into dedicated, on-premises BI infrastructure necessary.
If you’re looking to offer data as part of your own consumer-facing app product, then an embedded analytics solution can be a key element to the user experience.
“If you don’t give [users] the possibility to do so effectively within your own app, they will export the data and use other tools,” Sisense’s content manager, Eran Levy, recently wrote. “Whereas when the analytical platform is embedded within your own application, you are providing a breadth of functionality that your users are looking for and making it immediately available.”
One of the best ways to get data, especially related to market research, is to ask for it. You can set up a poll and share it across your social media platforms to test public opinion.
If you feel your online following isn’t big enough, you could instead use an app such as Zip, which has a built-in user base that regularly answers random questions. You’ll get the market data you need to make fully-informed decisions.
If you don’t mind spending a small amount for the data, you can use an online crowdsourcing forum to get the information you need. Participants are paid for providing answers, similar to the traditional market research setup. If you choose to host your survey on your own website and social media pages, consider incentivizing participants by offering an opportunity to win a substantial gift card in return for participation.
Consider entry-level analysts
If you have an ongoing need for data analytics help, consider the many entry-level analysts who are interested in getting experience. Contact local colleges and let them know you’re searching for someone who can help you with your data analysis for an hourly fee. You may even be able to bring in college students for paid internships. They’ll work for a low wage in exchange for college credit and resume-building experience.
The demand for statisticians and data analysts has led many mid-career professionals to consider switching. For that reason, you may be able to persuade someone in an unrelated field to take on the work at a lower salary to help them make that transition. The help will likely be short term, but you can save tens of thousands of dollars a year by choosing someone at the beginning of a new career.
Data is an important part of building and growing a business. However, the cost of a professional to source that information on a regular basis can make it an impossibility for many smaller businesses. Using the resources available and a little creativity, businesses can get the data they need without spending a fortune.