Small Businesses and Big Data: How SMEs Can Get Started with Data Marketing

Woman writing on a whiteboard.

There’s no question that big data marketing is more accessible to small businesses than ever before.

As the marketing technology landscape continues to expand, SMEs have more opportunities to find solutions that don’t require a ton of technical “know-how” and don’t cost an arm and a leg. Building a martech stack that serves the purposes of your small business within a reasonable budget is more feasible now than ever. 

In short, the era of big data marketing belonging to large corporations with million-dollar budgets was short-lived; today, big data marketing can (and should) be a solution for almost any business trying to better reach their target customer.

Of course, that naturally raises the question of “how.”

Even if today’s marketing technology is simpler and more affordable, the concept of going from nothing (or close to it) all the way to data-driven campaigns can feel a bit intimidating. Which is why the team at ReachForce put together this guide for SMEs on getting started with big data marketing. This post shares 10 important steps any small business — regardless of industry — can take to establish a data marketing plan and get it up and running now.

But, before sharing those steps, let’s answer an important question:

Why Should SMEs Care About Big Data Marketing?

For some small businesses, the concept of collecting, storing, and leveraging customer data to create marketing campaigns might feel like overkill. Transitioning from small, localized marketing efforts — like advertising in a newspaper or even something more modern like focusing on local SEO efforts — can feel like a big jump. 

But, the truth is that small businesses are uniquely positioned to take full advantage of the benefits of big data marketing, without some of the risks larger corporations take on in order to make campaigns successful. As one article from Ad Age notes, the size of your small business gives you an opportunity to make faster decisions in response to trends or customer feedback, while also creating a tailored customer experience that far exceeds what they might find from your competition. 

That differentiation from your competitors should be reason enough to dip your toe in the data marketing pool. Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of small businesses believe in the power of data marketing for their company, the large majority are still just in the “early stages” of bringing anything to life. That means small businesses that respond quickly to data marketing trends for SMEs today have a unique opportunity to emerge as front-runners in their industry. 

In other words: data marketing has both inherent benefits in that you’re more directly targeting a specific audience with relevant content and offers to naturally move them further down your sales funnel. But, there’s a second, perhaps an even more valuable component of being an SME early adopter: innovation as a means of differentiation from your competitors. Pioneering data marketing at the SME level makes you stand out from your competitors who are doing the same old-school local marketing techniques day after day. And that opportunity to stand out from the pack should be reason enough to give data marketing a try. Here’s how to make it happen:

10 Steps to Successful Data Marketing for SMEs

#1. Take inventory of your existing customer data.

For many small business owners, data marketing sounds intimidating simply because the act of collecting data seems difficult. But, the truth is that you’re likely already collecting a ton of information on your customers that you could leverage to glean marketing insights. Customer data lives in a wide variety of sources used by most small businesses, including:

  • Your CRM (such as Salesforces)
  • Your website
  • Free website analytics tools like Google Analytics
  • Your e-commerce platform 

Bringing all of your existing data together into a central location — like a data management platform — allows you to understand what information you already have about your target audience and existing customers. ReachForce SmartSuite users also benefit from an initial data quality health check, which can have a tremendous impact on the success of your data marketing strategy.

Understanding your existing customer data does two things: first, it sets the stage for the rest of your data marketing journey. Taking inventory of your customer data tells you where to start and what you need to make your first campaign a true success. Second, it should (hopefully) give you and other small business owners some peace-of-mind in knowing that a data marketing strategy is within reach. In fact, you’ve already been doing some of the work without even realizing it. 

#2. Research your audience.

Without question, the majority of the decisions you make in the future about where, when, and how to communicate with your target audience should be made based on the existing data you’ve collected along with any new data that comes in as a result of your campaigns. But, small businesses know their audience better than anyone. And because of that, it’s important that you include some of that knowledge in your marketing strategy. 

Furthermore, small businesses often have the benefit of surveying their audiences in real-time. Talking to your regulars about the types of communication they’d like to receive from you and what types of offers get them the most excited gives you some tangible feedback that can be used to fuel future campaign success. 

#3. Set short and long-term marketing goals. 

Setting goals is a key aspect of any marketing strategy. All campaigns should be metrics-driven so that business owners can clearly measure and track their return on investment. But for SMEs just getting started with big data marketing, it’s important to focus on setting both short-term goals that help you stay focused now, along with long-term goals that allow for flexibility in the future. 

Any company launching a new data marketing plan needs to understand that their long-term goals may change over time. But small businesses are particularly vulnerable to those changes. That’s why it’s important to have the short-term goals in place that measure your incremental successes and ensure you’re seeing return for your efforts.

Man writing on a piece of paper.

These first three steps represent a “pre-launch” phase of your data marketing strategy. Now, it’s time to look at actually getting things up and running.

#4. Build your foundation. 

Previous posts here on the ReachForce blog have highlighted the different tools that make up the foundation of a successful martech stack. Among the essentials include a data management solution like ReachForce, a marketing automation tool, a CRM (if you don’t have one already), and then something for managing both email marketing and social media marketing, too. Together, those solutions give you the framework to at least get started with data marketing. 

Certainly, as you move further along and begin seeing success, you’ll find more tailored solutions to add on to your martech stack. But in the beginning, focus on investing in foundational tools that communicate with one another so that your early campaigns can be as efficient and effective as possible.

#5. Start small, but be ready to scale quickly. 

Creating short-term goals and investing in only the most necessary of marketing tools ensures you start small without getting in over your head too quickly. But, here’s the thing: if you’re spending time working to make your campaigns a success and you’ve invested in the right solutions, you may find things scaling up faster than you might have initially thought. 

It’s not uncommon for well-executed campaigns to deliver returns that far exceed your conservative short-term goals, and when that happens, you need to be ready to adapt and scale accordingly. That may mean investing in more tools to build out your martech stack. But, it also may mean adding on to your team and bringing new marketers onboard to help scale your success.

Both investments can easily be justified, provided you’re taking this next step seriously:

#6. Measure, measure, measure. 

Measure and track everything. That’s one of the most important pieces of advice any marketing team — regardless of size — can get. However, it’s especially important for small businesses where the margin for error is so small. SMEs who have poor campaign success early on may not have the budget or patience to continue on with making data marketing work. And if you’re not continuously measuring results and making adjustments to your campaigns accordingly, you run the risk of having a big loss sneak up on you. 

To be clear: not every campaign will be a success. Chances are good that in the beginning, you’ll have a couple campaigns that don’t hit home with your audience. But, as long as you’re collecting data, measuring results, and making adjustments for the future, you’re going to find things even out quickly. Which leads to this next step:

#7. Stay agile: respond to feedback and trends.

As mentioned earlier in this post, one of the perks of working on data marketing as a small business is your ability to quickly pivot based on results and customer feedback. As you begin launching campaigns and measuring results, pay attention to what your audience tells you and make adjustments accordingly. Doing so will yield tangible improvements in your campaign success while also showing your customers you take their feedback seriously. 

#8. Focus on consistent content.

You’ve probably heard the expression “content is king.” And while it’s true that putting out quality content can yield big results for businesses, there’s a key word missing from that phrase: “consistent.” Content alone is not king — it’s consistent content that really elevates your brand and gives you the material you need to make your campaigns successful. Content can come in so many forms: blog posts, email newsletters, white papers, case studies, podcasts, and videos just to name a few. Experiment with all of them. But be sure to measure the results of each and focus on developing more of the content that works for your target audience.

#9. Get personal.

It’s a simple fact of marketing: personalization works. The more you’re able to cater your message to the recipient, the better your chances of converting them to a customer in the future. This is particularly true for small businesses who often have a local relationship with their customers. Levering key demographic data like your customers’ birthdays for sending special offers or perks is a smart way to build long-term loyalty among your audience. 

But personalization also extends into less overt, more subtle forms of data marketing, too. Tracking site visitors and delivering specific content to them based on the pages they view is a smart way to deliver a personalized experience without the customer necessarily realizing you’re doing so. 

#10. Don’t slow down.

Keep your momentum going. With the wide variety of tools available, data marketing is achievable for organizations of any size today. But, small businesses often have so much to handle that running campaigns can often fall by the wayside. Don’t let that happen. Continue to measure your success, capitalize on the things that work for your audience, and reinvest your campaign profits back into marketing. Get to the point where you can justify making additional (or your first) hires for your marketing team. Don’t let up on your goals — make marketing a priority. ReachForce is here to help.

To learn more about how ReachForce SmartForms can help you optimize lead generation and improve your impact on revenue, sign up for a free health assessment or get a free demo today.


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