For most small businesses, non-profits and any other non-conglomerate B2C operation, the idea of trying to extract any meaningful value from a “Big Data” approach is a non-starter.  Big Data is what insurance companies use to determine our premiums and deductibles, how the pharmaceutical industry tracks user studies and how the financial sector monitors against fraud.  It’s not meant for us independently owned and operated businesses with significantly smaller footprints, is it?

The answer is no.  And yes.

For most of us, the differentiator is scale.  No, we do not need access to all of the nearly 3 quintillion bytes of data being generated every day.  But yes, we need to understand why these industries are scouring through all of this information and why it is useful, essential really, to perform a smaller scale version of the same type of data aggregation.   We must learn from what we can collect to shape how we better engage with our customers, make inventory decisions, structure our marketing presence and stay ahead of our competition.

Big Data can be extraordinarily powerful, but it is unstructured and purely quantitative in nature.  The type of data a small business or NPO can make best use of is the information that doesn’t fit neatly into a quant model. 

If we put an emphasis on getting to a qualitative understanding of what is motivating our customers’ decision-making processes, we can become more responsive to meeting their needs.  Big Data’s got it right – there is so much we can learn by capturing user data.  But Big Data is searching for the “what” – we need to be aggressively seeking out the “why”.   

So with the Search for Why as our primary driver, we set out to use this space to discuss ideas and philosophies most relevant to the data collection, engagement and growth challenges those of us outside of Big Data’s shadow face running our companies and organizations.  We’ll also review strategies for “how” to put these philosophies into practice.

You may not agree with everything you read here, and realistically some of the ideas will not fit your organization.  But our hope is that some of them will, and you will discover new ways to interact with your customers, engage new prospects and amplify your business.

Let’s get to work.