By now, most entrepreneurs understand the concept of big data. This vast, sometimes overwhelming collection of information encompasses numbers generated by your everyday business processes – sales statistics, email open rates, website clickthroughs, etc. – that allows you to take advantage of valuable insights into customer behavior and desires.
While having this data and the tools to analyze it right at your fingertips is indeed helpful, it's also a double-edged sword: Relying too heavily on big data may mean ignoring your powerful (and often correct) gut instincts that simply can't be quantified. Rather than blindly following numbers, these 12 entrepreneurs from YEC offer their advice for taking advantage of big data without letting it rule all your business decisions.
Let Big Data Guide Your Actions, Not Dictate
I think big data is great, but it can't be the be-all-end-all when it comes to making decisions for your brand. I still think there is a hybrid solution that can incorporate both big data and those “gut check” moments effectively. I've been able to use data to steer me in a new direction to attract new people to the brand, but I never let it dictate the way I connect and interact with readers.
– Sean Ogle of Location Rebel
Hold Yourself Accountable To Data, But Be Realistic
Humans are fallible, but data can be misleading. I bring that realism to all my decision-making. It ensures that I remain accountable to the data while also maintaining a healthy degree of skepticism about what it's truly telling me.
– Manpreet Singh of TalkLocal
Remember That Data Is One Piece Of The ROI
Big data has its place and it has simplified decades of recording and research. It is not foolproof and when observing the data trends and forecasts, keep your eyes open to many other factors that can influence results and interrupt data flows. Big data is only one piece of the totality of ROI in my reporting because there are so many other tools used to gain insight into these trends.
– Matthew Capala of Search Decoder
Understand Your Business's Data Needs
It really depends on the type of your business. You need to consider if your big data is easily acquired and accurately measured, or is there more room for human error, are you polling opinions, or facts and numbers. Take these things into account before your rely on your data too much and toss your gut feelings aside – it's your business, and you should be the expert.
– Kevin Conner of Vast Bridges
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Look For Patterns And Trends
Using it to examine large amounts of data rapidly, with the aim of uncovering hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer preferences, and other useful business info. This will lead to providing improved financial services to our clients by anticipating their needs or wants and will enable better management decisions by identifying and mitigating problems before they arise.
– Luigi Wewege of Vivier Group
Know The Limits of Your Data
We are constantly finding ways to let the data lead us rather than the other way around, because valuations are a specific area where data and gut instinct can sometimes interact in less than ideal ways. We continually add new data visualizations and explanations, benchmark ourselves, and recognize when our data isn’t good enough.
– Thomas Smale of FE International
After implementing a data-first approach, we saw KPIs improve like clockwork, which was rewarding and gratifying. We also don’t blindly trust big data. We use precedent sales data for valuation. We’ve found it incredibly important to know where the predictive limits of this model lies.
– Ismael Wrixen of FE International
Look At The Underlying Details
Try to see the details under the big data and make sure that whatever decision you'll make is based on those details.
– Daisy Jing of Banish
Balance The Qualitative And Quantitative
We always combine quantitative data insights (metrics, surveys, server log data) with qualitative feedback (surveys, interviews, user research, etc.). This gives us a more comprehensive view to make the most informed decision. Data can mislead decisions because they only tell part of the story.
– Adelyn Zhou of TOPBOTS
Focus On Acquiring Good Data
Not all data is equal. Plenty of groups are peddling raw data and analytic and dashboard tools aimed at incorporating machine learning and AI. Still, all data and analytic platforms are only as good as the quality of the inputs. Acquiring good and actionable data should be the focus; making decisions will then become the easy part.
– Ryan Bradley of Koester & Bradley, LLP
Comb Through Data For Quality Lead Conversions
Big data allows my organization and my sales personnel to learn and predict human behavior, such as where and what people buy online, as well as predicting where will they be moving in the next few months. In turn, my sales team is able to scrape the potential clients who will actually buy the product or service, and when they should approach the customer.
– John Daniel of Innovator John
Let Numbers Prove Or Disprove Your Instincts
Our gut tells us that a certain landing page design we made looks great and therefore will perform better. It is only after the data comes pouring in that we can truly see how it performs and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The numbers will be the deciding factor on if our educated guess is correct, and the data will lead us to the proper decisions on what to keep and what to cut.
– Jason Applebaum of Eager Media
The answers above are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.