When the topic of Big Data first began, much of the conversations were about the transformative nature that previously unimaginable amounts of data would have on big businesses. Large organizations with significant investments in IT infrastructure were the first ones to really see the potential for business transformation. But Chris Surdak, award-winning author of Data Crush saw it differently.

Last week, I spoke with Chris Surdak about his insights on how entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses can take advantage of Big Data. "Small businesses are actually in a better position to leverage, Big Data", Chris Surdak said. "That's because smaller businesses are much more equipped to focus on the very things that matter most to their business. They are able to react quickly to new insights and small businesses are well suited to fail quickly, cheaply, and recover."

One of my favorite insights from his book is the concept of "contextification", which Chris Surdak defines as, "the trend by which people will be addressed by others based upon their place in the world. This context is their 'where' and 'when' in Albert Einstein's space-time continuum ... this context determines what information they may be interested in and what data they may be generating as a result."

And this is where Chris believes entrepreneurs running small businesses have a distinct advantage. "The Internet used to be a tool for telling customers about your business. Now its real value lies in what it tells you about them." The more you know about your customer's needs, the more likely are going to be able to satisfy those needs. Now, we can go even further by putting those needs into context.

"We need to spend more time asking why", says Chris Surdak. "As businesses better understand why their customers do what they do, they can become more valuable to their customers. One example I like to use is when a person walks into the supermarket to buy a birthday cake. When we can tie that person's loyalty card to their social media profile, we can see that it's actually their mom who's birthday is coming up in a few days. Digging deeper, we can see that that person's mom has an Amazon.com wish list. Now, wouldn't it be great if we could notify that person that we have one or more of those items on sale right now that they could buy? By tying all of these disparate data sets together, we can better understand the why of the birthday cake purchase and therefore better serve the needs of that customer--not to mention increase the basket size of the purchase and deepen their loyalty to us."

After talking with Chris Surdak about Big Data for small business, I'm convinced that data is, and will continue to be, the new currency of business. Is not data, more than anything else, at the core of billion dollar companies such as Facebook and Google? For more insights on how Big Data can be leveraged for your business, listen to the entire interview and pick up Data Crush.

The bottom line is that Big Data affords every business the opportunity to provide better context for your customers. If you're not actively thinking about how to leverage context and data insights to better serve the needs of your customers, you can be sure that the company that is working hard to disrupt you already is. Simply put, you're either Uber or Your Being Ubered.

Published on: Mar 2, 2015
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