Huge companies such as Amazon have been deriving significant benefits leveraging their database treasure troves to provide enhanced customer service, but the benefits of “big data” have been slow to trickle down to small online marketers. Up until now, customer information has been seen by smaller marketers as nothing more than a way to upsell, but the true advantages reside in the provision of a level of service that makes the customer think “hey, this company really knows and cares about me!” Much of what the online giants do can be replicated to a reasonable extent by any online marketer, even the kitchen table crowd. All it takes is a commitment to serving the customer and the ability to understand what data to collect and utilize in order to trigger that “warm and fuzzy” feeling in your customer base.

Turn Customers into Subscribers to Capture Data

You can’t use the data you don’t have, so in order to implement a “biggish data” strategy the first step is to scrutinize the personal information you’re collecting now and figure out ways to get more. It goes without saying that if you are not tracking your customers’ every click on your website and correlating that data to form a behavior profile, you’re still marketing in the way companies did when John Travolta disco danced in white ice cream suits. However, there is a wealth of data that is not behavior based, so the onus is on you to turn your customers into email newsletter subscribers so that you may direct them to your full-featured Preference Center and engage them in polls and surveys in order to draw as complete a picture as possible about their demographics and psychographics.

Impress Big Data Time

Now that you have a fairly hefty slice of data on every one of your customers, you can begin the process of providing your front line staff with the proper tools necessary to start impressing “big data time.” Your personnel have to be able to access the full breadth of data available on each customer and utilize it seamlessly by weaving it into the conversation. It is also extremely important to not go too far with this process. While the customer will appreciate your staff checking to make sure that the last iThingy they RMA’d is still working properly, they will flinch at the mention that “since your son Billy is going to be 8 next Thursday, why don’t you buy him a special SpongeBob Edition iThingy.” That’s not just a sales pitch to be avoided; it prompts the realization that you know too much about your customers’ personal life and it will scare them away. The customer must always feel like they can control the data that you have collected.

Are You Still on Hieronymous Boulevard?

The proper “big data” conversation for small firms can turn even on just the slightest considerations. “Can you please confirm the spelling of your name, address, city and your mother’s maiden name” is best replaced with “are you still at the Hieronymous Boulevard address?” This aspect of making the conversation as friendly and casual as possible can be extended to a wide variety of customer service aspects for any size of business. Without crossing the line into pitching product, your staff can inform your customer that:

  • There is an important update that adds notable features they haven’t downloaded yet
  • Their favorite shoe manufacturer will be launching a revolutionary new minimalist footwear item next month
  • They’re eligible for a free upgrade due to the last survey they filled out and submitted
  • Their toner cartridge should be getting empty soon
  • Their Harley has been recalled for a free fix to the Hogometer

Providing this level of insight to each customer takes some techno-wizardry, but the more basic implementations are certainly within the range of affordability for even the smallest business. The benefits that your small brand will enjoy when your customers are treated with this level of consideration and personal care will soon pay for the database consultant and create a win-win for you and your customers.