Why Business Intelligence is Not Just the Domain of Large Corporations

The term “business intelligence” may be fairly new to some, but it had its genesis long before the dawn of the computer age.  Here is a true story that illustrates my point.  I live on an island in the Caribbean, where commerce was not as advanced as it was in the USA or Britain in the early 1940's.  The story is told of a merchant (merchant A) who was visiting another of his friends who was in a similar business as well.  Both men owned and operated companies that imported products for resale to the local population. Dried codfish was a stable of the local economy in those days.  As merchant A visited with his friend, he noticed that the man, (merchant B) had an invoice on his desk for the same commodity that was in short supply, and that he (merchant A) could not find a supplier for, no matter how hard he tried.

Curious, but afraid to ask, since this was a competitor, Merchant A managed to read the details of the invoice even though the page was upside down.  Much to his surprise, he discovered that his friend was importing the hard-to-find dried codfish from Australia.  That piece of information turned out to be a goldmine for him.  He quickly did some research and was soon importing the product himself, for a handsome profit. This all happened before the desktop computer was invented, but it provides an interesting insight into the matter of business intelligence.  This merchant's information-gathering exercise may have been a bit shady; it makes my point very well. Vital business information that you need may be right under your nose, but you have to learn to recognize it.

Today, with the preponderance of Information Technology, business intelligence is usually inextricably linked with a company's information systems and large databases.  This data is usually extracted from historical business records and used to help managers make better business decisions.  Several things are important to understand, if you intend to use computer systems for business research or business intelligence today.

Business Intelligence techniques allow us to focus attention on the vital matrices that undergird our businesses. By sorting through these large batches of data, and applying specific computer algorithms, you can spot trends, and relationships between records that you may otherwise have missed. If you examine this data carefully, you can make great business decisions from the trends or relationships that you have uncovered.

In the case of large businesses, dedicated accounting and financial employees manage this complex task of gathering and manipulating data to create the basis for effective business intelligence.  How can a small business owner however, use these collective tools to make better business decision? Here are a few examples of how you can do this:


1. If you own a blog or a website, you can use Google Analytics to find important information about your website visitors, such as which keywords they are using to reach your site, where in the world they are located, how long they stayed on your website, and whether or not they are clicking your money links before they leave.

2. You can use data-aggregator websites such as compete.com to find out more about the demographics of any website visitor.  If you are selling to predominantly pregnant women, you will want to use business intelligence practices to ensure you find the right target market before you buy advertising.  Face Book has been proven to provide some of the most targeted marketing ever seen online!

3. Specific tracking codes on your affiliate links or payment cart systems are very useful in giving you information on which of your advertisements are bringing you sales.  As it so often happens, sometimes your free web traffic efforts earn you more money than your paid traffic.  The only way to know this is to use tracking, an often over-looked form of business intelligence.

There are many simple, everyday techniques that seriously qualify as business intelligence or marketing intelligence.  The more analytical you become, the more profitable your business will be. When it comes to any business, online or off-line, as long as it lies within your power, track everything!  It is only by doing this that you will have the information you need to make intelligent business decisions and prosper online.