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5 Misconceptions Small-Business Owners Have About Big Data From increasing customer loyalty to improving inventory management to strengthening B2B relationships, let data help your business.

By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Data is not a new conversation, yet small businesses still have many misconceptions about how data may be valuable to their business. In the past, only large brands could afford to implement data into their business efforts. Today, however, data is accessible to businesses of all sizes -- including yours. Overlooking this new reality occurs far too often and for all the wrong reasons. With this in mind, it is imperative for small businesses to finally overcome the various misconceptions about data and their businesses.

Misconception No. 1: Human touch outweighs anything automated.

Entrepreneurs are a unique breed that deliver passion, excitement and cognitive abilities unlike many of their corporate peers when it comes to nurturing a business. The human touch that they offer is undoubtedly a significant aspect of what makes many entrepreneurs successful -- yet this same human touch can potentially inhibit success if it is employed at the expense of data collection.

Related: The Hidden Advantages Data-Drive Sales Teams Have

"One of the most common misconceptions is that people believe they will always outperform computers in their decision-making process. That may have been the case in the past, but with the complexity of today's markets and the advancement of technology, this assumption no longer holds true," says Victor Rosenman, CEO of Feedvisor.

Expanding on this, Rosenman shares what many of us already know but too often need to be reminded.

"All business owners are constantly required to make critical decisions, and the most effective decisions are not based on gut feelings, but on facts and data."

With a reported 28 million small businesses in America, there is too much competition to dismiss the value that data can bring to your business. Combined with human touch, data is a powerful asset that small businesses should leverage instead of dismiss.

Misconception No. 2: Revenue will not be enhanced due to data.

Small businesses come in all forms, but the common denominator is that they need to make money. Using data -- including artificial intelligence -- small-business owners can save time and money when applying data solutions to their businesses.

Related: The Secret to Outpacing Your Rival? Competitive Insights.

"Artificial intelligence gives small-business owners and entrepreneurs the ability to run a lean operation. There are solutions in AI that range from automated call software to market intelligence to retail inventory management and even to sales, such as Salesforce's Einstein software recently launched using IBM's Watson technology. The key here is automation, as AI can speed up or eliminate manual processes altogether. Ultimately, these tools offer insights into operations and keep costs low while enabling businesses to function at a much higher level, and see higher revenue as a result," explains Igor Gorin, CEO of Astound Commerce.

Using data, companies can analyze what has taken place within their businesses, leveraging the findings to make future decisions. With this in mind, relying solely on human instincts is a risky proposition.

Misconception No. 3: Data should immediately solve problems.

Instant gratification is nice, but instant gratification isn't always the solution.

"The view of cognitive systems as brains that automatically solve any problem is a popular misconception. These tools are ideally suited to do things like scale human expertise and augment human intelligence," IBM's Brandon Buckner recently explained.

Keeping what Buckner says in mind, consider how technology can support your business rather than take the lead. Technologies such as Watson Explorer -- which is a platform that gives businesses access to various data touchpoints to help drive business performance and growth -- is an example of how businesses can benefit in their decision-making and ROI thanks to using technology. Using data, small-business owners can then make stronger decisions on future business strategies.

Related: Death to Automation: Bring Back the Humans

Misconception No. 4: Data is too broad for niche businesses.

Strategizing ideas will always be on an entrepreneur's to-do list, and it's these moments that often shape the future of businesses. Yet too often, small businesses neglect to use data to also help shape their future, a mistake that can be both costly and potentially fatal.

"Entrepreneurs are people of conviction with big ideas. Unless their service or product revolves around data, data analysis probably isn't their expertise. Without a specialist within the business, data gathering and analysis is often pushed to the side for priorities that are more directly connected to bringing a product or service to market . . . which is a shame because data can help an entrepreneur make the necessary pivots to improve a business very early on. One of the things we've seen from the Fiverr marketplace is a sharp increase over the last year in data analysis services, growing 243 percent year over year," shares Brent Messenger, global head of community at, an online marketplace offering tasks and services beginning at just $5 per job performed.

With data analysis services such as those available at being both affordable and easy to access, the costs involved with data can no longer be an excuse for niche market businesses. In fact, data can sometimes even be free for small businesses, which leads us to our final misconception.

Related: From Corner Office to Field Ops: 4 Ways to Make Data More Actionable

Misconception No. 5: Collecting data will cost too much money.

Not much is free nowadays, but fortunately you can collect data for free with Google's web-traffic monitoring tool Google Analytics, which provides all types of data about website visitors and traffic sources. Using this, businesses can extract data to reveal valuable information including how audiences engage on their websites, origins of website traffic and more.

Expanding on the value of data for small businesses is Dan Wilkinson, chief commercial officer of 1WorldSync, who explains that "small businesses are often under the assumption that they should be managing their company and customer data themselves through manual processes to save on the costs of a data provider. Many entrepreneurs take this task upon themselves, spending massive amounts of time and resources inputting, updating and exchanging data with customers and partners. What they don't realize is that by investing in a solution that can collect and distribute content for them, they can expand their network of partners, eliminate errors and enhance consumer trust."

Related: 4 Things You Can Do to Make Data Work For You

As Wilkinson points out, time is money -- and often it takes spending money to both save time and gain opportunities to make more money. Keeping this in mind, there are many resources available that are small business friendly without breaking the bank. Among them are Tranzlogic, InsightSquared and IBM's Watson Analytics -- all of which offer valuable ways for small businesses to strengthen their overall business efforts through data.

Finally, as you begin to introduce data into your own small business, consider the core reason that data is essential. It all directs back to your customers and target market.

"It's important to start with the customer in mind and find tools that give you insight into that customer's journey to purchase," says Mark Sullivan, director of demand generation at CallRail.

When used correctly, data becomes a powerful tool for driving efficiency, accuracy and increased revenue for your business while also helping to better understand your customer, target market and competition.

From increasing customer loyalty to improving inventory management to strengthening B2B relationships, let data help you along the way in your unique small business journey.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

Founder of Retail Minded & the Independent Retailer Conference

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the founder and publisher of Retail Minded, the co-founder of the Independent Retailer Conference and has contributed to publications and companies that include IBM, Fiverr, Forbes and more. Additionally, Reyhle is the author of the book Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business from McGraw-Hill and has been the spokesperson for Small Business Saturday from American Express since 2014. Follow Reyhle on Twitter at @RetailMinded. 

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