Small businesses now have access to business intelligence reports that can take their operations to the next level. For many small businesses, the idea of harnessing data-led insights seems altogether foreign—data aggregation is for companies with data teams and million-dollar budgets, right? As it turns out, small businesses are actually awash in data. It's sorting it out that's the tricky part.

Luckily, several small business tech providers are supplying powerful business intelligence reports to help highlight what's important.

With that insight, you can set powerful goals that will help drive your business forward.

The holy trinity of business intelligence.

In a nutshell, small business data reports tell you three things:

  • The current state: what's happening in your business now
  • The change state: what happened when you changed something in your business
  • The forecast state: what will happen in the future based on what's already happened

The starting point is to gather enough data to be able to run these reports meaningfully. That data can come from sales, marketing, or any other area of interest.

Here are some ideas of what you can measure and why you would want to measure it.

5 common small business intelligence reports.

SpotOn's dashboard analytics make it easy to get the data you need.
  1. Daily, weekly, and yearly gross sales. This report shows you how much you're selling over a specific time frame. It won't tell you about your margin, but it will tell you how much of a product you're moving.
  2. Total collected by tender. It's important to have an accurate view of payment method trends. If more and more people are paying by card or mobile wallet, then you may want to focus on providing more payment options.
  3. Top customers. This can be a great report to run if you have a loyalty program set up. This report will tell you who your most valuable customers are. What you do with that information is up to you. For example, some business owners offer new products to loyal customers, as they tend to be early adopters.
  4. Marketing and/or loyalty campaign performance. Ever wonder whether those limited-time deals you were running had any impact? With this report, you can understand the return on investment against sales and other metrics.
  5. Review meta score. Small businesses have a lot riding on their online review scores. If your average rating is going down over time, what can you do to help reverse the trend? Staying abreast of your scores can help nip any problems in the bud.
SpotOn makes it easy to find transactions by tender at a glance.

With up-to-date reports, you can measure what the state of play is now, what it'll be if you change something about your business, and what it could be in the future based on current data.

With data and the right framework, you can set distinct goals to drive your business forward.

But having data is only one part of the game—it's what you actually do with that data that counts. For a lot of small businesses, analyzing data can be confusing at first. Start by asking yourself whether the data proves that you met your goal. After all, you don't know if you increased sales if you don't know your sales numbers in the first place!

The way you set up your business goals and how you use data to measure progress on those goals is key.

The importance of setting business goals.

Goal-setting only really works when it's specific. "I want to increase sales next year" may sound concrete, but unless you have a starting point or a timeline, the steps to get there are unclear. Luckily, with data and the right framework, you can set distinct goals to drive your business forward. This is where business intelligence joins the party.

Getting specific with SMART goals.

The SMART system for goal setting stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. This framework helps keep goals from becoming too vague. It's the difference between "I want to increase sales" and "by the end of next year, I want to increase sales by 15% year-over-year."

No matter the type of goal, your business intelligence insights are key to measuring your success.

Here's how it breaks down:

  • Specific: Increasing sales by 15% gives you a concrete milestone.
  • Measurable: You can track sales using your reports.
  • Achievable: You have direct control over increasing sales, and your team is on board to help.
  • Realistic: Past experience and available resources say you can snag enough new customers and keep up with increased demand.
  • Timely: It must be achieved by the end of next year.

You can set SMART goals for any part of the business. No matter the type of goal, your business intelligence insights are key to measuring your success. But what about hitting bigger, more ambitious goals?

Getting to know objectives and key results.

As the saying goes, there's only really one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

Objectives and key results (OKRs) are a great way to set up a big, ambitious goal for your business and then break it down into smaller parts.

According to Medium, this goal management method was first investigated by Google. To summarize, you start by setting a big objective (O). Then you think about two or three key results (KRs) that will indicate that you're on the way to hitting the mark.

For example, your OKRs may look like this:

  • O: Increase profits by 40% year-on-year
  • KR1: Increase return customers by 20% year-on-year
  • KR2: Increase average online rating score by 30% year-on-year
  • KR3: Grow online sales by 50% year-on-year

Under each KR, you'd have two or three initiatives to meet those key results. Then you'd review your progress every three weeks to see how you're doing.

Business intelligence reports can tell you all sorts of information about your business in a digestible format.

In short, business intelligence reports can tell you all sorts of information about your business in a digestible format. With that insight, you can run metrics to help inform what you should focus on and whether your area of focus is working or not. It all starts with harvesting and making use of the data your business is already generating.

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