Data is all around us, and it’s easier to collect than ever, so it’s no wonder you’re likely hearing terms like “big data” and “measurable marketing” as they’re thrown around from the C-level down to the IT department. Leading marketing companies are using a proactive approach, collecting data to predict brand success on the front end and to measure marketing efforts on the backend. While a lot of businesses hire external agencies for this sort of exploration (not to mention accountability), that’s not always an option for smaller businesses.

Does data collection, measurement and analysis seem like a huge undertaking? Well, I’m not going to lie: It definitely IS. But there are a lot of great ways even small businesses can use data to their advantage. Here’s how…

1. Collect & Care

First things first, if you’re not collecting basic customer data at every interaction, it’s time to get on that. Your best bet is to start with a simple, well-built customer relationship management (CRM) solution. Nowadays, most of the best CRMs are web-based and relatively simple to learn and use. Try Less Annoying CRM or Insightly—both are very affordable. (And hey, take your time finding a CRM that works for your team and your business. This is important. Most CRMs offer a free trial, so go for it!)

Once you find a CRM that you and your team are comfortable with, it’s time to start using that data to your advantage…or rather, to your customers’ advantage. Record every interaction with each customer and be sure your customer service team is on the lookout for important customer details. For example, if you notice a significant portion of your customer base belongs to a particular community organization—there’s your opportunity to dive into a group, cause or association that your customer base believes in. (Don’t go in fake. Choose a cause that you can stand behind and you’ll minimize the risk of depleting any brand authenticity.)

Sponsor a related event or organizational tradeshow and you’ll impress your existing customers while attracting new ones—all while showcasing your memorable brand. Bonus!

2. Follow Behavior Flow

By now nearly everyone is familiar with Google Analytics. While you can use any website traffic analytics platform you like, just be sure you have the tracking code plugged into your website so you’re actively collecting that precious data. We’re really loving Google Analytics in particular, due to all the cool new features.

If you’re a visual person rather than a number person (like me!), you’ll love the Behavior Flow section. Here, you can get a really cool at-a-glance view of how your potential and current customers are experiencing your brand and your website. Which content makes your visitors keep clicking around for more? Which content did your customers read before making a purchase?

By recognizing customer behavior patterns, you can tweak your website content and your branding to obtain wider appeal. When you know what works (and what doesn’t!), you can really take your value proposition and your branding to the next level.

3. Shore Up Your Surveys

Content marketing is all about creating helpful content your customers want and NEED, nudging them every little bit closer to the sale. Create a short, fillable form on your website that your website visitors can fill out to receive in-depth downloadable content (like an eBook or a whitepaper). Think carefully about what kinds of information you’d like to collect to target your branding efforts: Industry? Number of employees? Job Title?

What downloadable content should you offer? Depends upon your industry. The key is to get a thorough picture of your target market, then ask yourself what information that group of potential customers is seeking out online. What are their pain points? How can you make their lives easier? Use these answers to build out your content.

Have you issued a customer satisfaction survey in the past? If so, you already have a list of helpful customers: those who answered your survey. You might consider polling this group and asking which kinds of content they find helpful. (Don’t ask your customers if they want to see more eBooks or more blog posts. Rather, ask if they’d rather receive more information on particular products, services, expertise, and/or industry information. Be specific.)

You can use this information to build your next content marketing piece—and buff up your brand reach in the process!

What ways does YOUR business use data to increase brand reach? Leave a comment below!