In today’s challenging business landscape, it’s critical for both large and small businesses to use every tool at their disposal to stay competitive and profitable. After all, business is a complex and dynamic entity, and if your company fails to take advantage of available assets, then you’ll likely find yourself left behind. Sales organizations are no exception. Now, with the arrival of the “big data” era, a powerful tool has emerged for measuring business performance—analytics.

Often, the mere mention of the word “analytics” also brings the words “Google Analytics” to mind. According to recent statistics, 49% of the world’s top 1 million sites use Google Analytics to gauge performance. On top of that, 56% of businesses rely solely on Google for web analytics. In fact, only 11% don’t use Google at all.

But Google’s web analytics isn’t the only option available to organizations that want to get the most out of their data. Business analytics solutions are available from many different vendors to help organizations and sales teams gauge performance, identify weaknesses, and recognize new opportunities for growth and market development.

How Effective is Business Analytics?

McKinsey Research statistics show that companies that utilize business analytics tools have productivity and profitability rates that are 5–6% higher than their competitors. In fact, an analysis of over 250 engagements over a five-year period reveals that companies that use business analytics insights to make data-driven marketing and sales decisions improve their marketing return on investment (MROI) by 15–20%. Based on global annual marketing spend of $1 trillion, that translates into $150-$200 billion of additional value.

If your organization is ready to reap the benefits of successfully analyzing vast stores of data for insights and competitive advantage, here’s a look at the vital role that business analytics can play in revealing new opportunities for market development.

Sales Funnel Tracking

Among the many challenges that organizations and sales teams face these days, finding new and better ways to accurately measure the effectiveness of online content and campaigns is near the top of the list. Campaigns require time, energy, and other resources to implement and maintain. And while traditional metrics may provide you with some clues regarding leads and interactions, business analytics software allows you to track your online sales funnel to see exactly what pages people are visiting before or after they view your website. This tracking capability can give you valuable insights as to what your current target market is interested in, along with ideas about what online content to create to better drive traffic and conversions going forward.

Deeper Demographic Information

Online analytics, coupled with your company’s sales statistics, can show you exactly who is buying and where. The analysis of social media data is also an effective way to get a clearer picture of the age, gender, and location of users that are engaging the most with your company online. In addition to demographic data, social media sentiment data via comments and behaviors can be used to identify emotional patterns. These indicate how customers really feel about your brand. Numbers don’t always reveal these kinds of insights, and they can help you tailor your messaging and offerings to different regions, people, and markets.

Sales Process Tracking

Business analytics provide insights by allowing you to track the sales process for different demographics. For example, let’s say that analysis shows that a large corporation you are doing B2B sales with takes six months to make a buying decision, whereas a small-scale business statistically takes only a month. You can act on this information by segmenting these two customers into two different target audiences, making it easier to concentrate your efforts on further developing whichever market is the most profitable.

Identification of Internal Weaknesses and Strengths

One of the main benefits of business analytics is that it can reveal insights about the weaknesses and strengths within your company. Armed with those insights, you can implement new strategies to eliminate the weaknesses within a marketing plan or a sales process, and then capitalize on the strengths. For example, a low customer retention rate indicates the need to improve customer service and relationships. By accurately identifying this problem early on, you can make improvements where necessary, and cut back on your potential losses.

Future Growth Opportunities

Business analytics allows you to identify future growth opportunities otherwise hidden from traditional analytics. Say, for example, that your product and messaging is tailored to a specific type of audience. Analytics could reveal that your product and messaging could fit another audience entirely, thus allowing you to identify possible opportunities for future growth.

Micro-Market Strategies

Business analytics gives sales organizations the ability to analyze large data sets for insights needed to develop successful strategies for selling into micro-markets. The key is to make sure that management is on board with business analytics, so that the insights get acted upon. This means that management must trust the data and new data-driven strategies that can create a competitive edge. There must be no second-guessing; falling back on old perceptions of markets and past performances will only serve to sabotage the discovery of new market opportunities.

To identify new opportunities for marketing development with business analytics and build a data advantage, you’ll need to pull in relevant data sets from both inside and outside your organization. But it doesn’t stop there—your analysts need to adopt “destination thinking” when querying the data. They need to boil down the business problems they want solved, and the questions they want answered, to simple and direct sentences. Generalized approaches to the data will not provide meaningful results and actionable insights. Nor will looking at data the way it has historically been done. Only by looking at data in new ways will new opportunities present themselves.

The future of business analytics looks promising. While older generations may fight this new technology, 52% of Millennials are classified as “early adopters.” Going forward they will be the business leaders and analysts who embrace business analytics, and will lead their organizations to greater profitability and competitive advantage.