What if you knew when your customers needed your product the most? Or what people were paying other companies for the same services you provide? Or which people were most likely to become one your customers in the future?

In the era of big data, reliable answers to those questions are out there, but finding them in the sea of digital information can be daunting, especially for small businesses. The challenge is making sense of big data and putting it to work growing your business. It’s a topic that comes under the heading of business intelligence, and it was the subject of NJBIA’s latest Business Bootcamp program last week.

As Angelo Mendola explained, business intelligence is an umbrella term that includes the application, infrastructure, and tools to optimizing a business’ performance. Using big data is a part of that, but it also includes collecting that data in the first place and understanding how to use it.

Business intelligence is no longer reserved for big companies. Technology and innovation has made it available to tall small businesses as well, even through something as simple as your credit-card processing system. Mendola is president of Priority Payment Systems Local, a company that provides POS credit card payment systems to businesses. As Mendola points out, those systems have a ton of data about a business. After all, credit cards are not just payment methods, they’re also huge data networks.

“They know age demographics, when and how they buy coffee. They know what age demographics go to the gym on Tuesdays,” Mendola explains. “That data is accessible by you, but no one’s going to hand you a thumb drive and say, here’s a 40 terabytes of data for you to analyze.”

Priority Payments developed a proprietary program with MasterCard called MX Insights that allows companies to compare their sales statistics with those of similar businesses. In other words, with their competitors. For NJBIA members that use Priority’s POS processing services, MX Insights is included at no extra charge.

“MasterCard is providing us with that data and we’re delivering it to you as part of your program,” he said.

Eighty-five percent of business leaders believe that big data will dramatically change the way they do business. But big data is not analytics, though that’s part of it. Companies like Google can provide statistics that can give a company estimates and show trends. Business intelligence

“Imagine a world where your customer is walking down the street and needs your services and all you need to do is walk right in front of them and say, Hey, I have what you need,” Mendola said