"I'm really glad we hired that in-house psychic," said no one, ever.

But you know what's sad? IBM reports that 46 percent of midsize companies make gut decisions, even now. Sounds crazy, right? You don't want anyone's gut or a game of darts determining the future of your midsize enterprise. So don't let it. Business, like law, programming, and even keeping your zoo's Reptile House up and running, isn't about guesswork — it's about using real tools to make informed decisions based on real data.

Here's something to think about. Seventy percent of best-in-class companies have an "information culture," meaning they place value on data-driven insight. According to IBM, there are three steps to making critical business decisions for your midsize company:

  1. Gather and organize data in a way that's clear and effective for you, your colleagues, and clients.
  2. Find the meaningful connections linking those data sets together.
  3. Create insight based on those connections that will help you develop a roadmap for what your company can accomplish (i.e., world domination).


And how that insight is used might surprise you. For instance!

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is about as established and beloved as any zoo can get in this country — which is to say a lot. Founded in 1875, it's been drawing crowds for more than a century, and has housed some of the most remarkable animals this side of a Yann Martel novel, such as the world's fastest cheetah in captivity. It continues to win awards for its environmental and conservation efforts. And, well, look at this baby gorilla.


So how do you bring even more people to your zoo, especially in the midst of an economic downturn? Well, the Cincinnati Zoo wanted to find an innovative way to do just that, all while tamping down on public subsidies. They turned to IBM's analytics solutions for midsize businesses to help them tailor their customers' experience at the zoo. They crafted a platform that linked ticket sales and point-of-sale system data with where their members lived in relation to the zoo. That way, they could develop their marketing efforts according to what made their visitors happy and how they spent their money. Accomplishing that, they were able to increase ticket sales by 4.2 percent, food sales by 25 percent, and their overall return on investment by a whopping 411 percent in the first year. Old zoo. New tricks. Happy everyone (including the giraffes).


All this is to say that critical decision-making in business shouldn't be a mystery. Save the arm wrestling and the roshambo for your next play date with your nephew. When it comes to innovating for the sake of your customers, just follow your new favorite zoo's lead. Tackle decisions head-on using IBM's broad array of midsize business solutions.


This post is part of the IBM Midsize Matters Series, in which business solutions are demystified, just for your midsize business. Visit IBM for Midsize Businesses on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to join the conversation.

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