Data Mining: The Big Dig

Your databases and Web sites hold vast stores of information on customer buying habits and market trends--if you know how to analyze the patterns. Some entrepreneurs are intimidated by technical issues or price: Hiring a pro for sophisticated data-mining can cost as much as $20,000. But you don't have to spend a fortune to unearth potentially profitable insights.

CASE IN POINT, a Morristown (N.J.) online project-management service with 25 employees, considered developing an intranet version of its product. Rather than jumping in blind or commissioning a pricey market study, the company decided to comb through its customer-service database. There it discovered 49 unsolicited requests for an intranet-based product. In early May, OnProject launched the new service and has since received a 20% response rate to its direct e-mail marketing campaign. "If you don't mine your database, you're myopic--and you're missing a fantastic opportunity to grow your business," says Ben A. Passantino, OnProject's communications director.


KDnuggets (, a Web portal devoted to data-mining, offers a free e-newsletter, a data-mining glossary, and links to conferences, software providers, and consultants.

The Center for Data Insight ( offers multiday courses on data-mining that cost $3,000 to $5,000. The Web site has free information, including guides to data-mining solutions and the statistical methods behind them.

Mastering Data Mining: The Art and Science of Customer Relationship Management, by Michael J.A. Berry and Gordon Linoff (Wiley, 1999, $44.99) covers everything from defining different kinds of data-mining to buying software to discussing how to hire experts.

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