Discover why you should use analytics to track your impact, the different forms of analytics and the 3 start-ups analytics mistakes to avoid.
Keeping track of data is one of the most important things any company can do, not only start-ups. Tracking metrics and hence keeping an eye on what’s going on with your business is crucial, allowing you determine if strategies are working and ultimately make the best decisions for your business.
Unpredictability and risk drive many entrepreneurs to start-ups, meaning tracking and making use of data is particularly valuable. In such an environment, the rationality of stats can provide some comfort.
Why use analytics?
The ability to call upon data can drive your business. Setting up goals can allow you to actively track the impact of different strategies on different patterns. It can also highlight areas that are weak and need some work. Google Analytics allows you to set up ‘goals’ which can track the steps users take on your website. For example, we have been able to examine the ways in which users progress through our registration – if we see that the second stage of registration has a high drop out rate, we can look at this step and see that it might be too detailed to keep potential members interested. We can then change the step, and test to see if the issue is fixed. Other Google Analytics ‘goals’ might include tracking how many people come from your blog to registering on the site, and hence giving you an idea of the value of the blog. There is a multitude of options that allow you to refine your system.
- Smart decisions
Analytical programmes are particularly good at visualising the data, making patterns striking. This can help make smart, informed decisions. For example, should we want to publish this post on social media for maximum effect, we can see when our followers are most active online and post accordingly.
- Progress is a huge motivator
The ability to track your impact is particularly strong at a start-up with a small team. Actions taken by individuals can be directly tracked in analytical software. Being able to see this is a huge motivator to work hard, as the reward is clear to see and there’s responsibility for making that impact. The fact that this data can be seen/shared with the rest of the team can add a competitive edge to the work, which is no bad thing.
Forms of Analytics
As mentioned, Google Analytics is a versatile tool. You can see where site visitors have come from, whether that be social media, email, etc. as well as being able to work out the demographics of your audience amongst other things. It even lets you track in real-time, visualising how many users are on each page of your site.
Social media sites often have built-in analytical programmes for business pages. This includes Facebook’s Insights and LinkedIn’s analytics pages. Both are useful, quick ways to track what’s going on with your followers and their interactions with your posts, although they lack the versatility of Google Analytics.
Beyond web analytics programmes, you can always simply drop some data on a regular (e.g, weekly, quarterly) basis into MS Excel. Then set up some simple formulae to track your trends.
When examining any of these programmes, it’s worth noting the distinction between two of the more important metrics
- Engagement – refers to how followers interact with the content on your page, hence it’s a great way of getting an understanding of what your audience is actively interested in
- Growth – great to track how many followers or ‘likes’ your page is getting, but a less direct way of telling what on your page is actually attracting them
Top 3 start-up analytics mistakes
Shanelle Mullin points out the top 3 start-up analytics mistakes:
- “Success Theatre” – this involves viewing data, such as increased followers which might not directly impact your business itself, through rose tinted glasses. Instead, make sure you appreciate the stats that actually impact your company, which can often be less obvious
- Focus too much on short or long term – accept that your metrics will be up and down on a day to day basis; short-term fluctuations are normal. When too focused on the short-term you can make snap judgements in an attempt to fix problems that don’t really exist. At the same time, don’t step back so much that you lose track of the pulse of your start-up.
- Hoarding data – don’t collect data, make it look pretty, then doing nothing. Act on it!
Closer to home, Rich (one of our founders), warns against collecting too much data. Think before you collect. Define what you need to track and how that relates to your business goals. Then collect & analyse only that data. Make sure you review it regularly – we have a Monday meeting every week – and refine the data you collect if you find it falling short or priorities change.
Having piles of data sitting in front of you can seem daunting – but using analytical programmes can visualise this superbly. It’s invaluable to be able to see strategies in action and a great work motivator to be able to track your impact. A final point would be to reemphasise testing. If you see a trend in your data, test it. Don’t be scared of forming a hypothesis and doing stuff differently to see if your hypothesis is true or not. The Big Data and Analytics market is estimated at $125 billion for 2015 according to Forbes – what a waste it would be to not act on your own data when it’s sitting right in front of you.
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