on February 7, 2017 (last modified on April 22, 2022) • 6 minute read
Everyone is talking about “big data” these days. But, most small businesses I encounter don’t use much data at all when they make decisions. Some focus on how much money is in the bank and that’s it.
Even the companies that do want to use data, struggle to do it effectively. The problem? Their data is scattered all over different web apps, spreadsheets and reports — all formatted differently. When they need to make a decision, they don’t have the right data in front of them, they can’t cross-reference it with other data, and/or it’s out of date. Despite best efforts, these companies are still flying blind, relying on their gut to make strategic decisions.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The web (and software delivered over the web) has made marketing, sales and, well, every function of a business more measureable than ever before. Most of these software programs have application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow other business dashboard software companies (like Databox) to pull this data out and visualize it for you — no coding or analyst required.
This new technology makes it possible for small businesses to be more data-driven than ever, more easily than ever and at a price point that works for us. Making smarter decisions is now almost effortless and much less expensive than it used to be.
Follow these 4 simple steps.
In a small business, there are no shortage of things to improve. But, there’s also not an endless supply of time and money. So, pick an area of the business you want to improve first.
Begin by assessing what matters to you, your boss, your employees, your clients or any other stakeholders. If you’re focused on improving sales, you might want to get a better understanding of your conversion rates, average time needed to close a deal, or maybe just the revenue you expect to close in future months. If you’re in marketing, maybe you should try to improve website traffic, lead volume or lead quality.
Whatever your role or your goal, pick a focus. You can’t improve everything at once.
In small businesses, you don’t know what you don’t know. And there’s a lot you probably don’t know. But, you’re better off acting than waiting until everything becomes clear.
So, contrary to popular advice, do not dream up a list of metrics you want to measure. With technology today, you may or may not easily be able to measure the exact thing you want to measure. But, there’s a very strong chance you will be able to measure something close to it. So, don’t spend hours or days trying to figure out how to measure the exact metric you think you need to measure. Instead, login to your small business dashboard software and look at what it measures for you out-of-the-box. By focusing on what your software already measures, you can get started improving it right away.
So, start with what data you have and then brainstorm, talk to people, experiment with ways to improve the metrics you can easily track with a business dashboard. Often, the easiest thing to is start with data you’re seeing daily. Chances are you have a Google Analytics account you never log into, a forecast you fail to keep up-to-date in your CRM and social media profiles you just use without monitoring the impact. Start with the data available in these tools.
Don’t over think things. Don’t re-invent the wheel. Smart people have built the software you use. Just use what they gave you.
In order for data to be useful, it has to be accessible. For most people, that means being able to view data on every device: mobile, desktop, tv, slack and your Apple Watch if you got one.
You also need to be able to share it with your team so they know how they’re progressing towards the goals you’ve set.
It’s easier than ever to pull all of this data into one spot, set some goals and focus on doing more of what works. There’s no longer a need to wait until a monthly report gets generated. Start monitoring up-t0-date data in real time.
If you follow the steps above, you’ll have a better numerical understanding of your business’s performance. As you monitor more metrics over time, you’ll start to discover the activities that lead to better results. Does more frequent blogging increase traffic? Does better training for your team increase their utilization rate? Do smaller deals lead to shorter sales cycles? Over time, you’ll learn the answers to these questions first-hand as you answer them in your business. With answers to these questions, you’ll know what you can do to improve specific metrics, whether that’s website traffic, personnel utilization rates, cash flow or something else.
At Impulse Creative, we’ve guided many clients through this process. Inevitably, we learn something new that challenges long-held beliefs our clients hold dear. Many clients resist the lessons the data reveals. Even clients who desperately want to build a data-driven sales and marketing machine, resist when the data shows they’re not good at something. Just this past week, I had a client insist their close rate was higher than what the data showed. It wasn’t until we dug into his pipeline that he realized he was forgetting about deals that went dark. Now that he’s using the CRM to track deals, we can see the deals he’s not closing and figure out why.
When you move to a data driven mindset, it’s time to stop relying on what your gut tells you. Your gut got you this far, but building a business that is setup for growth relies on other people, having processes in place and measuring the things you can’t see with a small business dashboard is the best way to go.
I don’t believe that 2017 will be the year of “Big Data” as some predict. I do believe 2017 will be the year small businesses become data-driven.
Ready to get started? Our clients track their performance in real time against goals we set together. We project results, while other agencies just report them. Instead of looking back at data and trying to decipher what went wrong (or right), we’re monitoring progress in real time and adapting our plan so that we achieve the predefined, mutually-agreed-upon targets.
If you want to become more data-driven, we can help you or you can get started on your own. Just keep it simple:
Entrepreneurs and business owners tend to trust their guts above all else. You don’t have to give that up. But, as you grow, add employees or automate processes, your gut won’t serve you well. It’s easy to make smart decisions when you’re the only one doing something, or if you only have a few easily-monitorable employees. But once you add a few more, you can’t see everything everyone is doing firsthand. Rely on data to be the eyes and ears of your organization for you. And make sure the data is easy for everyone to consume, so you’re not the only one watching either.
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