Even if you have a small business you can still use data to improve your business decisions. Large and medium-sized companies can afford to hire people whose specific job is to gather and analyze numbers and data. Lifehacker has a nice post about using data to make better business decisions. Here are some ideas.
After walking out of business school as a ‘quant’ (person that is more analytical than relationship focused) I was all about numbers and process. Then I started a small business and I had to focus on relationships and investing time in people. Some of you are probably more focused on your craft – delivering your service in an excellent manner to others. This realization drove me to spend time on the operations and to pay more attention to marketing and selling. But everyone goes to their comfort zone so I always kept an eye on tech and numbers.
Commit To One Hour A Week
I limit the time I spend on the numbers to a few hours a week and this has allowed me to find easy to use tools that don’t allow a big investment in time. Since I spend time now focusing on marketing, websites and online activity take up a good part of my work time. When I started doing this the online world of SEO and pop-up ads were the old NY Times square of seedy and deceptive activity. Google started to take this on by refactoring their search rankings to better cull out the ‘black hat’ results that was infesting all of our search returns. They continually make progress on finding reliable and legitimate people and content that all of us want when we try to find something.
Use Google Analytics
Google Analytics is one tool that is refined to the point that with about 45 minutes of work can get you running with a tool that can give you terrific feedback on what others see about you. Watching what Google does serves another purpose. It is teaching all of us that write and create content how to become more valuable to others and how to promote ourselves in an appropriate way.
I won’t go into full details on how to use Google Analytics in this post but we will have one shortly to show you how to sign up and use it. My favorite thing about this tool is it is free. Once you are up and running with it you will find you get addicted to it. It only takes about 1 min to check and maybe 5 mins to dig around and see trends. I promise to talk about it in the upcoming post.
Poll Your Clients
Being more data driven does not mean only marketing and the web. You should also continually poll your clients to see how satisfied they are with your job. Most will be very happy to respond and take criticism well and you will find that you will turn that client into an advocate. Most people just want to feel they are listened to and this will grow your network larger because the negatives will become a positive.
From these communications you can refactor your service offerings, provide new services, change your marketing and selling activities. It is a virtuous cycle that can quickly expand your business. Don’t let your shyness or stated lack of time be a barrier because some of your activities are not efficient and you may only need a few organizational practices.
Look At Your Sales
You have books or some other tool that shows your sales. Look at the data that is in front of you. Put the sales data on a chart for the year. Compare to last year, do you see a trend? Maybe a seasonal trend appears that you had an idea existed but you didn’t appreciate the full extent of it. If you place your marketing activity on the same graph you can see your sales lead times. It’s possible that you should adjust the timing of some sales or marketing activity. You may need to consider letting people go or hiring temporary workers for peak times. Don’t just go with your gut take a look at the numbers.
Numbers Are Important Because They Can Bring You More Money
By understanding some numbers you make better decisions that both save you money and make you more money. I have used these techniques to alter the way I present information to prospects and to help in hiring and letting go of people. Companies that use data are more profitable and more robust. Both of which are desirable for any small business.