Every business, solopreneur, or contractor has a wealth of data on his or her hands. The struggle is capturing it, measuring it and using it to better your business practices. Whether you outwardly spend time or money on marketing, you can always increase your sales, outreach or performance by using data-backed decisions. If you’ve never collected and interpreted data, however, it can seem like a difficult undertaking. Below, we’ve outlined a guide to making your data work for you, instead of the other way around.

Determine Your KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are more than just a business buzzword; they are specific barometers of success unique to every business. KPI examples include the number of customers calling to schedule an appointment, or service/product sales inquires via your website. KPIs should link to your organization’s main objectives. Once you outline your goals, you can dive into the data work, to assess the success of your business practices and identify potential improvements.

Get the Right Tools in Place

For any organization with a website, (most businesses these days), Google Analytics (GA) should be an integral tool in your data belt. Setting up GA on your site is a relatively simple process. You can’t retroactively collect data, so even if you’re not ready to begin using GA, install it, so you’re at least accumulating stats.

The best part—it’s an entirely free tool with a wealth of information. GA helps you understand; where website traffic comes from, the geographical regions of your users, which channels or sources bring the most traffic, how users are interacting with your site and so much more. If you’re measuring digital traffic and performance of your website (hint: you should be) install Google Analytics immediately.

Audit Your Existing Data

You need to begin somewhere with data collection. Most business operations likely already have existing data, that’s a perfect starting point. Determine what you’re already tracking and confirm potential data sources. Does your office staff record how many calls come in each day? Do they ask about referral sources? If you have a customer relationship management (CRM) system, does it track any information? (More on that later.)

While every business is different, here are potential sources where you can pull data from;
  • Google My Business (GMB) – Once you verify your business, GMB is a free tool that allows you to update your info on Google searches or maps and collects data on how/where people are searching for you. However, you must set it up correctly if you operate a service-area based business. In addition, it won’t work if you don’t have some face-to-face interactions or operations with customers—it’s not for online-only businesses.  
  • Google Analytics – We already covered GA above.
  • CRM – Just using your CRM for customer management or for your sales team? It’s also a treasure trove of data, so make sure to use all of that information.
  • Social Media Manager – All social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter) offer an analytics platform with insights on how users are finding you and their interaction with your profiles. Social media management systems like Hootsuite or Buffer will combine all of your channels into one place.
  • Website Backends – Depending on your website platform, some sites, like Squarespace, have built-in analytics on the backend.
  • Paid Campaigns – If you’re already running paid ads on places like Facebook, Google Ads or Bing Ads, their performance offers valuable insights on customer behavior.
  • Email Marketing Programs – If you do any type of email marketing via programs like MailChimp or Constant Contact, there are robust analytics you can extract from previously sent campaigns.
Get Organized

Once you gather data from all possible sources, get it organized into one place, whether it be in a spreadsheet, shared document or folder, or using a tool. Depending on your budget, consider using a business intelligence (BI) tool. BI tools are either a system or software that gathers data from all of your platforms and streamlines it into one format. If you’d like to start small, you can also easily organize data yourself. While it can be overwhelming, start tracking something and build from there.

Focus on Visualization

Data is better when you can visualize it, instead of just numbers on a spreadsheet. After you organize your information in one location, use a visualization platform so you can display data in meaningful ways. Charts or graphs make it easy to understand growth or progression. Again, there are many data visualization tools that you can use, for large and small data sets alike. For Google suite enthusiasts, Google Data Studio is an excellent resource. With an interface similar to other Google products., you can easily create presentations and visualizations for any data set.

Once it’s put into a visual format, really dive into your data, identify trends and patterns. Figure out what useful data you’re missing and how you can track it. See what stories your data can tell. Visualization and storytelling are what captures the attention of your C-suite or management.

Remember that Automation is Key

Automation is where you start letting your data work for you. Make life easier and create automatic connections to any manual data entry points. Think of it as automating your data pipeline. How can the data you collect be automatically sent to your database, system, or fed into your process?

Many data visualization or BI tools have automation functionality. Google Data Studio also offers advanced automated reporting. Automation is also something you can do internally. If you’re tracking social media, scheduling systems like Buffer and Hootsuite can automatically populate metrics and send weekly or monthly reports to the appropriate personnel. Even practices as simple as having your staff enter phone traffic or referral info directly into a spreadsheet at the end of each day will automate your process.

Invest the upfront time to set up the correct reporting and automation practices to make data collection easier moving forward.

Connect the Dots with Correlation

Now the time comes to attribute the correlation between different data sources. For instance, does your business receive more phone calls on days you post on social media? Which types of promotions bring you the most web traffic? If you’re spending money on digital marketing campaigns or ads, make sure to compare the performance of paid vs. organic campaigns, specifically conversion rates.

Create connections between the data, focusing on outcomes that will allow you to make smarter business decisions.

Conclude with Educated Analysis

Analysis should go hand-in-hand with correlation. You’re asking— what does the data mean? The ‘so what?’ of the equation, that will allow you to use data to drive performance. If you’re analyzing data for a larger organization, educated analysis will give you the results that management wants to see. 

Use the bigger picture you’ve created with your data story and provide recommendations on marketing strategy, operation challenges or business opportunities.

A Data Analysis Example

According to data pulled from your CRM and email marketing program, your organization has had success after re-engaging with customers that purchased five to six months ago. Therefore, you suggest a new customer retention program to increase repeat sales.

Ready to make your data work for you?

For any organization, contractor, freelancer, or solopreneur—no matter the size or business model—there’s so much data at your fingertips. Remember to make the data work for you and don’t be intimidated by the effort upfront.

Need help? 10x digital has strategy experts that can set up processes to identify data, unleash invaluable insights and improve overall business performance.

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