Digital Skills Series: Turn Analytics into Action as a Small Business
For small businesses in 2021, data is everywhere. From your sales funnel to your social media, there are hundreds of tools and pieces of software designed to help you identify, segment and analyse business data in incredible depth. However, with such a wealth of data available, how do you decide what to look at, or what to act on? To help small businesses get more proactive with their data, we’ve put together a short guide on how to get the most from your analytics tools.
Invest in the right analytics software
Once you’ve decided to beef up your business’ analytics game, it can be easy to go a little overboard with your software subscriptions. Having 3 separate analytics packages for social media, SEO and your sales funnel sounds great in principle, but it’s important to be able to make use of the data these tools provide. A great rule of thumb is to align your analytics with your digital investments. If you’re spending a lot of budget on social media campaigns, think about investing in a tool like Hootsuite. If your business is focused on online or digital sales, consider a comprehensive CRM tool like Salesforce or Hubspot. By aligning your analytics investments with your current aims, you’ll be able to get pertinent insights and actionable data that relates directly to what’s important to your business.
It’s also a great idea to check that your more specialised analytics tools can integrate with the software you already have in place. For example, does your CRM integrate with Google Analytics, allowing you to align website behaviour with online sales? Can you track how many new leads your social media campaigns have contributed to? When investing in data analytics, it's vital that you have a clear idea of how this new information is going to actively improve your understanding of how your business is performing.
Identify key trends
Data doesn’t exist in isolation. If you’re new to the world of analytics, it can be all too easy to see sales figures or digital marketing campaign metrics as just numbers on a screen - up one month, down the next. The truth is, all of these figures are just one part of a far more complex chain of cause and effect, right across your business.
One of the best ways to begin looking at key data is in trends. Put together an analysis of sales data for each day over the last month to see if there’s a certain day where online sales are consistently higher. Compare your inbound digital marketing channels (Google Ads, social media, SEO) to see which one delivers the most sales at the most efficient CPA (cost per acquisition). Explore the engagement metrics around your last month of Facebook or Instagram activity to see if there’s a particular type of post or story that does significantly better than others. The goal is to start being able to build a fuller picture of what’s happening within your business and more importantly, what’s likely to happen in the future. Armed with this information, you can start making better decisions on where to invest your advertising budget, what kind of products work best on your website and even which type of social media posts are going to elicit the most positive responses. In this way, your analytics becomes the building blocks of future digital growth.
Learn to ask ‘why’
This is perhaps one of the more tricky elements of analytics. Raw information and good trend analysis can help you make sense of what’s happened and what might happen next, but the crucial missing piece is ‘why’. This is the narrative that turns data into an actionable, measurable plan.
Often, getting to the ‘why’ involves taking an extra step in your analysis and finding the root cause of a trend. For example, let’s say that despite investing more in a Google Ads Shopping campaign, online sales have actually dropped from this channel month on month. Digging into Google Analytics, you find that whilst more people are landing on your product page, bounce and exit rates on the page have increased significantly. This is where the ‘why’ comes in. Have you made any significant changes to the design of this page? Has the price of your product increased this month? Have there been any changes to your audience or adverts on Google? These questions not only build an easily understood narrative around the data for the business, but help inform what the logical next steps should be.
Acting on your data
What makes data ‘actionable’? It's a buzzword that’s thrown around an awful lot in analytics, but the reality is pretty straightforward. In essence, actionable data is simply having the right information to make a positive change within the business. It’s more about changing how you think about your analytics, rather than there being some mysterious ‘next level’ of data to tap into.
Try this simple thought experiment next time you’re looking at some critical business data: What will this analysis help me achieve? It can be as simple as knowing where to assign digital marketing budgets for the next quarter, or identifying what type of social media ad to run next. Ultimately, great data analytics should give you confidence in the decisions you make for your small business, helping to identify opportunities for growth, or areas to streamline. Used correctly, it can become the map that helps small businesses reach their true digital potential!
Bonus: Make your analytics accessible
One of the biggest challenges for small businesses is making data accessible to other less experienced stakeholders and teams. Particularly for those with a large digital presence, analytics can have a significant impact on the wider business, making it even more important that everyone feels comfortable with the fundamentals.
Whilst software like Hootsuite, Salesforce and Google Analytics have good reporting functionality in their own right, it can be really helpful to bring together all of your data streams into one simple, easy to understand dashboard. Tools like Google Data Studio or Klipfolio can help you bring together multiple data sources and present them in a clear, unified way to other teams; extremely helpful for productive discussions between marketing and sales for example. These kinds of dashboards are highly customisable and mobile friendly too, which means stakeholders can access them anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, there are lots of online resources and courses available to help small businesses actively upskill their team in all types of analytics, giving them the knowledge they need to begin making their own data driven decisions!
We hope you enjoyed this latest article in our Digital Skills Series! Getting to grips with data and analytics in an increasingly digital first world has become an essential skill for many small businesses. If you’d like to read more about how small businesses can turn digital tools and technology to their advantage, please visit our Insights hub.