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Data analysis for small businesses: It’s easier than you think
For a small business owners, a phrase like “data analysis” can sound overly complex, a practice better suited to bigger operations. You might think you have nothing to gain from taking a closer look at your data, or that you’d need a CIO and a few rounds of startup funding before diving in, but that’s not true. Data analysis can be as simple or in-depth as you’d like it to be, and it’s tremendously beneficial to your business.
If your business doesn’t store or analyze any data at all, you could be missing out on key information that can (and should!) affect your decision-making. If you’ve got a website or a phone number, and either of them play a part in bringing in revenue, then you’ve got data worth analyzing. Doing so is easier than you think. This guide will help you get started:
Any quantifiable piece of information about how your business operates is data. Here are some basic examples:
- Number of customers you help on a certain day
- Monthly income
- Number of visitors to your website per day
- Average customer spend
- Age, location, and other demographic information
How can this data help you? Essentially, the goal when working with data is to better understand your customers, where they’re coming from, and how to reach them.
For example: Let’s say a business analyzing phone data learns that a large percentage of their calls come in between 5 and 7 PM. (It’s because a majority of their customers are also business people who don’t have time to call until later in the day.) Their sales reps work a normal 9-5 schedule, so they’re missing a significant number of calls. They switch their sales reps’ schedules so they’re available during peak call hours and soon enough, their sales increase.
Understanding the way visitors interact with your website can uncover a wealth of knowledge about your customers. How do people find your website? What pages do visitors stay on the longest? What pages do they ignore completely? Getting ahold of this information can change the way you structure your website, and doing so is easier than you might think.
When it comes to analyzing website data, Google Analytics is the tool millions of businesses of all shapes and sizes turn to. It’s customizable, rich in features and functionality, and completely free. Getting started might seem daunting at first, but there are resources designed to help you get your footing all over the internet, including Google’s own Analytics Academy—free online courses hosted by Google that guide you through their entire suite of tools. We’d recommend starting here. Their tiered course system is organized by experienced professionals from the Analytics Education team and courses are designed to be accessible by anyone and taken at any pace.
We can hardly emphasize this enough: If you consider your website an important part of how you do business, it’s essential to keep track of and analyze website data. A few more examples of metrics to keep an eye on:
- Visitor count
- Sources of traffic
- Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors who leave a website after viewing only on page
- Time spent on site
- Pages with most/least traffic
- Exit pages: the last page a visitor saw before leaving your site
- Conversion rate: Percentage of visitors to your site who become customers
Your business’s phone is another major source of valuable business data. Like in the example listed above, knowing as much as possible about your phone calls can help identify trends, measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts, and highlight mistakes you might be making unknowingly. While there isn’t a free all-in-one tool for gathering this data like Google Analytics for your business phone, it’s still possible to do so affordably.
There are basically two different ways to go about tracking call data. The first is a call tracking service, which is relatively straightforward because its main function is simply to count incoming calls. Call tracking is primarily used to compare the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Let’s say for instance that you’re advertising online, in a local magazine, and on the radio. If you assign a unique phone number to each ad campaign, your call tracker will let you know how many calls each campaign generates. You can even get as specific as assigning a different number to specific keywords to see what language resonates best with your audience.
The second option, which is slightly more hands-on, is to implement a phone system that includes call analytics. You might think using a dedicated phone system for your small business is a waste of money, but there are plenty of affordable (as low as $15 per month) phone systems designed for small businesses that come packed with features and don’t require any additional hardware or expensive maintenance. In fact, most of them require little more than choosing a phone number and downloading a smartphone app.
Along with the plenty of other features you’ll get that you didn’t even know existed, like call scheduling and auto-attendants, you’ll get access to more detailed analytics than most call-tracking services:
- The time and duration of the call
- Parties involved in the call
- Callers’ locations
Which option is best for you will depend on your goals and what you want to learn. If you’re looking to evaluate your marketing campaign performance, you might prefer the call tracking service; however, a phone system with more detailed analytics might help you understand your customers better overall.
Data analysis isn’t just for million-dollar corporations. It’s a practice that’s accessible and beneficial to businesses of all sizes, and failing to acknowledge that could be hurting you. With the right data management tools, most of which are affordable and easy to implement and learn, you can make sure your business is on the right track.
Rody Zakovich is a Data Analyst at Tresta, a cloud-based phone system for small businesses. One of 31 Tableau Zen Masters, he’s recognized as an authority in the fields of data analysis and visualization.