Understanding data is the key to growing your business online. If you agree with Tony Robbins, then you’d find the following statement to be true: “Energy flows where attention goes.” However, oftentimes in business, we get stuck trying to understand just where to put our attention. In a world where we are often pulled in many directions, it is crucial to hone in on the few (very few) metrics that actually move the needle forward in your business.
In this article, we will cover three important topics:
1) Priorities: Identify the driving forces in your business
2) Metrics: Knowing what data to pay attention to and how to use it
3) Habits: How to get yourself and your organization into a habit of reviewing and assessing results
Focus on What Matters to Succeed
The late Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, has been quoted saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Can you identify what exactly is the “main thing” for your business?
At the onset of the quarter, you should be going through a thoughtful and analytical process to determine the short-term priorities for your organization. This, of course, should be congruent with your long-term vision of the company and its mission. These two basic planning methods are important first steps in creating anything of impact, both personally and professionally.
Once those plans have been set into motion, our job is to extract the most critical numbers to follow. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Top Line Revenue is your most important metric because this isn’t the number you have much control over—rather there are smaller conversions (or steps) that can be chunked down and manipulated to give you more power over the final outcome. Is this making sense?
Let’s give you an example, say you are running an e-commerce business and are interested in increasing online sales. Often times, our logical brain believes that increasing an advertising budget will equal increased sales- and, perhaps at one time that was true. Nowadays, however, for digital marketing, the process becomes much more nuanced. This is because we have a wealth of data that can track even the smallest step towards a purchase. We call these “micro conversions.” A micro conversion mirrors each step of the client journey.
Aware --> Engage --> Subscribe --> Convert --> Excite --> Ascend --> Advocate --> Promote
In creating an effective sales-focused marketing strategy, we always look to these 8 steps as being our top priorities for attracting more customers into a business and converting them into paying customers.
Now it’s your turn, how does your business cover each of the stages mentioned above? Are there gaps in your digital sales process? This roadmap can also be applied to off-line sales and the point remains the same -- it’s all about leading vs lagging metrics. It is important to understand the difference in identifying exactly how sales are made in your business. Remember, you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
The Power of Following Your Data
Once you’ve identified your most important metrics, it’s time to assign specific targets that are congruent with your goals. I like to work backward with the numbers. This means having an idea of your typical conversion rate and understanding the numbers at each pass.
For example, if one of your goals is to increase your email list by 1000 you’d need to understand the rate of conversion from website visitors into subscribers. Let’s say that you welcome 5,000 new visitors to your website each month and you typically convert 5% of them into your email list. This means that you’d either need to increase your website traffic by a significant amount in order to reach your goal of 1k new email subscribers per month OR you would work on increasing your click rate conversions with a CRO (click rate optimization) program with an agency like Diaz & Cooper. As you begin to test and validate the various tactics you’ll discover what works for your business and your target audience. Marketing is an art and a science—and this is where it gets really fun!
As a business owner, it’s not enough to merely understand the numbers, you must get really good at predicting the data. The more accurate you are in forecasting the results in your business, the better it will thrive (and the better you’ll sleep at night). However, truly understanding one’s business goes well beyond the numbers and this is where leadership turns more into art.
As Verne Harnish put it in his indispensable book Scaling Up: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0, “… leaders also need plain old human-gathered intelligence to get a gut feeling for the market and what is happening in the company so that they can make the right decisions.” How much does your gut guide your decision making? Ultimately, you should be influenced by a combination of the “cold hard facts” as well as a feeling for the atmosphere of your particular industry sector.
Aside from the cold hard data, there are a number of ways for you to get involved with the market. Namely, having actual conversations with your customers and truly listening to your employees/ the folks on the front lines selling and servicing your community. It is only through these actions that the data can “come alive” and guide your gut in the right direction to pivot strategy or make organizational changes.
Disciplined People with Disciplined Habits
Don’t listen to Tim Ferriss, meetings are absolutely necessary for your organization to thrive. I must write a disclaimer, I adore Time Ferriss and the In The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich he builds a credible argument for eliminating as many organizational meetings as possible to free up your time as an employee or business owner. While that certainly does work in some cases on certain projects, what I have seen from experience is that in order to build a culture of what Jim Collins describes in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't as “Disciplined Action” it is critical to have regular meetings.
The problem with meetings is that they are usually poorly run and become a HUGE waste of time for most attendees. Again, in Scaling Up: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0 you'll find an amazing plan for establishing a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly meeting rhythm. While that may seem like a heck of a lot of meetings, the methodology behind it is to get employees into the habit of problem-solving, being reminded of the most important goals (the main thing), and to be comfortable with delivering results.
No matter how you decide to structure your meetings, the point is to be consistent. As the leader of your organization, it is important for you to set the pace and make communication a top priority. Don’t expect your staff to take the initiative—you are the one they will look towards for maintaining this discipline.
The key to keeping meetings productive is to have a very specific agenda with a tight timeline. Any “one-off issue” that applies only to a handful of meeting attendees should be addressed in a break out session. Be respectful of people’s time and use a timer to make sure you are breezing through the agenda without delays. The better you can get at leading your meetings the more you’ll find ease in achieving goals and managing your team.
The success of your organization is depended on its ability to measure the right things, consciously interpret the data to act, and create a culture where performance is regularly measured and discussed. These three elements are, essentially, the “success formula” for any business. With disciplined implementation, it will be impossible to fail, since you and your team will be focused on a common goal while developing a natural culture of achievement and commitment.