As a small business owner we’re constantly told that we can look at the stats for pretty much everything we do and how insightful and useful they will be to us. Well, possibly controversially, I have to tell you it’s not true!
There is a fantastic amount of data out there readily available to us. The insights provided on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pintrest, not forgetting of course Google Analytics, is mind blowing, seriously, even if you’ve ever looked at the information available I would bet that you’ve not experienced the full plethora of data and have only really scratched the surface.
We’re constantly told by all the social media gurus and the marketing experts (whose adverts conveniently pop upon Facebook when we have just looked at our stats) that we should, no we must use all the analytics and insights available to us in order to have a successful business and to drive our market influence to a point where people come to us. We are coerced into looking at graphs, economic, social, geographical, heck even psycho-graphic demographics, and are made to feel slightly inferior if we haven’t analysed our analysis to a point of exhaustion. If you don’t know the exact time of day that your best customers (and you know who they are through extensive analysis of your customer base) are on your pages and website you’re domed to fail. You’re expected to know which channel they prefer to buy your services from, what other business they like to interact with, what they had for breakfast, what newspaper they read and that their dog is called Fred. And that’s the problem.
There is so much information out there that it’s easy to get bogged down in the numbers, the graphs, the analytics, the collection and presentation of the information. Don’t get me wrong, I love these sorts of numbers, the power they have to help consumers find the exact right product, at the right price, in the right place at the right time for them is incredible. The ability for businesses to be able to use information to target their products and the marketing of them to an audience who not only wants them but has a need for them is overwhelmingly exciting for me. The power of data is phenomenal and with my history as a database marketer it’s no surprise that I love this sort of information but it used to be my full time job to collect, analyse and present and make decisions on this sort of data, now it’s a small part of all the other jobs I have to do in order to run my own small business.
I’ve done it myself, I’ve thought I’ll have a look at my Google Analytics, see where my website traffic is coming from and who they are. Or maybe even looked at my Facebook page analysis to verify who interacts with Lubylu on there. Whilst it’s important to keep a check on the high level information, I’ve been known to think I’ll just create a spreadsheet for the data so I can analyse the trends going forward. I’ll just colour code those columns and cells in the spreadsheet and then maybe even add a conditional format and throw in a pivot table to aid with my analysis later on. The problem is at this point I’ve probably wasted half a day, time I should have been either making candles, ordering new supplies or actually contacting customers and maybe even trying to actually grow my customer base. Analytics can be used as distraction technique, one which you can pretend to yourself isn’t actually a waste of time and in fact it’s something you practically have to do in order to survive the bear pit of a market place out there. I call this ‘Procrastination Analysis’!
It reminds me of when I was studying for my ‘A’ levels and the lengths I would go to to create the most beautiful revision timetable. This was in the days before computers took over everything graphic so it was all hand done, multi-coloured pens were used to co-ordinate topics and subjects, stickers, drawings, plans were made, themes were introduced and be called revision. It wasn’t of course, it was a delaying tactic to try and put off the studying of the Tudors and the Stewarts and the European Wars of Religion and other such subjects that were never going to be as interesting as who was doing what with whom in the 6th form common room!
As small business owners we have a finite amount of time to get everything done. The team running the business is often very limited and the number of tasks that need to be done very large. Whilst data is your friend and it is necessary that you have an understanding of what is available to you, how to use it and a high level knowledge of some of the key insights, it’s not necessary for small business owners to spend their very valuable time and effort trying to get to grips with data that wont help them make their day to day decisions.
The key element for me is to ask ‘What decision will I make from this information?’ If the data available to you is really just of interest and it’s not going to impact how you market your product, the strategy of your business or even your product design going forward then I would suggest that spending time on them is ruining your business.
Owner of Lubylu Ltd ethical home fragrance products and previously a data geek!