What do dieticians encourage people to do when they want to improve their nutrition? Write down everything they eat. What do personal trainers ask people to do when they want to improve their fitness? Keep an exercise log. What do financial advisors tell people to do when they want to improve their money management skills? Create a written budget. No matter what you want to improve, the first step is to identify your current position so you can measure your progress.
The same concept holds true in business. You can’t grow your business if you don’t really have an understanding of where you are now. And you can’t maintain momentum if the only time you ever look at your stats is when someone asks you about them. So I tell the mompreneurs I work with “If you treasure it, then measure it.”
As a marketer, I’m a bit of a data geek, but some of this doesn’t come naturally to me so I have to remind myself of the value of monitoring the numbers. While this may not be the fun part of owning a business, it’s an important one. Here are some simple tools to get you started:
1. Website Traffic. The best tool for most small businesses to measure website traffic is Google Analytics. It’s free, easy to install and packed with valuable insight. The only problem I have with Google Analytics is that I can easily fall down the rabbit hole and spend way too much time exploring and researching data I don’t need. I’m no expert so I’m sure there’s a lot that I’m missing, but the data I find valuable to monitor in Google Analytics includes:
- Unique Monthly Visitors – how many people visit my site?
- Page Views – how many of my pages are people visiting?
- Average Visit Duration – how long are readers spending on my site?
- Referrals – where is my traffic coming from?
- Keywords – what words are people using when they search for my site?
I also take a look at demographic information such as age, gender and country; the use of mobile devices; and the most popular pages. I don’t necessarily track those categories every month but I know how to find the information when I need it. You can also use Google Analytics to track your conversion rate and determine how successful a specific page is.
2. Subscriber List Building. If you’re building a business or ministry then you are probably communicating with your clients, customers, readers, listeners, members, patients, students, fans, donors, etc. in some way. If you’re using an email marketing solution such as Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, Direct Pay or one of the many other platforms, you should have a wealth of insight available to you. I typically monitor the following:
- Email Open Rates – how many people actually open the emails I send out? (Don’t be discouraged if this number is low – it’s becoming more and more difficult to communicate through email.)
- Click Through Rates – how many people are clicking a link in my emails?
- Subscribers – how many people are joining my list? And how many are unsubscribing?
You can also monitor insights on your social media pages as well – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn all have insights available for the business page owner.
3. Financial. This is the area where many small business owners want to shut their eyes and ignore the data. Who wants to be reminded of how much money they don’t have? But I can promise you this – no matter where you are financially, the more you can be honest with yourself, the more likely you will be to improve your situation. So monitoring your financial status on a weekly or monthly basis is critical to your growth! I use the following tools:
- Quick Books: My bookkeeper reconciles my accounts each month and provides me with a balance sheet and P&L statement. I used to file them without reading them. Now I force myself to take a look and ask questions. I know just enough to be dangerous when it comes to using QuickBooks itself – but I can usually find information about outstanding invoices, sales figures, expenses, etc. Staying on top of the numbers actually motivates me to work harder!
- Mint: My husband and I monitor our personal finances with the Mint app. We manage all of our bills through online banking and the Mint app complies all of the accounts into one area so that we have a real-time picture of our financial health. The only downside is that my husband gets an alert anytime I overspend – like my recent visit to Lululemon (but in my defense, it’s not possible to go into that store without overspending)!
4. Professional Goals. There are tons of apps for tracking your personal and professional goals and helping you create habits. I’ve heard that Nozbe is great for a sophisticated goal tracker and Habit List is good for tracking specific habits. I like to use Evernote for everything, so I keep lists of my goals in Evernote. But I’m also a huge fan of pen and paper when it comes to setting and tracking goals. I go low tech and start with journal writing to identify my goals. Then I use a whiteboard or large Post-It Notes with colorful markers to track my success. And I dedicate time in my schedule each week, each month, each quarter and each year to review my progress and shift priorities. The tool you use is not as important as your consistency in using it!
5. Time Management. I could write a whole post on time management – but when it comes to tracking and measuring how you spend your time, one of the best tools I’ve discovered is Rescue Time. It’s great for those of us who get distracted by email or social media or browsing through the web reading fabulous blogs and window shopping in the World Wide Mall. You install Rescue Time on your computer and it tracks your every move…letting you know how productive you’ve been. It may not paint a pretty picture, but it will tell you what you need to hear!
What about you? What numbers do you track in your business or ministry and what tools do you use to measure your progress? I’d love to hear your tips!