How to Take Data-Driven Decisions for Startups & Marketers

Have you ever taken the wrong business decision? I guess you just answered yes. Never make this mistake again and include data in your decision-making process.

Data is everywhere, and collecting it is becoming easier everyday. Startups & Marketers need to look at their metrics in order to take the right decision at the right time.

Very often, I see startups who are never looking at their data. They don’t know what’s going on and what they’re doing properly or not. Needless to say, this is a huge mistake.

This article is all about helping you to take better decisions, supported by data, for the well-being of your business.

The Purpose

Why become data-driven? Many old-fashioned Marketers don’t understand and don’t even bother with Analytics Processes & Methodologies. Hopefully, by reading this article, you’ll understand why.

Being data-driven helps you to avoid gut feeling. Gut feeling doesn’t reflect what is happening in your business. It relies on what you see from your business, not what is really happening.

Being data-driven gives you a clear competitive advantage over your competitors. You take the right decision when they don’t. You know what’s working when they don’t. You get it.

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half. – John Wanamaker

This thing used to drive marketers crazy. They had no way to understand the effectiveness of their spending. That past is now behind us.

If you still don’t understand why you should be data-driven, I recommend you to read the article Metrics Debt written by Jamie Quint.

In an era where analytics tools & algorithms are very performant, being data-driven is becoming progressively important.

Being data-driven requires a low investment from your part. There is no reason not to take advantage of this transformation and to take data-driven decisions on a day-to-day basis.

The Mindset

The mindset to get is pretty simple: all your decisions & projects should be supported by data.

If you don’t have enough data, you should implement necessary measurements and wait to collect enough data.

incomplete-data

Being Data-Driven is not about making your decision making process more complex, it’s all about taking the right decision.

Measurements

Most people implement Analytics tools because it’s a required step in the development of a website / app. They don’t plan ahead and think about what they need to measure.

If you don’t plan ahead, you could rely only on vanity metrics which will bias all of your, so-called data-driven decisions. Measuring the right metrics allows you to take better decisions faster.

Before implementing tools to measure your metrics, you need to answer the questions:

  1. Identify Business’ Objectives
  2. Identify Goals for each Business’ Objectives
  3. Identify Key Performance Indicators for each Goals
  4. Identify Target for each KPIs
  5. Identify Segments / Cohorts of people for each Objectives

Avinash does an in depth analysis of this process in his article Digital Marketing and Measurement Model.

Always gather more than you need, the cost to measure this data is often less than the time what you’ll need to wait to take a decision.

The mindset here is to encourage you to think about your Business Goals rather than directly thinking of your website. You might be tempted to measure your visitors, but you’ll also need to measure revenue.

The best is to measure everything that matters. You will probably collect useless information anyway. The most important is that when you want to take a decision, data will be available at your fingertips to help you out.

Examples

Measure each step of your funnel in order to measure the health of your Marketing and Sales. You can implement a framework like AARRR.

To measure what is happening within your app, measure the engagement of your users and understand what they do (or don’t) on your app.

Measuring Revenue and other related metrics is primary to measure the health of your business. You should measure metrics such as MRR, LTV, ARPU…

 

You are now measuring your most important metrics. However, raw data is not necessarily always going to lead you to the right decision…

Accuracy

To avoid taking the wrong decision, you need to make sure that the data you have is accurate and reflects users’ behaviors.

Although data never lies, you need to make a few checks before taking a final decision.

Let’s take the following example:

  • You have plenty of traffic from SEO & Social
  • You want to know which one is the most effective in driving conversions
  • You look at the Conversion Rate
  • Social converts at 3%
  • SEO converts at 6%

SEO is definitely the most effective channel, right? Well, it depends on the size of the sample and the conversion it gets.

isValid-result

Basically, a few more conversions could tip the balance in Social’s favors. IsValid can help you to discover such issues. Just make sure the significance is high enough.

Significance is primary if you want to compare data. Without significance, you could take the wrong decision and harm your business. For more details, read the article How Not to Run an A/B Test.

You can also use the Sample Size Calculator in order to figure out how many people are required to attain significant result.

Although data doesn’t lie, it can sometimes lead you to the wrong decisions. If you have a page with very few visits, you might be tempted to remove it from your website. However, crunching the data in another way, may indicate that the page is deeply buried in the architecture and therefore invisible to most users.

On that last point, I’d suggest you to read the article Why Most Marketer Fail at Web Analytics which sums up all the points you should consider when implementing Analytics.

Data gives you numbers you can rely on when making decisions. However, don’t forget to use your common sense & analytical skills in order to avoid taking the wrong decision.

Tools

More important than the tool is what you want to measure and the accuracy of the tool. Before implementing a tool, you should always plan what you want to measure and verify that the tool suits your needs.

There are plenty of tools you can use in order to measure all the data you want: Google Analytics, KISSmetrics or Mixpanel.

Depending on what you want to measure, you may also develop your own measurement tool. For this purpose you can use an open source software like Piwik or develop your own dashboard.

Business Inteligence tools can also help you to measure what you want. You can look at tools such as Looker, ChartIO or RJMetrics.

Example of RJMetrics Dashboard

Businesses can sometimes get lost in Analytics tools. The variety of tools is vast and are sometimes quite hard to implement & configure. If you don’t feel like it, seek the help of an expert to help you out.

Don’t get stuck

By now, you should have plenty of data to look at. However, you need to avoid getting lost in this data and suffer from analysis paralysis.

To avoid getting stuck, have a look at Lean Analytics. It follows a list of principle in which you’ll focus on one metric at a time and optimize it through a process of experimentation.

Avoid wasting time on looking at your metrics all the time throughout the day. Plenty of entrepreneurs waste plenty of time just looking at vanity metrics. Metrics should help you to take decision, not waste your time.

ga-real-time

If you spend time each day looking at the screen above, you’re clearly wasting your time… It clearly won’t help you to grow your business.

This problem has been described by Zynga where by relying too much on data they failed to see the real problems. They explain that their DAU were quickly decreasing on certain days. They realized later on that these days correlated with the number of soccer games…

Data is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need Insights in order to understand your consumer. Data can tell one thing and customers another.

On this last point, Intercom wrote an article on The Problem with Data-Driven Decisions that I recommend you to read.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you understood that being data-driven can help you to develop a competitive advantage against your competitors and streamline your decision-making process.

It doesn’t take that much investment to become data-driven. You just need to be committed to it and learn.

If you’re net yet data-driven, start to think about implementing a measurement process and attach metrics to your business’ goals.

It’s your turn now. How was the transition to become data-driven? Did you see any improvement on your business? What are your top metrics?

Pierre Lechelle

I help B2B SaaS companies to build & manage high-performance Marketing teams so that you can build a sustainable business.

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