What should an analytics company that seeks to help small businesses focus on?

by GerinT
8 replies
I am grateful to have found this community to learn from courageous individuals on the entrepreneurial path. I am still in my 9-to-5 where I work in extracting stories from data to facilitate effective decision making for our executive team. I've become fascinated with the contrast of how a Fortune 500 company employs thousands of Analysts to interpret data for the ultimate goal to win more sales & customers to how small business owners in my family virtually use no data analysis in their business operations. My inkling is that the type of work Analysts do for large corporations in regards to converting raw data into reporting that monitors sales performance/customer engagement, identifies opportunities to grow market share, and/or forecasts sales/demand could be applied on a smaller scale to help small businesses. I would love to hear from you all about any advice you for what to focus on and any answers to the following questions.

1) What is your biggest challenge with analytics?

2) What is your biggest hope related to analytics?

Thank you!
#analytics #businesses #company #focus #seeks #small
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    One of the main reasons small biz owners don't use analytics to uncover insights is this: they think that's for big companies.

    They believe it's expensive, takes a lot of resources to do, and that you must have a ton of data points to make any headway.

    What you are up against is an * education * barrier.

    "Why do I need this?"

    "Doesn't that take a lot of firepower to get it to work? And how do I know it'll work, anyway?

    "Don't you have to have a huge operation with a zillion people doing tasks over and over again to get worthwhile data to pull insights from?"

    These are the kinds of questions you'll have to answer before the owners will consider talking to you.

    Unless-- you grab them with curiosity.

    I know it takes far less than the vague-but-massive number of data points SMB owners believe are necessary: 800 is the minimum.

    I know that crafting the question--what are we trying to uncover or learn here?--is the key, critical thing to be phrased so that the client 'gets it'... and when you do get it right, they listen up in a hurry.

    I know that founders "don't know what they don't know", just like the rest of us... and that's a barrier to be overcome before being able to start that conversation.

    Look at the typical basic internet marketer:

    - flying by the seat of their pants

    - goal is to 'make as much money as possible' (dumb and magical thinking, but hey)

    - focus is on 'tips and tricks' they heard from some popular guru

    - avoids basic math like the plague, so cannot understand what you are talking about when you say "analytics" or even "traffic" or "conversion"

    - believes "conversion optimization" is some sort of wizardry (see previous points) and beyond themselves

    ...under such conditions, is it any big shock that "analytics" should be a word their eyes slide off of when encountered on the screen?

    My point is this: you have basic, underlying, foundational requirements to establish and get past here before you can begin to have any sort of meaningful conversation with a small business owner about "analytics". Either that or you must talk to many, many of them and qualify (filter) heavily indeed for that one individual who naturally 'gets it'.

    Right now all you're going to encounter is "I don't know what that is"; "I don't know what that's for"; "I don't know what I'd do with that". You have a major uphill battle in front of you.

    If you can create marketing that helps the founders overcome those question obstacles, then you will have developed some sort of competitive advantage.

    I would go to upwork and survey what kind of low budget projects people are already buying from freelancer data scientists.

    Your other option is to move upmarket, to people who already understand the nature of the issue, have a track record of buying such services, and want to know how you can specifically help them further. I know where I'd go.
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    • Profile picture of the author GerinT
      Jason, thank you for your detailed and thoughtful answer! This gives me a lot to think about and provides direction for focusing on education for small business owners. Your points also provided insight into why I didn't receive any answers when I posed this question to small business owners in my LinkedIn network. I need to start with why it matters. Thank you again for taking the time to respond!
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    • Your other option is to move upmarket, to people who already understand the nature of the issue, have a track record of buying such services, and want to know how you can specifically help them further
      Fantastic post! Super comprehensive/helpful. As I was reading through I was thinking about this last point - which is about likely deeper-pocketed, more knowledgeable IMers who might be more receptive. Would also burn the most calories thinking about / targeting this group. Your day job may prove helpful here, as this segment's approach/thinking may mirror your current job's stakeholders' approach and framing. The one caution I'd make here is that there are plenty of "referral only" folks in this "upmarket" group who sort of shun analytics overload/reliance (as a crutch) for their own reasons (Ben Settle talks about this a lot in his emails ... about how there are many immensely profitable and yet non-testable parts of a business that have to do with simply thinking differently). May go without saying, but your pitch / positioning / benefits to this group will need to be very well thought-out and clear.
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      • Profile picture of the author GerinT
        Hi Matthew, thank you for your response and further insight into the "upmarket" group. So would you say for this audience, they wouldn't see analytics as useful for getting to ideas about how to grow their business but I could maybe convince them that they need some sort of analysis to tell if their idea actually worked in the intended way? or said in a different way, analytics could help them isolate the impact of their ideas put into action?
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        • To be clear, I wouldn't necessarily say the majority of this group eschews analytics - just that there are *some* who do, and that this is something to be aware of as you craft your copy/positioning. It's perhaps even something to proactively address in your pitches (folks who became successful by being action-oriented and trusting instincts, and not falling into the pit of analysis paralysis may just need to hear that you "get" that, are sensitive to it, and are here to accelerate their forward momentum). I think both of your ideas (new growth ideas and execution strategies as well as impact assessment) are worthy of consideration, depending on the client.
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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    From a recent conversation with a small business owner I'm related to:

    "I don't want to look at charts. I want to hire someone who gets me more appointments. Good appointments."

    The context:
    They had hired a Google AdWords specialist at $1700/month + ad spent and I reviewed what the analyst was doing.

    The specialist was frustrated because he was sending traffic, using the right keyword.

    The owners were frustrated because they did not know which of the leads / appointments, if any, were coming from the Google AdWords guy.

    She was comparing her Google guy with her FaceBook guy. This one also charge 1700/month (no extra).

    The facebook guy only sent them people he spoke to (pre-qualified). The Google ads guy sent everybody directly to them.

    They're also doing SEO. And they never bothered to look in their Google Analytics or webmaster tools.

    They simply coil in horror at the thought of looking at such things.

    Baffles my mind but that's the case.

    They are not alone.

    Not only do they not know how to read (or where) to read the info; they also do not think it is possible to ever know how to do it. Plus, it takes time.

    What made them happy:

    I told them the Google guy had sent them 149 leads. They converted 6 of them into a sale. They needed to convert 7 to just break even. Solution: discontinue.

    The FaceBook guy sent a lot of seemingly qualified leads... They converted more than half into appointments. The issue was that many of these appointments failed to show up (or even give notice they're cancelling), so they had days they were booked solid where nobody showed up.

    However, they're converting enough of them to continue. Need to address the cancellations. They started calling people the day before the appointment to confirm. I suggested they do that and also call 5 days ahead and 10 days ahead.

    The SEO sends the least number of leads, but the conversions are good and almost no cancellations (and the cancellations that have occurred came with a week's worth or notice or more).

    Also, they tend to buy the most expensive items.

    They knew people coming to them from SEO did not cancel often and bought expensive.

    They did knot know the rest.

    They do a lot of correlations when they can know cause and effect.

    If you can tell them you'll look at their marketing and tell them what's working for them the best, they listen. If you're talking about data and analytics, their brain shuts down or they become aggressive and repetitive as hell.

    They are common in their responses.

    They know they need analysts without knowing they do. I mean, they know they need to know what marketing strategy works, but not that they can learn that from analytics charts.

    Or worse, they've abhor charts of any kind.

    I would suggest you don't approach them from an analysis-point of view but from 'I can review your marketing strategies and tell you exactly how much it's costing you to get a new client with any of your strategies so that you can figure where you should spend more and where you're wasting your hard-earned money.
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    • Profile picture of the author GerinT
      Hi DABK, thank you for your response and providing practicals for how to approach small business owners. That makes total sense. I learned from your post that a more valuable service to small business owners would be interpreting their data and communicating the insights in plain english rather than creating charts or instructing them on how to read their data own data.
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      • Profile picture of the author DABK
        You have two groups of business owners, those who get it and those who do not.

        You need to have a way for them to sort themselves out.

        So, you know how to market to them.

        If I were you, I'd go move upmarket, like Jason suggested. If you're not, you're going to present it differently.

        You are always better off selling to those who want what you're selling. To want what you're selling, they need to understand it, what it does, why it is useful.

        It does not necessarily mean that every company with 300k in gross revenue gets it less than one with 3,000,000, just that there's fewer of the first than the 2nd that get it.

        Then there is the ability to pay.

        Some smaller companies that get it don't have the money to pay.

        But if you stick to small companies, yes, presenting it as analytics help will not work well with most.

        Originally Posted by GerinT View Post

        Hi DABK, thank you for your response and providing practicals for how to approach small business owners. That makes total sense. I learned from your post that a more valuable service to small business owners would be interpreting their data and communicating the insights in plain english rather than creating charts or instructing them on how to read their data own data.
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