We live in an era of big data; it’s everywhere. That can be both a good and bad thing. We are constantly inundated with metrics on just about everything. Want to know the location, language, age, income, gender, etc. of your website visitor? No problem! The amounts of information out there can be overwhelming, but if you can cut through the noise and harness those valuable hidden nuggets, then the mass amounts of available data are an invaluable resource that will get you ahead of the competition. The Internet has made it easier than ever to capture and analyze data. The trick for marketers is to shake out the important bits, so they can grow their customer base and keep up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in their industries.
How to Get Data
Online market research is easier and more affordable than older traditional methods, such as paper surveys, interviews, and focus groups. With so much business and life being conducted online, there are large data trails that are ripe for the picking for a savvy marketer. There is a massive amount of data that’s collected automatically. You just need to figure out what you need and how to access it. Some of the tools are accessible and free to everyone. Google Alerts will track down your brand name—or the competition—and show you how it’s being discussed around the Internet. And Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can get you on your way to seeing how people find your site and much more. If you have a larger budget, there are many CRM (customer relationship management) software programs that will keep track of all of the data about your current and potential customers. You can also collect your own data relatively easily. Put a questionnaire on your website to elicit helpful feedback. Just make sure you don’t make it too involved or personal. You don’t want to turn people off and scare them from your website. You could also give people the option to link their social media profiles to your website or app. You never want to make it a requirement, but if people are willing to sign up with their profile, then you can gain a little more insight into their interests and what’s important to them.
What You Can Learn
Having readily available market research will make your job easier. It’s a useful way to figure out who your target customers are and help you to find potential new ones. It will help you answer questions like,
“Who is my ideal customer? Is she a wealthy woman in her late fifties or a recent college grad embarking on her own?”
A little market research will help you to narrow down your sales avenues and become more focused, so you aren’t wasting time and resources. You can learn about how your existing customers feel about your products through reviews or even word of mouth. This research will give you the pulse of your customers. What are their likes or dislikes about your brand? What do they want to see changed? You want to keep your current customers happy, so listen to their feedback. Market research will also keep you abreast of the latest industry developments. You can discover market trends and keep an eye on what your competition is up to. All of this collected data will let you know what you need to adapt to stay competitive.
What Data to Monitor
Since there is so much potential data out there to collect, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you should be monitoring. It would be overwhelming to study everything, so it’s important to focus on a few key areas in order to understand which marketing efforts are working for you—and which aren’t worth your time. In addition to collecting basic customer information, here are five important types of data to monitor:
- Your conversion rate — What are you asking your potential customers to do when they land on your page? Do you want them to download an eBook, make a purchase, or simply give you their email address? Whatever you’re asking your site visitor to do, it’s important to keep track of numbers, so you can see what’s working. By monitoring your conversion rates, you can also play around with different aspects of your message. Test different colors or wording to see if you can increase your return.
- Pageviews — It’s important to keep track of your pageviews per visit. Are people spending time on your site and clicking on various articles, or are they ditching your page as soon as it loads? If you’ve invested in pay-per-click ads, and you notice that people are immediately bouncing from your landing page, there’s a good chance your ad is targeting the wrong people.
- Number of return visitors —If people keep coming back to your site, you’re obviously doing something they like. If you have a blog, you can keep track of your readership. See who’s sharing your content.
- Your backlinks — Keep track of where your inbound links are coming from. Perhaps you did a guest blog post somewhere, and you notice that it generated a bunch of inbound links for you.
- Search engine queries and landing pages — How are people finding your site? Are they getting there by using a particular keyword?
How to Use Research
You’ve collected all of this data. You may be thinking, “Now what?” Now you need to put it to work. You can use this data to help you prioritize what actions your business should take. You can use it to focus on your current customers’ needs and perspectives, as well as determining who your potential new customers are. You’ll know how customers are finding you. You’ll know who your customers are and what they appreciate about your business. You’ll know which strategies to continue and which ones to dump. All of these steps will help you grow your business and determine the easiest way to get the highest revenue potential. If you’ve collected the right data, you should be able to make better-educated decisions, which will help you reduce risks and expand your business in the future.