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Even if your company isn’t of the digital variety, the volume of strategic data now at the fingertips of most business leaders can be quickly converted into practical improvement.

Businesses have been using data since commerce first began. Roman bakers tracked when demand for loaves was at its highest so that they knew when to get their ovens roaring. More recently, in the late 19th century, early data-gathering machines would go on to form the basis of IBM.

Today, the data we hear about every day is mostly of the digital variety and our productivity partner, Be the Business reflects on the golden opportunities it offers businesses to make improvements.

“We are surrounded by data,” said Reggie James, founder of digital marketing agency Digital Clarity. “There is data that is collected by others about us like Companies House and HMRC. Equally, there is data we collect as businesses. One of the most common areas of data that is collected on a daily basis is from our company website, and while Google remain tight-lipped about the number of businesses using Google Analytics, it is probably safe to say that if you own a website, best practice by your web developer will mean that Google Analytics is implemented.”

Google Analytics is not only extremely powerful – given that it can help show where visitors come from, where on your site they tend to exit and countless other metrics – but there’s a chance that it also contains some incredibly useful strategic data you didn’t even know you had.

Getting to sold

“We’re all over Google Analytics every day,” said Ann-Marie Rossiter, head of marketing at online event space marketplace HeadBox. “Learning how to use it is vital for any business. I think it’s a skill that should live in-house, and we train the team here how to use it. It lets you know if there are pages that aren’t working or if visitors are leaving your website straight away, and even if people are lingering on certain pages for too long. You can find this information almost instantly and then make really good tweaks based on real-time user data.”

Rossiter asserts that one thing Google Analytics is extremely useful for is in creating sales funnels. “It relays to you how people get stuck at certain points and really shows you the opportunities for your business. When you look at how many people enter into the top of the funnel and how many then drop off, you can work out how to optimise each page in order to maximise the chances of them progressing through the funnel and your business making a sale,” she said.

Learn from reviews

Tracking customer comments and reviews, she added, can also reveal ways to make improvements, and it can lead to new opportunities. This data gold hidden in reviews is something that Nick Olosunde, head of ecommerce at Pooch & Mutt, makers of health food for dogs, keeps a very close eye on. “We’ve been using the keyword planner of reviews platform Feefo to help identify terms that people are mentioning in reviews, and this has helped us find new keywords that we would never have thought of normally,” said Olosunde.

“For the little amount of time that we’ve had to invest in setting up the resultant AdWords campaigns, we’ve seen really good return on investment – in fact, they have the best return of non-brand related keywords. Your reviews are certainly a great way to find some long, obscure keywords to boost results.”

As well as your own website, your social media channels are a rich source of strategic data, thanks to tools like YouTube Analytics and Facebook Insights. Among the things you can learn about your YouTube viewers, for example, are their age range (meaning you can then adjust/tailor your content accordingly); how long they watch for (giving you the impetus, perhaps, to shorten your videos if 80 per cent of people leave after 60 seconds); and where in the world people are watching – which might open up possibilities for exporting overseas.

There are also paid tools providing data about exactly who has been looking at a website. “This is called reverse IP lookup,” explained James, “and you can actually see the name of the company that visited your site, what pages they visited and how often. Our favourite is Leadfeeder because it integrates with Google Analytics. We use this to find new business.”

Tools like these let you see if a company is coming back to your site and going to the same page – ideally your ‘buy now’ page – and if they are, said James, “You’d want to be picking up the phone and calling them or sending them an email.”

There are countless ways in which data can help businesses, and it certainly pays to embrace what’s out there rather than shy away from it. Google Analytics is the sensible place to start – even if it can seem a little overwhelming to newcomers. “When you first look at it and see all these graphs and metrics it can put you off,” said Rossiter. “But Google have a fantastic series of content available that takes you through it, with tests at key stages. I think for anyone who is just starting out, it is immensely helpful – and it can really take the fear of Google Analytics away.”

Key takeaways

  • Businesses today have access to a wealth of data which can help inform strategic improvements.
  • Google Analytics is a good place to start and can help you see how well your website is performing, as well as helping to create sales funnels.
  • Social media channels and customer reviews are also rich sources of information, helping you find out more about your customers and offering an insight into what they are talking about and searching for.

While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Lloyds Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.

About the author

Be the Business

This article was produced by our productivity partner Be the Business. We’re working with Be the Business to help businesses across the UK improve their productivity and boost their performance.

Find out more about Be the Business.

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While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Lloyds Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.