Cracking the Code: Leveraging Website Analytics to Learn More About Your Customers

Cracking the Code: Leveraging Website Analytics to Learn More About Your Customers
by Iris Dorbian.

For small businesses with a burgeoning online presence, using online site metrics as a benchmark for performance can be critical to the company’s growth. Not only can such tools as website analytics track the number of visitors (or lack thereof) to a site, but they can also provide data as to what content is working and what isn’t. A big side benefit is its impact on a company’s sales message.

Wade Benz, owner of USImprints, an online provider of promotional products, credits his usage of website analytics as key to developing his company’s web sales strategy. “Website analytics tools are very important when refining your sales message,” says Benz, who began his company seven years ago and now has 18 employees. “You can use them to track the entire sales process of a website visitor: How long it takes them to checkout, how many visits go to conversion, and what content works better to make a sale.”

Benz began to use website analytics early in his company’s history to track his site’s traffic and unearth important data about each visitor, such as where they were coming from, what pages they visited. and how long they stayed on each one. Also of interest—the content and/or pages that were most popular as well as the overall conversion rate (the percentage of people who buy an item).

Based on the cumulative data provided by the analytics, Benz and his team, who use an arsenal of low-cost tools that include Google Analytics, HaveaMint.com, SEOmoz.org made the necessary improvements that would convert visitors to customers without having to increase traffic. This past year, he says his site’s “bounce rate” dropped nearly 20 percent following testing of customer interest in content.

“We have worked hard to increase our conversion, and have seen huge improvements,” reflects Benz. “This could not have been done without the use of our analytics tools.”

Using Benz’s example as a springboard, what are four ways that website analytics tools can help refine a company’s sales message?

PQ_WebAnalysis.jpgProvide comprehensive visitor data

Nick McElhinney, owner of MackTeck Solutions, a two-year old web design and development firm with a staff of five, says website analytics tools have given him a treasure trove of information on every visitor that logs onto his website, such as how long each one stayed on his site and how many pages were viewed per visit. As a result, he has been able to fine-tune his sales message to perfection.

“After my website was first launched, I was receiving a fair amount of visitors to my website daily,” he recalls. “I was able to analyze the data for each visitor and I noticed that for the most part, my website was engaging visitors because they spent a fair amount of time on the site and they viewed many pages per visit.” Still, when he compared the visitor data with the conversion data, he found that the website was underperforming.

Upon further analysis, McElhinney decided on a quirky tweak: He added a large call to action button that said ‘Let’s Work Together’ on the top right of every page. “This brought the visitor directly to my contact page,” he explains. “My purpose for this button was to disarm my visitors with a friendly message and direct them to the next step—contacting me. I decided I would put this button on my website and wait two weeks before analyzing the results.”

After two weeks passed, McElhinney says that his site’s conversion rate increased by an impressive 48 percent. This provided him with a pivotal realization. “I was spending the same amount of money on advertising and more people were contacting me,” he says. “This minor change to my website not only brought me more clients, it raised the return on investment of my advertising, which lowered my client cost per acquisition.”

Other ways that website analytics can tweak your sales message:

Decrease bounce rates

When Petplan Pet Insurance first launched in 2006, “the sales funnel was seven steps to purchase after saving a pet insurance quote,” recalls co-CEO and Chief Marketing Officer Natasha Ashton. To simplify the purchase process for customers while eliminating the bounce rate, Ashton and her husband Chris, who co-founded the company with her, sought the help of website analytics.

“We set up an A/B test and used analytics tools to help us monitor performance between the two funnels and make strategic adjustments based on data, rather than just gut feelings,” explains Ashton. As a result of this online fine-tuning, Petplan has enjoyed growth of more than 2,200 percent in revenue during the last three years and expanded its workforce from just a handful of staff to 60 employees.

Analyze where traffic originates

“Understand where the traffic is coming from” says Kenneth C. Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax, a small Internet marketing firm. “For a small business if you focus your sales message in [a specific geographic] area, you should cater your message to [this audience]. This will allow you to see if your sales message is branching out to other markets. If that is the case, refine your message to target these areas.”

To illustrate his point, Wisnefski cites a law firm client based in Southern New Jersey that started getting a lot of web traffic from the Philadelphia and Baltimore region. “We evaluated and tweaked the sales message to target specifically individuals in and around Philadelphia and Baltimore.”

Determine what is engaging visitors

Measuring traffic to your site is important, but so is ascertaining where visitors are spending their time when they get there and for how long.

“Time on-site is key as it will illustrate how engaging and informative your website is,” says Wisnefski. “Anything over 45 seconds is considered sufficient. If consumers are spending less time on your site, perhaps you need to consider creating a more engaging experience. This helps when trying to capture leads and create conversions on your sales side of the site.”

For small business owners looking to create an impact with their online sales messages, website analytics tools are a must. If harnessed correctly and effectively, the analytics can reveal data that can lead to important sales conversions without incurring undue advertising costs. The old maxim, knowledge is power, is applicable here because having a knowledge of your visitors and their activities on your site, can greatly affect your sales strategy and bolster ROI.

Getting started with website analytics

The following sites may be invaluable resources for small business owners seeking to use website analytics to improve their sales. Check them out:

Google Analytics: Arguably the most popular website analytics tool out there. Google Analytics can provide you with a plethora of data and best of all, it’s free. The site offers a tutorial on how to use it effectively. You can also contact technical support 24/7.
Woopra: As featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur.com and TechCrunch, Woopra can help you track your site’s visitors in real time and spot key customer segments. If you need assistance, just go to their live chat room. Pricing varies, running the gamut from free for basic use (which includes 30,000 actions per month) to $39.95 for 1 million actions per month to $349.95 for 15 million actions per month. All price plans come with a 30-day free trial.
Trace Watch: Here’s another complimentary website analytics tool that can help you track the visitors to your site in real time. Trace Watch can be installed on any website supporting PHP and MySQL. However, you will need to download a few files on your server.
Reinivigorate Snoop: A desktop application, Snoop has a Windows and Mac version. After you install it, you’ll get notified if an important development on your site occurs such as when you have a sale or a user signup. Sign up and get a 14-day free trial. $10 per month.

Know Your Demo: Why Understanding Who Your Customers Are Is Key To Small Business Success

woman-article-portraitby Iris Dorbian.

It’s the first lesson of Small Business 101: If you want your company or product to be a success, you must know your target audience, and more specifically, your customer demographics. Too often a business can struggle and even fail because its corresponding marketing efforts didn’t understand the who, what, when, where, why, and how of their customers make their buying decisions.

Ask Important Questions

Four years ago,

when Derek Christian bought My Maid Service, a small independent cleaning service based in Cincinnati, his immediate goal was to grow the existing customer base. Christian, who previously worked as an account executive for Proctor & Gamble’s commercial products group, decided a good way of defining his target audience was to ask the company’s existing customers several questions. Some of these were fairly intuitive, like “Why were they hiring a cleaning service?” but others might seem pretty far afield, such as “What were they looking for in life?” and “Where do they shop?”

 

The answers Christian received not only gave him keen insight into his clients’ psychographic profile, they helped him recognize three specific demographics
within his customer base: new parents, pet owners, and young urban apartment dwellers. Once these three groups were clearly defined, My Maid Service, which currently
has 50 employees, began a campaign push to market to them.

“For example, new parents care deeply about not only having spotless floors, but also what chemical

s we are using to clean those floors because their baby is crawling on it and putting their hands and feet in his or her mouth,” explains Christian. “We make sure our people know child safety laws and we make sure we don’t arrive at nap times. It’s not just about cleaning.” As a result of targeting these three specific groups, Christian was able to grow the company’s annual revenue from $250,000 to $2,000,000—quite a coup for a small business during a recession.

Zeroing In

Now that you know identifying and understanding your customer demo can play a big role in improving your business, how do you go about it?

Try asking yourself the following questions:

Who is your best current customer?

  • What is their age range?
  • How about their income level? Or education level?
  • Where do they live?
  • How do they s pend their money? Are they frugal, extravagant, or in-between spenders?

This type of additional detail is essential if you want to flesh out the customer profile of your company or product’s target. “The objective is to close in that person,” says Lou Rubin, a seasoned marketing and advertising professional whose career includes an 11-year stint as an executive director at ad agency Doremus. “Once you know everything about how they interact with you, you can seek similar customers.”

Mine for more data

Other tips:

Utilize your local Chamber of Commerce and state Commerce Department to find additional statistics, like census data, on a subgroup you’d like to target within your community. Be insatiable in your appetite to learn all you need to know about the customers you want to attract.

  • Leverage resources such as Experian, a credit-reporting agency that provides information on consumer online purchases, to your benefit. Doing so will give you a clear-cut idea on your demo’s purchasing behavior as well as the history of any interactions they may have with your brand.
  • Get first-hand information directly from customers. One good way is through detailed, one-on-one interviews. Your marketing or research department, if you have one, can do this using a customer database. Or if you have the budget, hire an outside firm that specializes in gathering this data for companies. If your marketing is more the shoestring variety, you can do exactly what Derek Christian did after taking over the reins of My Maid Service: Simply ask your target customers a few questions. Offering a discount on a future purchase is usually enough of an incentive to get people to participate in a short marketing survey. (To get started, check out the questions at this free customer survey library.)
  • Another best practice—examine the competition. How are they engaging with your audience? Are they using old-fashioned direct mail, e-mail, or SEO marketing? Or are they engaging with your shared customer base via word-of-mouth? What innovative solutions are they offering your customers that you are not doing? What are their aggregate strengths and weaknesses? Are they leveraging social media to their advantage or not?
  • And speaking of social media, how is your business using it further its brand and heighten audience engagement? Have you set up Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn accounts? In this dizzying 24/7 digital age, it behooves you to do so. The give-and-take of customer interaction on these sites will not only help you promote your message, but act as a catalyst in gaining insight into what makes your target audience tick.
  • Also, go to events or conferences that cater to your target audience(s). For instance, because Christian’s My Maid Service targets new parents, the company frequently participates at trade expos aimed at new parents. If they’re not going to come to you, then you go to them.

Remember information is power and knowing your demo is critical to maximizing your chances of realizing your goals and achieving success.

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