5 Essential Traction Analytics for Startups


Ryan Battles  •   Entrepreneurship

“Growing your business without tracking your marketing performance is like driving with both hands over your eyes.”Hiten Shah, Co-founder of KISSmetrics

Traction Analytics for Startups

Analytics helps your business determine what is working well, and what needs to be improved. We can always go off of a hunch, but the real power comes when we know the hard data behind our marketing efforts, and can make informed decisions that improve our business over and over.

Ruben Gamez, Founder of Bidsketch states:

I’m often surprised by how many things I try that should work, but don’t. This has taught me that moving forward on my assumptions (without validating them with data) can be a huge mistake. Because we track our marketing efforts, we haven’t been fooled when we’ve seen fewer conversions turn into more paying customers (which has happened more than once).

Seasoned entrepreneurs know just how important analytics are in growing your business. Without a serious analytics strategy, you are simply relying on hope and luck to grow your company.

2-Sentence Summary of the Lean Startup

The Lean Startup has become such an influential book that it is often referred to as “The Lean Startup Movement”. While there is certainly more to the book than the following 2-sentence summary, the basic tenants of the book (or movement) are:

  1. Improving your business involves looping through building something, measuring its effectiveness, and learning something from the process.
  2. Strive to minimize the total time it takes to iterate through that loop.

Those two steps are the secret to learning more quickly what works and what doesn’t. The rest of this post will look into various traction analytics channels to provide the “measuring” portion of that formula.

Where to Find Analytical Data

1. Content Analytics

Content Analytics

Content analytics have to do with your website, your blog, and any content that you are publishing outside of your application itself. The most basic of these is the website visitor count, but that is hardly enough valuable information to learn how to make better decisions with your content in order to grow your user base.

Quality content analytics answer the following questions:

  • Who is getting to our site?
  • How are they finding us?
  • What are they doing while here?
  • How long are they staying?
  • Do they return at a later date?
  • Did we gather an email, or lead from them?

While these questions are simply statistical in nature, the data gathered can answer the following strategic questions (the “learn” part of The Lean Startup methodology):

  • Should we shift the type of content we are publishing in order to attract a different crowd?
  • Which outreach experiments are working? What network relationships are fruitful? What types of content should we keep producing in order to drive more traffic?
  • Is our site easy to navigate? How can we improve the experience on our site so people will look around at more than one page?
  • How are we doing on hooking people in as soon as possible with our content? What changes or types of articles grab people’s attention and cause them to read on vs. hitting the back-button?
  • Are we consistently reaching our target audience?
  • How are our conversion funnels working? How can we gather more emails? What changes lead to more signups? What changes hurt our signups?

It is tempting to make these decisions on a hunch, and in fact, a hunch is where we need to start, but reviewing analytics will show us where our hunches are wrong, and where we need to double-down. Analytical review is an ongoing process.

2. Advertising Analytics

Paid Content Analytics

Goldee Udani, Founder of Beevolve states:

The adage regarding traditional advertising: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” needs a revisit in the new digital marketing era. The real question is not whether you can measure the return on every marketing dollar spent on online channels but whether you would be up for it.

Whether you are paying for Facebook ads, Promoted Tweets, Google Ads, or any other ad network, the analytics tools are usually built-in on a rudimentary level. The best analytics are gathered, however, when you track conversions through those marketing channels.

For example, Facebook provides a snippet of code that you can place on your “Thank You” page after a purchase, and they will track which of your ads not only get clicked on, but what percentage of those clicks ends up in a sale.

Using Google Analytics, you can also track campaign source, medium, term, content, and campaign with their URL Builder tool. These are prefixed with the acronym “utm”, which stands for “Urchin Tracking Module”, the format used by Google to track unique URLs.

Here is an example of a URL for Harpoon that tracks a variety of campaign attributes:

http://harpoonapp.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=invoicing&utm_content=campaign_a

This would identify a visitor using this link as someone who found us via a Google cost-per-click advertisement via the keyword “invoicing” with the text we have set in “campaign_a”. We can then use Google Analytics to set up “Events” for when someone subscribes to our email newsletter, follows us on social media, or makes a purchase. Combining the two pieces of animation we can then generate a report to tell us our return on investment for that ad group.

The highest-quality analytics track beyond clicks and visitors, into real conversions and dollars added to our bank accounts. A quality analytics strategy will realize that a campaign that gathers 1,000 clicks, but only 3 signups from those visitors is actually a worse performer than one that gathers 100 clicks with 6 signups.

3. Email Analytics

Email Analytics

Product owners should be sending out three specific types of email on a regular basis:

  • Drip campaigns: newsletters, email courses, etc. Builds brand awareness and keeps your product top-of-mind.
  • Transactional emails: payment notifications, welcome emails, etc. Shows professionalism and builds trust.
  • Behavior-driven emails: when someone completes a step in the product, or doesn’t complete a certain step within a given timeframe. Helps with customer success and reduces churn.

The analytics for these types of emails typically lie within the tool that you use to send them. You can track open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates and more on a per-email basis. Many email marketing tools also come with A/B testing capabilities, which can be invaluable when determining which subject lines and message bodies are most effective.

Tools for sending out emails (and analyzing the results):

  • Drip - Initially built for drip campaigns, Drip has matured into a full-fledged email marketing solution, complete with split-tests, transactional & behavior driven emails.
  • Mailchimp - Mailchimp is constantly evolving, what started out as a bulk-email sending tool, now allows for drip campaigns and behavior-driven emails. Mailchimp also provides A/B testing.
  • ConvertKit - ConvertKit focuses on drip campaigns, and makes set-up and management easy and enjoyable. This is one of the most user-friendly tools in the bunch. Note: their branding is now skewed towards book authors, although the tool can be used by anyone who is trying to grow their email list .
  • Intercom - Intercom supports the three types of emails above, with an added emphasis on managing support emails as well.
  • Customer.io - Transactional and behavior-driven emails, supports A/B testing. Can be configured for drip campaigns as well.
  • Stunning - Sends transactional emails, ties in with Stripe to send out credit-card expiration notices (dunning), also has built-in support for behavior-driven emails.

Now, I’m assuming that you’ll be linking back to your product somewhere within these emails at one time or another. Remember to build links that provide data back to your content marketing analytics (Like Google’s UTM data) so you can find out, for instance, which drip campaign emails are converting to paid customers, etc.

4. Social Media Analytics

Social Media Analytics

There are a number of questions to ask yourself when it comes to social media and your business:

  • Which social networks are effective in reaching my audience?
  • What types of posts do well on these services?
  • Which actions have a correlation to attracting a customer (i.e. Follows, Favorites, Re-posts, Mentions, Conversations, etc.)
  • Which social strategies are effective in engaging with our current customers?
  • Is the time spent on social media as a whole worth the investment? By what magnitude?

Through social media analytics, you can determine whether to scale up your social media efforts or whether to focus your attention elsewhere. Social media has a tendency to suck up our time, but it also has the ability to allow us to foster goodwill and connect with others in ways that we might not be able to in other capacities.

The best tools for social analytics lie within the networks themselves. Most social networks reveal analytics either inline with your content while you are logged in, or in the case of Twitter, a separate analytics dashboard: analytics.twitter.com.

There are other tools out there that will email you reports of your social media effectiveness, typically combining the stats from a number of services. The service that I’m currently using for this is SumAll:

SumAll Screenshot

Sumall emails you weekly data for the prior week, and how that compares to the week before that:

  • Twitter followers
  • Twitter retweet reach
  • Facebook page likes
  • Google Plus shares

Sumall also ties in with other non-social media services such as Google Analytics, Mailchimp, PayPal, etc.

5. Chat & Messaging (Qualitative Analytics)

Qualitative Analytics

To compliment the quantitative analytics provided by the above tools, seeking out qualitative analytics by having conversations with your customers gives you a much clearer picture of the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. For example, a conversation might help you interpret certain analytical patterns (i.e. “Why are these numbers low?”).

Chatting with your customers is also a great way to unearth new marketing ideas that you might not have thought about before. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Here are some strategies for having conversations with your customers:

  • Attend conferences or Meetups where your target audience is.
  • Use a real-time chat service like Olark or SnapEngage within your app or marketing pages.
  • Shoot them an email and ask for a quick phone call.

There are many ways to be creative and strike up conversations with people, it just takes a mindset to always ask, how can I learn more about where this person is coming from? For example, when building Harpoon, people have tweeted and emailed us letting us know how excited they are. We can then turn these interactions into an information gathering by responding and carrying on the conversation.

When people cancel their subscriptions, this is another opportunity for conversation, to have an “exit interview” with them. This can be as simple as a form when they cancel, or emailing them personally to thank them for trying the product, and asking if they wouldn’t mind sharing more about their experience. Not everyone will follow-through, but a significant amount will, and these can be your best source of qualitative analysis of your product.

Conclusion

Stuart McDonald, the CMO of Freshbooks states:

Tracking marketing is a cultural thing. Either tracking matters or it doesn’t. You’re in one camp or the other. Either you’re analytical and data-driven, or you go by what you think works. People who go by gut are wrong.

There’s no doubt that tracking takes time, energy, and isn’t always that fun. However, our time and funds are limited, and adopting a culture of analytical marketing strategy can make or break the success of your company by preventing too many resources from being wasted in under-performing marketing efforts. Only through strategic marketing analytics can you engineer maximum growth through pouring more time and money into the marketing efforts that make the most difference in your company’s ongoing success.

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