Gathered data can be used to improve all aspects of a company's operations, from product development and marketing to customer service, finance, distribution, manufacturing, and virtually any other function.
According to John Prejean, CEO and co-owner of Guardian Computer, the benefits of using data gathering tools include:
- Access to metrics regarding "how many website visitors you receive, where they come from, what they do on your site, and how long they stay" there.
- Ability to transform data into insights that inform decision-making.
- Discovery of new business opportunities.
- Analysis of customer behavior and sales trends, as well as the ability to segment customer groups.
- "Creation, management, and automation of email campaigns," says Prejean.
According to Garrett Greller, co-founder of Uncle Bud's Hemp, "When it comes to small business, gathering data is imperative for understanding what our business is doing, and why. Properly collecting key performance indicators and other data is essential to forming winning business strategies, so making sure the right tools [are used] for a given business is important."
Some of the most-used data-gathering tools small businesses are using include:
- Google Analytics. One of the best-known data gathering and analysis tools is Google Analytics, which is provided free so that website owners can count how many site visitors they get, who they are, where they are from, and which pages they spend the most time on, says Greller. Jeff Neal, who runs The Critter Depot, uses Google Analytics "to see which blog posts and pages convert visitors into customers."
- Ahrefs. Siva Mahesh, CEO of Dreamshala, explains that SEO tool Ahrefs lets you "gather data on your keyword rankings and domain ratings." That's useful information to have if you want to improve your site's Google rank or attract more web traffic.
- Hotjar. To study how visitors are interacting with your website, one of the top sites is Hotjar. "This service provides heatmaps of your website, showing you exactly where users click, where they get stuck, where they linger," says Eric Niloff, CEO and co-founder of EverPresent.
- SurveyMonkey. Perhaps the best known online survey tool, SurveyMonkey facilitates the creation, dissemination, and analysis of market research questionnaires. A similar tool is Google Forms, which Martin Seeley, CEO at MattressNextDay, prefers. "The process to create the forms is pretty straightforward, and there are a multitude of options for customization and security," Seeley says. Both tools are useful platforms for gathering customer feedback.
- Ubersuggest. Referring to Ubersuggest, Ben Webb of BenWebbMarketing says, "This free tool from Neil Patel can help small business owners, 1) Track and optimize their own SEO rankings for free, 2) Research competitors to see what they are doing SEO-wise, 3) Identify content marketing strategies based on numbers and data rather than assumption," among other uses.
- Facebook Audience Insights. Webb also uses Facebook's Audience Insights tool, which he says, "can help you obtain lots of really useful information about your target audience and how they use Facebook. It can help you identify new audiences, see what other pages your audience likes, or find new audiences that might be suitable for your product or service." In turn, those kinds of details can enable you to create more effective—meaning profitable—Facebook ad campaigns.
- Segment. Ian Kelly, vice president of operations for NuLeaf Naturals, uses Segment in a number of ways. He says that it "helps in gathering data from all possible customer touchpoints. You can even individually view all interactions made by a particular customer." That feature, in particular, helps marketers segment groups of customers into personas. Small businesses can use a free version.
- Google Trends. Megan Smith, CEO of Dosha Mat, believes that "one of the best data gathering tools is Google Trends," which reports on the most popular words and phrases consumers are searching for. By monitoring what people are searching for, you can potentially spot new opportunities or recognize a need to shift your own marketing efforts in response to what's happening in the market.
Understanding what customers want helps companies optimize their operations to develop and sell products and services that best meet their needs. By leveraging collected data, businesses can maximize revenue and profits to fuel additional growth.
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