Analytics for Every Stage of Business Growth

This weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the DMSS conference in Bali. This was the first year of DMSS, and the conference was an incredible success.

To me, the main success metric for a conference is the quality of ideas that you walk away with from the speeches you attend, plus how much knowledge you gain from the informal conversations you have in between sessions. The more excited you are to get back to work, the better the conference.

I have never been more excited to get back to work.

While I would love to spend an entire post talking about what I learned (from other speakers and various meet-ups), I wanted to put an analytics angle on the whole experience.

At the conference I gave two speeches; one focused on Google Analytics, and the other focused on PPC. You can probably guess where those topics originated. 

My first talk covered many of the more intermediate/advanced things you can do in Google Analytics, and the total talk lasted about 45 minutes, followed by some robust Q&A. Because of the time-frame, I couldn’t go as in-depth as my online courses. I could only hit the highlights.

“How many of you use Google Analytics?”

Early-on, I asked the audience to raise their hands if they used Google Analytics.

Only 25% of the room put a hand up.

Thinking on my feet, I said “the rest of you must just be too cool to raise your hands, because I assume you are using GA.”

It’s 2017, and these are Internet marketers. Surely they use Google Analytics. Right?

I don’t have an answer. But it has had my jet-lagged brain thinking about when and how to approach web analytics. At every stage of the online marketing spectrum.

When do analytics matter?

When you’re up on stage, you have to appeal to the majority of the audience to deliver a successful presentation. You can tailor your presentation based on demographics, industries, skill levels, or any other insights that the conference organizers can provide.

My presentation focused on intermediate and advanced topics within Google Analytics.

Now I find myself asking a simple question.

“Advanced for who?”

For the past seven years, I’ve shown a variation of this slide in my presentations.

Hundreds of times, on stages worldwide, I declared my LOVE of Google Analytics. No changes to that slide, because there has never been a reason; I still shout my love to the mountains.

Hundreds of presentations, receiving thousands of points of feedback.

The ratings and comments of these speeches are revealing. 

For the same exact speech, I may get feedback along the lines of:

“This speech was a firehose of information… I don’t understand any of it, I’m just getting started and I feel overwhelmed.”

Followed by another piece of feedback saying.

“This is so basic. I already knew everything. Jeff is a hack, I’m smarter than him. He sucks. And no, I will not leave my email address or identify myself. Baba-booey.”

Same exact speech. Two different audiences. Completely different interpretations. Fortunately, most other speech raters find it somewhere in the middle, which means I keep on getting invited to do more of these.

Why the discrepancy? Because attendees are at different phases of their journey to mastering online marketing, and their needs for analytics are very different.

Seeking a third dimension

Beginner. Advanced. It doesn’t matter.

What’s missing is context. Context around who is in the audience, what they are trying to achieve, and how long they have been trying to solve that particular problem.

While the beginner-intermediate-advanced paradigm serves as a nice anchor, I am considering a new way of approaching my presentations and teachings.

Start with a visual representation of the phases of an online business, and share what type of analytics and metrics are important at each level.

For example, bloggers trying to build an online business.

Many dreamers will make their first foray into making money online by creating a blog. They will be drawn in by dreams of riches, only to learn that beginner blogs are a dime a dozen.

The survivors decide to differentiate. Maybe they add an email newsletter sign-up button and experiment with emailing their audience. Or a “follow us on social” buttons. It brings traffic back to the site, and all is good in their world.

Once there are eyeballs on the blog, it’s time to try and make some money. They experiment with easy to implement/low quality ads. It works until it doesn’t. So they graduate to harder to implement/higher quality ads. It works better, but they want more.

Now that there’s a “profit” on the blog, the blogger wants to scale. So they start advertising, inexpensively at first. They find that there is no return on that investment, so they want to learn how to advertise more effectively.

It turns out that advertising works most effectively when you have a great product to sell. And when you have an automated sales-process for turning your ad-clickers into product-purchasers.

So they study funnels, marketing automation, direct-response marketers, and everything they can get their hands on. They study and implement. Study and implement. Soon revenues are rising, and the business is profitable. So profitable they don’t know what to do next.

Finally, they make a decision. They want more! More sales. More customers. More profits! They discover the only way to get there is through testing. Testing blog headlines. Email subscription boxes. Product pricing. Ad copy. Landing Pages. Funnel steps.

Everything they learned to this point comes full circle. They decide that a few well-executed tests can double their business overnight.

Not bad for a dreamer with a blog.

Building out analytics for every step of the journey. For every journey.

There are analytics for every single step of the story I just told. There are metrics that support blog post visits, email subscriber growth, revenue, advertising results, marketing funnels and testing.

Metrics to support each of these initiatives can be found in myriad tools. From Google Analytics to advertising platforms to blog software to email vendors.

Google Analytics is the closest thing that we have to a database of record. It is usually not the best tool at any phase of growth. But it is a solid backbone for analyzing any growth strategy.

Beginner. Intermediate. Advanced. That’s not be the best way to look at analytics.

Analytics exists to support all of the phases we go through in growing a business. It’s with us every step of the way.

Structure analytics around business phases, not complexity. 

The more I think through the problem, the more I believe in this solution.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

P.S. The idea for this newsletter post came to me in the shower today. Sorry in advance for the visual, but if you’re reading this far you probably didn’t even notice. Oops, I just made it awkward. We’re over 1,000 words now, so I just wanted to make you laugh as a reward for reading this far.

About the Author

Jeff Sauer is an independent Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Teacher based out of a suitcase somewhere in the world. Formerly of Minneapolis, MN and San Francisco, CA.

  • SeoHighLighter

    Jeff, completely agree with your thoughts on this. Each persona (blogger, owner, social media manager, etc.) has their own slice of GA data that they look at it. Do they need to be a pro with everything in GA? I don’t think so. They just need to find and correctly interpret the data that improves their goals, whether conversions, download, sales, etc.

    • For sure. The problem usually happens when the room has people at every phase of the journey… need to try and give something for everyone, which often ends up helping no-one.

  • George C. Huang

    Jeff, I think your idea of delivering information and practical how-to steps based on what a user needs at the particular stage of their business makes excellent practical sense. The categories of “Beginner,” “Intermediate,” and “Advanced” are useless from a practical standpoint.

    I think the more important question is, “What is your business trying to accomplish and what information do you need to help guide your strategic and tactical decision-making?”

    The answer to this question informs what types of information need to be obtained from Google Analytics.

    For my own business as well as in working with clients, I would greatly appreciate being able to readily glean information from GA that is immediately relevant to the questions appropriate to my level of business and my particular goals I am working hard to achieve.

    • Awesome input. Seems to make sense to categorize the content I provide in some sort of “who should care” type paradigm. Not sure of the best way to do it, but perhaps with a tagging system.

  • Matt Power

    Jeff, love the visual of ‘Phases of an Online Business’ – I think this aproach gives learning and applying analytics a lot more context. The only exception IMO is the need for a foundation level of common concepts and orientation of the GA interface, other than that, a much better approach. Really enjoying your analytics course BTW… thanks heaps 🙂

    • Thanks Matt. It is important to anchor with “fundamentals” that everyone needs. Funny thing is that many people think they are advanced, yet don’t have any fundamentals in place. Another problem with analytics is that the solutions take hours to learn and months to implement, so if you get stuck on fundamental #1, it’s easy to check out on the rest of the presentation.

  • Vance Wong

    Hey Jeff, having taken your Analytics Course (I’m at lesson 29!) I would suggest that you retain your current course structure but give individual lessons tags so you could address the business owners/entrepreneurs too. IMHO, most students of your Analytics Course would benefit more from the current structure because they’re trying to master Google Analytics (as you’ve written on your sales page and intro video). Personally, I’m not a business owner and I prefer the current Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced structure more than the business stages structure. Hope this helps you! Thank you for the awesome content and regular updates too 🙂